SKOPIN, RYAZAN OBLAST – RUSSIA.
The nightmare that Alexander Komin concocted in Vyatskiye Polyany was reborn, continuing five years after his death. A new chapter of terror would begin, just over 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) to the southwest, in a town half the size. A man desperate to father children embarked on a copycat crime, in a country that had become blind to the plight of its fellow citizens.
Lead up to Crime
Victor Mokhov (Виктор Мохов), 50, lived in Skopin, in western Russia, located 248 kilometres (154 miles) southeast of Moscow. Mokhov was a thin, unassuming man, respected by his workmates, neighbours, and police. He held a position as a communist party member and army officer before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was a college graduate, completing a degree as a “Mountain Master,” allowing him to work in the local mines. But, as the mines closed around Skopin, and workers moved away, Mokhov decided to remain behind and gained employment at an automotive factory.
Mokhov lived all his life with his mother, marrying in 1979, but the marriage lasted only three months. His mother described him as fearful of women, a man who was easily dumped in the relationship. His father had been jailed for rape. Watching a documentary about Alexander Komin, a fellow Russian who kept slaves in an underground prison, Mokhov was inspired to also take female slaves.
Mokhov constructed his own bunker under the garage at the rear of his mother’s overgrown property. He called it his harem. For approximately three years he worked throughout the night, excavating around 60 tons of soil. He sealed the two-and-a-half metre by three-metre (8 x 10 foot) cellar behind three doors.
A sheet metal door, held by magnets on the side of the rust coloured garage, concealed the entrance; a screwdriver was used to pry it open. The second door was on a platform a couple of feet down. The cellar had two rooms. A homemade ladder dropped to a small holding room. A small safe-like door, several inches thick and held by a large padlock, opened to the main chamber, which would be the living quarters of his victims.
He fitted the concrete walled room with bunk beds, a heater, a cooking element and a bucket for a toilet. An electric ventilator pumped oxygen into the dungeon.
In December 1999, Mokhov kidnapped a 16-year-old girl after getting her drunk. She fled the property after refusing his sexual advances. He followed her, hit her over the head, and dragged her into his cellar. The girl escaped two weeks later, but didn’t report the crime.
Mokhov had greater plans. He wanted to keep many women for up to 20 years, providing him with ten children each.
“I wanted to have lots of children, I wanted to improve the demographic situation in Russia,” said Mokhov.
On September 30, 2000, Katya Martynova, 14, and Lena Simakhina, 17, left an open-air disco in Ryazan, the administrative centre of Ryazan Oblast. They were celebrating Vyara, Nadezhda and Lyubov, an Eastern Orthodox Church festival for Sophia’s three daughters – Hope, Faith and Love. Lena and Katya were acquaintances and decided to attend the street party together.
Afterwards, while the girls waited for a bus, Mokhov pulled along side and offered them a ride. The girls accepted — offering lifts in Russia is a cultural practice, with drivers feeling obliged to help others if possible. A female accomplice, Yelena Badukina, assisted Mokhov. Mokhov had waited for Badukina while she served a prison sentence for murdering a lover, but his plans for their relationship dissolved when she was released and went with a lesbian lover instead. As compensation, Badukina agreed to help capture substitute females to fulfil Movhov’s desires. She travelled in the car with Mokhov to Ryazan.
Mokhov laced vodka with a sedative and offered it to the girls, who felt it would be rude not to drink it. It rendered the girls defenceless. He drove them to his home in Skopin, 126 kilometres (78 miles) south of Ryazan.
Mokhov first raped Katya on a bed in the main section of the garage that night. He locked her alone in the cellar while he raped Lena. Mokhov then asked Lena to fetch Katya from the cellar, when she went inside, he locked them both in. A regime of abuse was established over the following weeks.
The holding room walls were covered with pornographic pictures. Mokhov showed sexual positions from an instructional booklet, and then raped the girls individually in the tiny room. He kept notes about his views on sex. “Older animals (like dogs and cats) are rejuvenated by having sex with younger ones. That is true with humans, too.”
The girls endured daily rapes, forming part of their repetitive dungeon lives. He starved the girls and left them constantly fearing for their lives. Resisting Mokhov resulted in the electricity being cut off, leaving the girls in darkness, without heat or light. The oxygen pump would also be cut off.
