Killer of 52 gets death sentence

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The Independent Online
A SERIAL killer who murdered 52 men, women and children was sentenced to death yesterday, ending a harrowing five-month trial.

Anatoly Onoprienko, 39, a shy and quietly spoken ex-sailor who was nicknamed "the Terminator", greeted the sentence impassively from the iron cage in which he was held. He claims to be unafraid of death: "I've been close to death so many times that it's even interesting for me now to venture into the afterworld," he said in a recent interview.

Whether he will now be executed is unclear, as Ukraine has imposed a moratorium on capital punishment, and is committed to scrapping it. To go ahead with the sentence - a bullet in the back of the head is the Ukrainian method - would require a special parliamentary vote.

Onoprienko killed 43 people in less than six months, terrorising rural Ukraine. Travelling by train, he used a sawn-off rifle, knives and axes to slaughter whole families, setting fire to their homes and bludgeoning to death passers-by. Among his victims were 10 children.

The terror ended when he was arrested in Yavoriv, a small town in western Ukraine, on Easter Day 1996, after a hunt that involved 2,000 police, thousands of national guards and more than 3,000 troops, some with armoured vehicles.

He clearly perplexed investigators. "On the one hand, he is a completely normal, intelligent and eloquent, obviously educated, a man who thinks before he says anything," said one, shortly after his capture. "But when he talks about the reasons for the killings, he completely loses his resemblance to a rational person."