Most of you would have heard of the Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs, two Ukrainian teenagers when went on a two-week killing spree in 2007. By the time they were captured, the boys had killed at least 21 people and seriously injured many more. Their weapon of choice was a yellow-handled hammer.
Their crimes were heinous enough, but made infinitely worse by the fact that they filmed themselves carrying them out. A video of one of their murders was uploaded to all of the gore sites and quickly went viral, a favorite of the “reaction video” set. It was dubbed “3 Guys, 1 Hammer”
Few people know much about the victim in 3 Guys, 1 Hammer. Below is an excerpt from my book “Psycho.com: serial killers on the internet” where you will meet gentle grandfather Sergei Yatzenko.
Sergei Yatzenko had cheated death twice. Around 1990, while working on a farm, he lost control of the tractor he was driving and it rolled into the river. He could have jumped out of the cabin before it hit the water, but instead he tried to save the expensive farm machinery for its owner, and wound up pinned under water. By the time he was freed, Sergei was clinically dead from drowning. Rescuers managed to resuscitate him and get him to hospital, where doctors declared his survival a one-in-a-million chance.
A young father at the time, Sergei went on to devote himself to his family. He had a wife, Ludmilla, who adored him, and two sons who grew up to be fine young men, and who married young women whom Sergei came to love as if they were his own daughters. Sergei worked hard to give his family everything they needed. He was a wonderful cook, a loving father, always cheerful and met all of life’s challenges with good humour. When a grandson came along, Sergei could not be happier. He took it upon himself to teach his daughter-in-law how to swaddle and bathe the baby, help which she indulged in the spirit in which it was offered. Sergei could not get enough of caring for and playing with his grandson and taking him for long walks.
Sergei’s life had been dealt a second blow when he developed a cancerous tumour in his throat that needed emergency surgery. It was another life-and-death operation for Sergei, which he faced with strength and dignity. As Ludmilla said: ‘When the tumour was discovered, he did not complain, he did not whine, he took everything like a man.’ They were both overjoyed when the operation was successful, but he was left unable to speak in anything more than a whisper of a few words at a time. He lost his job but, Ludmilla said, his family heard him, and that was what mattered.
People often spoke of Sergei’s kindness and gentle nature, but he was also a proud man, and by this time he was looking after his invalid mother as well as his wife and the four dogs that he had given a home to. He felt he could not just sit at home and feel sorry for himself, so he accepted any odd job that people would give to him. He was happy to take on building tasks, fixing cars, garbage collection, driving or making deliveries on his Dnepr, a small Ukrainian-made off-road motorbike. According to Ludmilla he even wove baskets and fashioned household goods out of macramé. His voice was slowly being restored and he could speak whole sentences, though still in a whisper.
On the afternoon of 12 July 2007, 48-year-old Sergei called Ludmilla to let her know that he was going to get some fuel for his motorbike, and then he would go and see his grandson, just as he did every chance he could get. He set off along the lonely wooded shortcut to the highway. At some point, Sergei apparently swapped the motorbike for a pushbike. Perhaps he ran out of fuel before he could get to his destination and left the motorbike at the side of the road. What happened here is unclear.
What we do know is that along that quiet stretch of road, Igor and Viktor waited for somebody – anybody provided they were weaker than the duo – to come along.
Once Viktor had identified the target, Igor stood nonchalantly in the middle of the road so that the bike would have to swerve around him. Viktor realised that the camera sitting on top of the car would not do the trick, so he grabbed hold of it so that he could capture all the action on film.
As Sergei rode past on his mission to see his grandchild, Igor swung around, hammer still in the plastic bag, and knocked him off his bike. Giggling like children, the two raced to the groaning man on the ground, Igor to hit him again and urged Viktor to make sure everything was caught on camera.
Still laughing, they dragged the innocent man from the road into the woods. Igor hit him with the hammer in the face again, but Sergei seemed to still be trying to speak, even though the cancer had already cruelly taken that facility from him. Igor stopped for a moment and urged Viktor to listen to the sounds coming from Sergei and to train the camera in a close-up on his face. After listening to the gurgling for a full minute, they returned to taunting Sergei’s efforts to speak as they carried out their attack, Igor with the hammer and Viktor with a screwdriver. Viktor stabbed the screwdriver into Sergei’s eyes until he could see brain matter, then drove it over and over into the man’s stomach.
As Sergei continued to try and breathe, his face no longer there, Igor and Viktor marvelled that he managed to stay alive. For eight long minutes in that lonely wood, Sergei Yatzenko endured unimaginable suffering at the hands of two psychopaths, which they gleefully caught on camera, giggling with excitement the entire time. They broke his arms, hit him over and over in the face with a hammer and attempted to eviscerate him in their frenzied attack.
Finally, satisfied that he was dead, Igor gave him one last taunt: ‘What a fucking day for you, huh?’ he said.
Igor took his time wiping the hammer clean and putting it in the trunk, and then carefully washed his face and hair, asking his friend to check for spots where he had missed the blood. Running his fingers through his wet hair, Igor seemed invigorated by the atrocities he had just carried out crying: ‘This time was awesome, yeah?’
Viktor responded: ‘I don’t understand how he kept alive. I had the screwdriver like this as I stabbed him. I could feel his brain.’
Viktor was keen to flee the scene of the crime, but Igor insisted the pair should go back and immortalise the memory with a selfie. Once he finished washing he demanded: ‘Alright, let’s take a picture’ and they returned to where the bloodied remains of a proud, brave family man lay to carry out the final indignity of photographing themselves performing the Nazi salute above his corpse.
* * *
That evening, when Sergei had not returned home and his phone was not answering, Ludmilla took first to the telephone and then to the streets to look for him. She called her daughter-in-law and found out he had never made it there. She asked everyone the couple knew whether they had seen Sergei. She knew something was not right, because he would always let her know where he was and if he was going to be late.
Ludmilla was concerned that her gentle husband had had an accident, or fallen ill, as he was inclined to take too much on and over-exert himself. She was frustrated and upset that Ukranian regulations meant she could not file a missing persons report until he had been absent for 72 hours, even though she knew he had not simply gone off without telling her. Ludmilla did not sleep that night, and the next day she posted flyers and photographs of her husband all around the town and stopped everyone she came across, asking if they had seen him. Nobody had, but Ludmilla did not give up, scouring the streets and enlisting help from family and friends until she fell asleep, exhausted.
Excerpted from PSYCHO.COM: SERIAL KILLERS ON THE INTERNET (link)