Vlado: From Journalist to Serial Killer

On the early evening of May 7th, 2008, Zivana Temelkoska, a 65-year-old woman, strolled through her kitchen in her apartment situated in the quaint Southeastern European city of Kicevo. Nestled at the foot of a colossal mountain in Northern Macedonia, Kicevo exuded tranquility and beauty but remained relatively isolated, with little noteworthy activity. Zivana, who worked as a house cleaner, was enjoying a rare day off. She spent her time leisurely at home, anticipating the return of her adult son, Zoran.

On that enchanting warm evening, Zivana had the kitchen windows wide open as she prepared a meal for herself. Amidst her culinary endeavors, the melodious ring of her phone echoed through the air. Snatching it up promptly, she was met with the strained and uncomfortable voice of her friend on the other end. Inquiring if Zivana was tuned into the current news, her friend questioned whether the radio or TV was on. Puzzled, Zivana responded with a simple “No, why?” It was then that her friend revealed the distressing news of a massive and tragic traffic accident in their town, involving none other than Zivana’s awaited son, Zoran.

Upon hearing the news, Zivana emitted a choked cry and abruptly abandoned her cooking utensils. She swiftly dashed out the door, catching the attention of her neighbor who was outdoors. Concerned, the neighbor called out, “Hey, is everything alright?” Without breaking her stride, Zivana, still running towards the road, hastily informed the neighbor that her son was injured, and she needed to get to the hospital. The neighbor observed as Zivana sprinted down the road, turned the corner, and vanished from sight.

Zivana, lacking her own vehicle, intended to reach the hospital on foot to ensure her son’s well-being. Shortly after witnessing Zivana vanish around the corner, the same neighbor received an unexpected knock on their door. Opening it, they were astonished to find Zivana’s son, Zoran, standing outside seemingly unharmed. However, before the neighbor could inquire, Zoran, appearing perplexed, asked, “Hey, have you seen my mom? We were supposed to meet for dinner, and it’s unlike her to vanish without informing me of her whereabouts.”

The neighbor gazed at Zoran, perplexed by the unfolding events. Then, breaking the silence, the neighbor inquired, “Hold on, Zoran, were you involved in a car accident?” Zoran, taken aback, responded, “No, what are you talking about?” The neighbor proceeded to enlighten Zoran, explaining how they had witnessed his mother rushing outside, expressing concern about her son’s car accident, and hastening to the hospital. Zoran, just as bewildered as the neighbor, quickly dialed the hospital on his phone to verify his mother’s whereabouts. However, the hospital staff informed him that his mother had not been there all day.

Despite hearing about the car accident in town, no car accident victims had been admitted to the hospital that day. As night fell, leaving Zoran clueless about his mother’s whereabouts and the details of the car accident, he decided to take the only course of action he could think of—going to the police to report his mother missing.

Nine days elapsed, reaching May 16th, with Zivana still missing and the police baffled about her whereabouts—no leads, no progress. On that fateful day, Vlado Taneski, a 56-year-old reporter residing surprisingly close to Zivana’s home, received a call from one of his police informants. The source disclosed the grim news that Zivana had been located, though this information had not yet been made public. Tragically, Zivana was discovered lifeless—her body subjected to brutal beatings, strangulation, and stabbing. It was found wrapped in plastic and discarded in an illicit dumping area not far from the town’s football stadium.

The informant informed Vlado that during the body search, it was revealed that she still possessed valuables. Consequently, the notion of a failed robbery, initially considered as the cause, was dismissed. Nevertheless, when authorities initially delved into Zivana’s life to identify the victim, they found her to be a destitute elderly cleaning lady with no apparent adversaries. Therefore, the perplexing aspect arose as to why she became the target of an evidently savage and personal murder, seemingly unrelated to financial motives, at least on the surface.

Vlado expressed gratitude to his informant for providing the information and then took his leave. While recounting the details of the murder, Vlado noticed that his source had initially seemed shocked, but as he reflected on the situation, he found himself less astonished and more inclined toward suspicion. Despite the apparent simplicity of Zivana’s persona as a humble cleaning lady without enemies, Vlado couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to the story. It occurred to him that perhaps Zivana had a hidden life that led to her demise or that she had inadvertently uncovered something she wasn’t meant to know. The uncertainty fueled Vlado’s belief that something wasn’t right, prompting him to feel the need for a thorough investigation into the matter.

Vlado was widely known in the town as a tenacious and bold journalist, unafraid to delve into complex and potentially controversial stories involving corruption or the abuse of power. He fearlessly tackled these murky narratives, fearlessly confronting issues that implicated government officials, law enforcement, or anyone wielding authority. Over his extensive 30-year career, Vlado consistently exposed and criticized such instances, even at the risk of violent threats.

Despite being aware that delving into the Zivana murder case could once again land him in trouble with those in authority, Vlado believed it was his duty to uncover the truth. With a sense of determination, he took hold of his notebook and pen, exited his home, and embarked on the several-minute journey to Zivana’s residence. Upon arrival, Zoran, her son, greeted him at the door. Shortly thereafter, Vlado and Zoran found themselves seated in the kitchen, engaged in a conversation about the events that had transpired.

Zoran recounted the events of his return home to Vlado, describing the unsettling discovery of his mother’s absence. Subsequently, he visited the neighbors, who disclosed witnessing Zivana hurriedly heading to the hospital in search of Zoran. Perplexed, Zoran clarified that he was unharmed and hadn’t been involved in any car accident. Throughout Zoran’s narration, Vlado diligently recorded details and posed numerous clarifying questions. By the conclusion of the conversation, Vlado, armed with a comprehensive understanding of Zivana’s situation, formulated a compelling working theory regarding the true events surrounding Zivana’s mysterious disappearance.

