Thursday, July 10, 2008

The shocking story of the newspaper crime reporter who knew too much

When Vlado Taneski wrote about the serial killer stalking his hometown in Macedonia, his eye for detail was such that the story was soon riveting readers. The journalist's inside knowledge of the brutal murders of three elderly women in the tiny town of Kicevo ensured that newspaper editors gave his columns prominence.

Yesterday the 56-year-old father-of-two killed himself by dunking his head in a bucket of water in the toilet at a prison in the town of Tetovo, after it was revealed he had been charged with the murders he had written about.

"All these women were raped, molested and murdered in the most terrible way and we have very strong evidence that Taneski was responsible for all three," said police spokesman Ivo Kotevski speaking from the capital Skopje. "In the end there were many things that pointed to him as a suspect and led us to file charges against him for two of the murders," he added. "We were close to charging him with a third murder, and hoped he would give us details of a fourth woman who disappeared in 2003 - because we believe he was involved in that case, too."

Of all the things which gave Taneski away, police point to his in-depth coverage of a story which is being reported as one of the most bizarre events to have befallen the two-million strong mini-state.

The three women were aged between 65 and 56. Zivana Temelkoska, Ljubica Licoska, and Mitra Simjanoska were each beaten repeatedly and strangled with a phone cable. Temelkoska was murdered in May, Licoska in February last year and Simjanoska in 2005.

They shared a common background in being cleaners, a job which Taneski's deceased mother had held for years.

Each of the three bodies was discovered wrapped in plastic bags and dumped and discarded around Kicevo, a drab town southwest of Skopje with a population of fewer than 20,000. The fourth woman, aged 78, went missing in 2003, and her body has never been found.

It was the ostensibly mild-mannered journalist's intricate account of the murders which led to suspicion.

But what made it unmistakable was his inclusion of details police had chosen not to release. Unlike any of his journalist rivals, Taneski knew the type of phone chord the killer used as his "signature weapon" - reporting, without attribution, that the cord had been used to strangle as well as tie up the bodies of the women; and, even more brazenly, he speculated about the chronology of the murders.

"On May 18, just after the gruesome murder of Zivana Temelkoska, he called and pitched the story to us," said Goce Trpkovski, a reporter at the daily Nova Makedonija.

"He was very quietly spoken but also very persuasive. As a contributor we published his story as the main article on the crime pages the next day - under the headline 'A serial killer stalks Kicevo, too' - because the murders followed a series of killings in Ochrid, although they were nothing like this.

"To tell the truth, I didn't believe the story - almost nothing happens in Macedonia, and suddenly we have two serial killers stalking our tiny country in a matter of months."

What neither the staff at Utrinski Vesnik, another newspaper that he contributed to, or any of his many friends, could also believe, was how a man described as "unbelievably low-key and soft-natured" was capable of such crimes.

Yesterday, his estranged wife told Canal 5, a local TV station, that she had enjoyed "an ideal marriage" with Taneski for 31 years. "He was always quiet and gentle. The only time I ever saw him get aggressive was when we were living with his parents," she told the channel.

As police released more details yesterday, it did emerge there was also a darker side to Taneski's life. A large collection of pornographic videos and magazines was found in his summer house.

And, adding to the fact the victims were cleaners, as was Taneski's dead mother, police noted all three bore a striking resemblance to her. He is believed to have had a troubled relationship with his mother, one which worsened considerably after his father killed himself in 1990.

"There is obvious symbolism in the fact that his mother, like the victims, was a cleaner," said Antoni Novotni, a professor who heads the psychiatric clinic in Skopje. "This is pure speculation - as he was never my patient - but one explanation could be that he wanted to be caught by letting slip what he did in his articles," Novotni told the Guardian.

"Perhaps he saw it as a way of resolving his inner problems, and getting rid of the burden which came with killing these women."


From a piece by Vlado Taneski, published in Nova Makedonija on May 19 2008

The people of Kicevo live in fear after another butchered body has been found in the town. The corpse strongly resembles one discovered 20 kilometres outside Kicevo last year and there is a possibility that these monstrous murders are the work of a serial killer.

Both women were tortured and murdered in the same fashion, which rules out the possibility that this could have been done by two different people. The Ochrid serial killer murdered three people [in 2007] but his victims were all street-based money exchangers and his motive was to rob them.

The motive of the Kicevo monster remains unclear. Both women were friends and living in the same part of town. Police have a few suspects who they are interrogating.

The latest body was found in rubbish dump. It had been tied up with a piece of phone cable with which the woman had clearly been previously strangled.

No comments: