This article was first published in April 2014 by Adaria Gushtyn for the website Spring 96, the website of Human Rights Center “Viasna”, a Belarusian non-governmental human rights organisation. It is one of three articles by Adaria Gushtyn, Russian language winner of PRI’s first competition for investigative journalism on the death penalty and life imprisonment.
Eduard Lykov has been convicted of five murders. He committed the first two in 2002. But the authorities only found out about them in 2011, when he was arrested for his fifth and last murder. Eduard confessed to his previous crimes and cooperated with investigators of his own accord.
A story of five murders
Eduard Lykov was charged with five murders. Police records show that he committed the first two in 2002 – a fight that flared up after a party ended with Eduard killing his former cell mate and his mate’s mother.
Mikhail Gladkii, an entirely innocent relative of the victims was convicted of these crimes. He was charged with the murder of this brother Viktor, supposedly in revenge for the fact that Viktor had killed their mother. Mikhail was sentenced to eight years in prison. He served five years behind bars, plus another year and seven months in a penal labour programme. He was told that he had been wrongly convicted and sentenced in November 2013 after the Minsk District Court ruled that the real murderer was in fact Eduard Lykov.
The day before Eduard’s arrest in September 2011, a 74-year old man had been killed in the village of Zhdanovichi, near Minsk. The case files record that Eduard (at that point a suspect) and the victim had quarrelled. During the fight that ensued, Eduard hit the 74-year old several times with a metal pipe.
Eduard was later arrested on suspicion of murder, after which he started to reveal information about the other crimes he had committed.
The first two murders (Viktor Gladkii and his mother) were in 2002. The third was in 2004: Eduard killed the lover of the woman he was then living with, out of what was assumed to be jealousy. He dismembered the body and buried it in a forest near the village of Novaya Gozha, in the Grodnenskii District. It is interesting that this crime does not figure in the police records. If Eduard had not confessed to it in 2011, the victim’s body would never have been found.
The fourth murder had also never been solved. In 2011 Eduard murdered the woman he was then living with, who was from Novaya Grozha. During questioning, Eduard explained that he had stabbed her twice, before strangling her with a piece of material. He covered the body in a sheet and left it in the bath at her house. A week later, Eduard was still coming and going from the house. Interestingly, although he had known the victim since 2004 (around seven years) for some reason, he was never called as a witness or treated as a suspect during the murder investigation.
As a result, nine years went by between Eduard Lykov’s first murder and his arrest. It was only after they had “nicked him” for the fifth and last murder that he told detectives himself about his four other crimes.
In court, Eduard explained that, when serving time in Grodnenskaya prison, he had started to see a Catholic priest. This led to him re-think his life: he decided to confess everything and show his remorse at what he had done.
The court case
In November 2013, the Minsk District Court sentenced Eduard to death. In his appeal against the ruling, he wrote that he did not dispute his guilt. But he argued that his cooperation with the police and the remorse he had shown for his crimes should be viewed as mitigating circumstances.
Senior prosecutor Irina Dudareva represented the Central Prosecution Department. She argued in court that the authorities had taken mitigating circumstances into account, and had accordingly delivered a just sentence – death by shooting.
Andrei Poluda, of the Human Rights Campaign against the Death Penalty commented: “Lykov was given the harshest possible sentence available in our legal system, even though the prosecutor says she took account of mitigating circumstances. But you can’t execute someone three times. Her comments suggest that she is either incompetent, or simply treating the situation as a joke. I don’t think it was just because Eduard had started to see a priest that he told detectives about his previous four crimes. In cases like these, detectives always encourage suspects to cooperate and give as many details as they can, on the understanding that that is going to have an effect down the line – that the sentence could be reduced in some way. But what happened with Lykov? If he hadn’t confessed of his own accord to four other murders, they would only have been able to convict him on one count. And then it wouldn’t have been the death penalty. So when the police and the courts act like this, it could mean that people will stop cooperating with investigations.”
My sources tell me that Eduard wrote his own appeal. While he was detained on remand, his defence lawyer was changed three times. Alexandr Kliukach was the third, and presented Eduard’s appeal to the Supreme Court. Throughout the whole hearing, all he said was that he endorsed the defendant’s appeal, and had nothing more to add. Later, Kliukach declined to answer questions from the press, saying: “I have no comment to make on this case.”
New facts about Lykov’s crimes
But Eduard did in fact reveal additional facts at the Supreme Court hearing that had not been publicly available beforehand.
For example, after killing Viktor Gladkii and Gladkii’s mother, he had chalked a message on a nearby wall: “Find me and kill me.” But it was Mikhail Gladkiii who was convicted in 2003 of murdering his brother Viktor, supposedly in revenge for Viktor having killed their mother.
Would Mikhail have left a message like that on the wall of his mother’s house? Did detectives check for a match between the handwriting on the wall and Mikhail’s own handwriting? And were any checks run on police databases against fingerprints found at the crime scene (Eduard already had several convictions at that point)? Had investigators taken note of expert evidence suggesting that Viktor Gladkii had been dead for a day when his brother Mikhail allegedly delivered the fatal blows, supposedly because he was beside himself with grief and wanted revenge? As yet, these questions have still not been answered.
Clearly, if the investigation had been carried out in 2002 as it should have been, Eduard Lykov would have been held responsible for a double murder ten years ago; he would not have been able to kill three more people; and Mikhail Gladkii would not have been wrongfully convicted.
But if Eduard had not confessed in 2011 that he was guilty of four further murders, Gladkii would have remained a convicted criminal. Now he is able to seek compensation for his losses from the state which imposed on him an unwarranted punishment.
Will Eduard appeal for clemency?
In addition, Eduard testified in court that investigators knew about his alcoholism and exploited it by regularly giving him alcoholic drinks. Sometimes they beat him in a bid to get him to cooperate ‘more fully’. It is not clear whether these allegations are also going to be investigated.
In court, Eduard said that he had appealed to the Supreme Court so that, in May, he would be able to see his daughter, who lives abroad.
Human Rights campaigners say that they have not been able to make contact with Eduard, either through his relatives or his lawyer. Campaigners intended to offer him legal advice, including by appealing to the [UN] Human Rights Committee. As yet, it is not known whether Eduard will write to Lukashenko with a request to commute his death sentence on grounds of clemency.
After the court hearing, Mikhail Gladkii said that he thought life imprisonment, but not the death penalty, would be a just sentence for Eduard.
Source: Adaria Gushtyn, http://spring96.org/ru/news/70539