In 2007, a series of murders in Ukraine sent shockwaves through the community of Dnepropetrovsk, leaving residents in a state of intense fear. The brutality of these attacks was unprecedented, and the apparent randomness of the victims gave the unsettling impression that anyone could be the next target. Eleanor Neale delves into the chilling details of these crimes in her podcast ‘3 Guys 1 Hammer’ and exposes the individuals responsible for the murders. If you have a keen interest in this case and are eager to uncover more information, you’re in the right place as we have all the answers for you. Let’s get started, shall we?
Who are Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs?
Viktor Sayenko, Igor Suprunyuk, and Alexander Hanzha were schoolmates. By the age of 14, they had forged a strong friendship based on certain commonalities. Sayenko and Suprunyuk had both experienced bullying, and they soon discovered a shared fear of heights. In an unusual effort to confront this fear, they dared to dangle themselves over the railing of a 14th-floor apartment. On the other hand, Hanzha grappled with a profound phobia of blood and Suprunyuk proposed a solution to help him overcome this fear by engaging in acts of cruelty towards dogs and cats which they filmed. When the boys reached the age of 17, Suprunyuk physically assaulted a local boy and stole his bicycle, which he later sold to Sayenko. Although they were arrested for this offense, their age spared them from imprisonment.
Following their school years, Alexander Hanzha explored a variety of odd jobs, working as both a pastry chef and a construction laborer. Viktor Sayenko embarked on part-time studies at a metallurgy institute and even held a position as a security guard for a while. Igor Suprunyuk drove an unlicensed taxi, a green Daewoo Lanos, which reportedly was a gift from his parents. It was during this time that Suprunyuk, with the assistance of his two friends, initiated a criminal venture by picking up passengers and robbing them while operating the taxi.
The first murder victim was a 33-year-old woman named Yekaterina Ilchenko, who was making her way home after a visit to her friend’s apartment on the night of June 25, 2007. While Sayenko and Suprunyuk were out for a stroll, they crossed paths with her. The latter struck her on the side of her head with a hammer. Her lifeless body was discovered by her mother at around 5 in the morning. In the ensuing hours of that same morning, they launched another attack, this time on Roman Tatarevich, who was peacefully sleeping on a bench.
The series of attacks perpetrated by them continued at an alarming pace. On July 1, 2007, the lifeless bodies of Yevgenia Grischenko and Nikolai Serchuk were discovered in the town of Novomoskovsk and by July 7, they assaulted two 14-year-old boys who were fishing. One of the boys, Vadim Lyakhov, managed to escape. Within just a month, they claimed the lives of 21 people, including women, children, and the elderly, as well as individuals under the influence of alcohol. Most of their victims fell prey to brutal attacks with blunt objects such as hammers or iron rods. Many of the victims also endured torture and mutilation. While there were no reported cases of sexual assault, some of the victims had their valuable possessions, like phones, stolen. These horrific crimes took place in the areas of Dnepropetrovsk and Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.
The police initially faced a challenging task in linking the murders to the 19-year-olds, Suprunyuk and Sayenko. However, their breakthrough came when Vadim Lyakhov, the young boy who had managed to escape and was initially arrested for the murder of his friend, decided to cooperate with the authorities. He assisted the police in creating sketches of the attackers. Additionally, some residents had witnessed the assailants during an attack on 45-year-old Natalia Mamarchuk on July 14, 2007, and attempted to chase them. Though the attackers managed to evade capture, the witnesses provided detailed descriptions that aligned with those provided by Lyakhov. Subsequently, a task force was swiftly dispatched from Kyiv, led by the chief criminal investigator, Vasily Paskalov, and a comprehensive manhunt was initiated. To aid their efforts, the authorities distributed the sketches of the suspects and a list of stolen items to local pawn shops. This strategy yielded results as stolen valuables began to be identified in the Novokodatskyi District.
