As investigators in Kazakhstan probe their second bizarre mass-murder mystery this summer, they have appealed to the public to help them find a killer who stabbed 11 people to death in a national park near the country’s financial capital, Almaty.
Police are urging the public to come forward with information that may lead to the arrest of the murderer, Tengri News reported on August 16. Law-enforcement officers have questioned over 5,000 people, and around 200 officers are combing the park for clues.
A septuagenarian park ranger identified as Panayota Zakharopulo and his common-law wife were among the slain. Police are seeking the ranger’s missing son, aged 51, whose smashed-up car was later found in a mountain gorge.
The bodies, some of them burnt, were found at separate sites in the Ile-Alatau national park, a popular alpine picnicking and hiking area near Almaty, on August 13 and 14. Some were found in the house of the ranger, where police said there were no signs of a struggle or robbery (despite there being over $12,000 in the safe).
As for advancing theories, Interior Minister Kalmukhanbet Kasymov has only somewhat hazily said that police are pursuing the line that the motive may have been an “internal conflict.”
An Interior Ministry spokesman said on August 15 that investigators have found nothing to link this crime with another bizarre slaughter in another rural area of Almaty Region, where 15 people were found dead at a border unit near the frontier with China in late May.
A conscript later confessed to that crime, saying that hazing -- the practice of senior soldiers bullying junior ones, which is common in the armed forces of many former Soviet states -- had made him “flip,” but he later retracted that confession and has alleged he was psychologically pressured into making it.
Mass murder is no common thing in Kazakhstan -- at least until this summer -- and the latest unexplained slaughter has sent the country into frenzied speculation as the killer or killers remain on the loose.