When we think of the appearance of a serial killer, very few of us would envision an elderly lady. In 2015, however, the world would recoil in horror when an elderly woman in Russia was arrested for a string of extremely grisly murders.
In late July of 2015, it was announced that 68-year-old Tamara Samsonova, a former hotel worker, had been arrested for the murder of 79-year-old Valentina Nikolaevna Ulanova, for whom she acted as a carer for. After the murder, Samsonova had dismembered the body with a hacksaw and then dumped it beside a pond behind her apartment. Security footage had captured Samsonova disposing of Ulanova’s body. She could be seen dragging a large black garbage bag out of her apartment which contained the body of Ulanova.1
Following Samsonova’s arrest, it was announced that she was also suspecting of murdering a 44-year-old male lodger in her apartment back in 2003 and dismembering his body. When searching her apartment, police would find the business card for the 44-year-old victim. His identity has never been released but Samsonova admitted to killing him during a quarrel; his body had been found 12 years prior in almost the exact location as Ulanova. In her diary, Samsonova had written: “I killed my tenant Volodya, cut him into pieces in the bathroom with a knife, put the pieces of his body in plastic bags and then threw them away.”
When police had searched her apartment, they had also come across a journal which detailed at least ten murders over the course of twenty years. These diary entries were written in Russian, English and German and contain mundane details such as “slept badly” or “drank coffee” among the grisly details of murder. In addition to the journals, investigators found blood spatter within the home as well as a knife which had traces of blood on the blade.2
According to some of Samsonova’s neighbours, she had spent several months in a psychiatric hospital. When brought in for questioning, she claimed that she was an actress and a graduate of the prestigious Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet. However, she then changed her story and claimed she had worked as an attendant at a lavish Russian hotel.3
Samsonova would admit to at least 13 murderes and investigators would announce that they were attempting to link the journal entries with cold cases. She would provide more information about the murder of Ulanova; she claimed that she had given her an overdose of sleeping pills before dismembering her body with a hacksaw while she was still alive. She said that she was motivated to kill Ulanova after a disagreement over unwashed cups. Senior investigator Mikhail Timoshatov stated: “Tamara Samsonova says that at first, she made her friend sleep and then cut her into pieces…”
An investigation into her background revealed that back in 2005, Samsonova had reported her husband as missing and his body was never found. Police working on the case would announce that they now suspected that Samsonova had killed him.
During her first court appearance, she made erratic statements. She first of all confessed to the murders before stating that it was actually her neighbours who had committed the murders. She also blew kisses to the television reporters and stated to the judge: “I have been preparing for this trial for 10 years. It’s all deliberate.”4 At several points, she appeared to be confused and disorientated and it was stated that she had a history of mental illness.5
Early the following month, investigators in Russia would state that they believed that in attention to murdering and dismembering her victims, Samsonova also partook in cannibalism. She allegedly had a penchant for removing the lungs or her victims and then eating them. Just a couple of days later, they would further reveal that they now believed that Samsonova could have killed up to 21 people.
It would be leaked in the Russian media that Samsonova had provided grim details of the murder of Ulanova. She had written: “I came home and put the whole pack of Phenazepam – 50 pills – into her Olivier salad. I woke up at 2AM and she was lying on the floor. So I started cutting her into pieces.” She said that she had dismembered her on the kitchen floor and then used a hacksaw to remove her head and hands and then boiled them on the stove.6
Samsonova would be determined to be mentally incompetent to stand trial and would be sent to a psychiatric hospital for an indefinite amount of time.
- Agence France-Presse, 29 July, 2015 – “Elderly Russian Woman Suspected of Murdering, Dismembering Duo”
- Austin Examiner, 30 July, 2015 – “68 Year Old Woman Revealed as Prolific Serial Killer”
- Moscow Times, 29 July, 2015 – “Elderly Russian Woman Suspected of Multiple Macabre Murders”
- International Business Times, 31 July, 2015 – “Granny Arrested for Killing”
- International Business Times, 9 August, 2015 – “Tamara Samsonova to Feature un Horrors of St Petersburg Museum”
- The Calgary Sun, 5 September, 2015 – “Cannibal Granny Shares Recipes”