On July 23, 2007, Igor Suprunyuk attempted to sell a stolen cell phone in a pawn shop. Unknown to him, investigating officers had been tracking the phone. When the shopkeeper powered on the phone to check its functionality, it enabled the police to trace its location. Consequently, Sayenko and Suprunyuk were arrested on the spot near the cash register of the shop. Meanwhile, Alexander Hanzha was apprehended at his residence while attempting to dispose of the cell phones and some stolen valuables by flushing them down the toilet. The police successfully recovered the items, although all the information on the phones had been lost.
During the investigation, the police became aware of the involvement of a fourth individual, 19-year-old Danil Kozlov, in the case. Kozlov was closely acquainted with the three culprits and had overheard them discussing the murders and their criminal activities. Following his interrogation, Kozlov was subsequently released, with no further legal proceedings initiated against him.
The trio faced charges relating to 29 distinct incidents, encompassing 21 murders and eight additional assaults where the victims managed to survive. Suprunyuk bore responsibility for 27 of these cases, which included 21 charges of capital murder, eight armed robberies, and one count of animal cruelty. Sayenko, on the other hand, faced 25 charges, involving 18 murders, five robberies, and one instance of animal cruelty. Hanzha’s charges primarily centered on two counts of armed robbery, which were linked to an incident in Kamianske on March 1, 2007.
Where are Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs Now?
All three individuals initially confessed to their crimes, but Suprunyuk later retracted his admission. Their trial commenced in June 2008, and while the other two admitted guilt for all the charges brought against them, Suprunyuk entered a “not guilty” plea and invoked the defense of insanity, which was ultimately rejected by the court. The prosecution presented a range of evidence, including the victims’ clothing and, notably, video recordings of the murders on the suspects’ computers and mobile phones. One of these videos which was titled ‘3 Guys and a Hammer’ was leaked on the internet and has become extremely infamous. A lot of photographs of the suspects at the funerals of the victims were also found in which they were seen smiling and “flipping off” at the camera. Video evidence of the animal torture that the three had done together also came to light.
All the defense attorneys initially assigned to the case were appointed by the state. However, Viktor Sayenko requested to be represented by his father, Igor Sayenko, which was granted, and he subsequently assumed the role of the lead figure in the defense team. The defense mounted a multifaceted attack on the prosecution’s case. They argued that the authorities had not adequately investigated other individuals associated with the murders, such as Danil Kozlov, raising questions about potential alternate suspects. Additionally, they accused the prosecutors of withholding information that could have demonstrated Viktor Sayenko’s innocence. They also claimed that the photos and videos had been morphed and fabricated and they were not an indication of the suspect’s culpability. Another line of defense asserted that Sayenko had developed a “psychological dependence” on Igor Suprunyuk, which allegedly compelled him to participate in the crimes out of fear for his own life.
On February 11, 2009, the court in Dnipro delivered its verdict, finding Viktor Sayenko and Igor Suprunyuk guilty of premeditated murder. Both received life sentences for their crimes, with Suprunyuk found guilty of 21 murders and Sayenko of 18. Additionally, they were handed fifteen-year sentences after being convicted on the robbery charges. Alexander Hanzha, while not implicated in the murders, was found guilty of robbery and subsequently sentenced to nine years in prison. Sayenko and Suprunyuk were also held accountable for the animal cruelty charges. Deputy Interior Minister Nikolay Kupyanskiy remarked, “For these young men, murder was like entertainment or hunting”.
On August 18, 2009, the Supreme Court of Ukraine decided to refer the case back to the Dnipro regional court of appeal. A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office clarified that the appeal was procedural, expressing confidence in the eventual upholding of the verdict. Subsequently, on November 24, 2009, the Supreme Court of Ukraine confirmed the life sentences handed down to Viktor Sayenko and Igor Suprunyuk. During the appeal process, reports indicated that Sayenko and Suprunyuk were treated well in prison, adhering to a structured routine. It was noted that one of them had embarked on the path of mastering a foreign language, and Sayenko had even contemplated setting up a website related to the case. Both of them are still in Ukranian prison. Alexander Hanzha did not pursue an appeal for his sentencing and after he completed his sentence he was released in 2019. According to reports from 2019, he is married and the father of two children.