The cellar contained a bunk bed, though the teens shared the lower mattress, holding each other for comfort. Religious symbols decorated the walls, along with cartoon characters (one painting of a wolf choking a rabbit), and posters of pop stars.
A month into their captivity, Lena and Katya attacked Mokhov in a bid to escape, attempting to strangle him with a heater cord. He was too strong for the pair.
Because of the harsh conditions, Katya’s puberty was suppressed, saving her from the torment Lena would endure. Lena gave birth to a boy, Vladik, on November 6, 2001. Mokhov provided the girls with a 1942 medical book to instruct them on birthing. He took the baby from the cellar. On June 6, 2003, Lena gave birth to a second boy, Oelg. At four months old he became ill and was removed from the cellar. Mokhov changed the baby’s clothes and found several concealed notes, before dumping the child on the doorstep of a local house.
Mokhov allowed certain elements of the outside world in, rewarding the girl’s obedient behaviour: pens, magazines, paper, books, paints, music, and a black and white television. Katya spent her time working on an extraordinary collection of detailed paintings.
Neighbours noticed Mokhov’s mother buying an unusual amount of food, too much just for her and Victor, but they didn’t question it. They had also seen Victor entering the hatch on the side of the garage, but believed he was storing potatoes for his mother.
Police had given up looking for Lena Simakhina and Katya Martynova, believing they had been murdered. Victor Mokhov became more brazen, briefly allowing the girls to experience the outside world, taking them out into the garden in the spring of 2003.
Katya managed to gain Mokhov’s trust, and he involved her in a plan to enslave a medical student, Alena Pestova, who rented a room from him. As Katya posed as his niece, she slipped the student a note. A report was made to the police station situated less than a kilometre away.
Police arrived at Mokhov’s mother’s house on May 4, 2004. Victor attempted to run out the backdoor, but was captured by police.
Police videotaped the rescue. They called out to the girls, “We’re coming.”
Lena sat on the edge of the bunk, her hands folded, eight months pregnant. She called out, “Don’t film us.”
“Be quiet,” the police replied.
Katya emerged from the underground prison clutching a castle made from matchsticks. The girls could barely walk and rested against trees in the garden.
The pair had been held captive for three years, eight months, and four days.
On May 6, 2004, Victor Mokhov appeared in the Skopin City Court and he was ordered to return to his mother’s property and walk police and officials over the scene. He explained his crimes as his confessions were recorded on video.
Mokhov attempted to convince the court (and the girls) that he took good care of them, feeding them and bringing them gifts. Lena and Katya appeared in court, hiding behind their parents as Mokhov launched a tirade about all he had done for them.
Victor Mokhov was charged with the abduction of two or more persons, and with rape of a minor. He received a sentence of 17 years, to be served in a high-security Siberian labour camp.
“Nothing is enough for him,” said Lena.
For her role in the crime Yelena Badukina was sentenced to five-and-a-half years imprisonment. In May 2007, Badukina allegedly fell into a sewage pit while drunk, where she drowned.
The residents of Skopin descended upon the house, and broke all the windows, causing Mokhov’s mother to board the windows and barricade herself inside.
By the time they were rescued, Lena’s babies had been adopted, and she did not seek to find them. She couldn’t recognise the babies as hers, but as rather something placed inside her by Mokhov. The baby she carried when rescued was stillborn.
In 2008 Lena and Katya decided to return to the cellar in Skopin with a UK documentary crew for Channel 5. Both girls appeared apprehensive as they approached the garage.
“Oh, what a nightmare,” said Lena.
Scared of going inside, the girls feared what was down the homemade ladders. The holding room and cellar were as they were left four years ago when the girls were rescued, except decay had set in, repealing the past. The cellar seemed like a different place, smaller, and they had forgotten many things since their rescue. Instead of the negative emotions they were expecting, the girls found the experience cathartic.
“I’m really glad we did it. We both are,” said Lena.
Both women made remarkable recoveries, and are both married. They have rejected psychological help, instead choosing not to see themselves as victims. Lena studied to become a teacher and hopes to have four children. She celebrates May 4, the anniversary of their rescue, as her second birthday. Katya decided to forgo art school after not being able to afford the tuition. Publishers rejected a book of 321 poems written while she was held captive.