He believed in the accuracy of his theory based on the information Zoran shared about Vlado’s mother working as a cleaning lady. It took Vlado a few days to piece together his narrative, conducting numerous interviews with people in their neighborhood. On May 19th, just three days after Zivana’s murder, Vlado released a newspaper article with the headline “Kicevo Under the Grip of a Serial Killer,” revealing his explosive findings.

In the narrative, Vlado suggests that Zivana’s homicide likely wasn’t an isolated incident. Instead, it appeared to be connected to two additional murders involving women who bore a striking resemblance to Zivana. These two victims shared similar characteristics with Zivana—they were impoverished elderly women working as cleaning ladies. As Vlado conversed with Zoran and learned about his mother’s occupation, appearance, and lifestyle, memories of the other victims resurfaced. Connecting the dots, Vlado realized that the other two victims were Mitra Simjanoska, a 64-year-old murdered in 2005, and Ljubica Lacoska, a 56-year-old murdered in 2007.

Vlado’s narrative unfolded dramatically as he asserted the existence of a rampant serial killer in the town. What made his account particularly sensational was his scathing critique of the police involved in the investigation. Specifically, he highlighted serious mishandling of the ’05 and ’07 murders of two other women. According to Vlado, arrests had been made in at least one of those cases, but whoever was apprehended turned out to be innocent. In Vlado’s view, the police had unequivocally fumbled the investigations.

Upon reading Vlado’s story, law enforcement officials were incensed by his harsh criticism. Nevertheless, they couldn’t ignore the fact that Vlado had uncovered numerous new details through his interviews with witnesses and residents. These revelations painted a compelling picture, suggesting that the crimes might indeed be the work of a serial killer rather than isolated incidents.

Consequently, following Vlado’s account, the police initiated an investigation into a potential serial killer within their jurisdiction, connecting the dots between the three murders and launching a fresh inquiry. Simultaneously, as this new probe unfolded, Vlado became increasingly aware that he was under constant surveillance by law enforcement. Whether he was out in town fulfilling his reporting duties or conducting interviews, there was invariably a police officer stationed in the background, observing him. However, Vlado had anticipated some form of backlash from the police, and he resigned himself to the fact that they would monitor him, perhaps attempting to intimidate him. Nevertheless, he remained unfazed, having conscientiously carried out his journalistic responsibilities. He had reported the story to the best of his ability, and if the authorities chose to keep a distant watch, he was content to let them do so.

In early June, approximately two weeks following the discovery of Zivana’s murder, the police involved in the ongoing serial killer investigation successfully narrowed down their suspect pool from hundreds to just three individuals. They were on the verge of making an arrest. Fast forward to June 20th, with Vlado still under constant police surveillance. However, the authorities had not yet publicly disclosed any information about the serial killer case, diligently pursuing their investigation without revealing details.

But on June 20th, Vlado’s newspaper editor received a call from a police officer, informing them of an imminent arrest in the serial killer case. Immediately after their conversation concluded, the editor tried reaching out to Vlado to share the breaking news. However, to the editor’s surprise, Vlado did not answer the call, which was highly unusual as Vlado had a habit of always picking up. The editor couldn’t help but find it odd that the officer had contacted him instead of directly informing Vlado. Questions lingered in his mind—why approach the editor rather than the journalist covering the story? It seemed peculiar and left him wondering about the circumstances.

The editor persistently attempted to reach Vlad multiple times, but Vlad remained unresponsive. Consequently, the editor speculated that Vlad might be occupied, perhaps conducting an interview or, more plausibly, already aware of the impending arrest. It seemed likely that Vlad was on-site, prepared to capture the arrest in real-time as it unfolded.

In a tranquil CBO neighborhood, a modest two-story residence with an overgrown front yard became the focus of police attention. Tall fir trees enveloped the dwelling, and heavy drapes concealed all the windows. After ensuring a complete perimeter, a group of officers ascended the porch, rapped on the door, and vociferously identified themselves as law enforcement. They directed anyone inside to emerge with their hands raised.

A brief hush enveloped the scene, thick with tension. Subsequently, the officers stationed on the porch detected the sound of footsteps emanating from within the house. With their firearms poised for action, they observed as the door creaked open gradually. Stepping onto the porch, a seemingly non-threatening and bewildered man emerged. Swiftly, the police apprehended him, leading to his immediate removal from the premises.

Several minutes later, within the confines of the newspaper headquarters, Vlad’s editor received yet another phone call. Upon answering, he found himself speaking with the same police officer who had previously alerted him about the impending arrest. However, this time, the officer conveyed the successful apprehension of the serial killer they had been pursuing. To the editor’s astonishment, he then disclosed the identity of the captured individual. Upon hearing the name, the editor was so stunned that he involuntarily dropped the phone. It was none other than Vlad, the serial killer.

It became evident that Vlad projected a highly professional and composed exterior, yet harbored a deep-seated rage within, directed particularly towards his mother, whom he perceived as a cruel and dreadful individual. Following her demise in 2002, Vlad fixated on the notion of seeking revenge against his late mother. His chosen method involved targeting random women who bore a striking resemblance to her, typically characterized by traits such as poverty, advanced age, and a role as cleaning ladies.

In 2005, Mitra became one of Vlad’s victims, followed by Lita in 2007 and Zivana in 2008. All three had a personal acquaintance with Vlad’s mother, a connection that Vlad exploited to establish trust with each victim. Having gained their trust, he would then lead them away to commit acts of violence, employing methods such as strangulation, stabbing, and beating to perpetrate their deaths.

In Vlad’s sensational newspaper article, he fabricated numerous details with the intention of misleading the police. One instance involved a fictitious encounter with a supposed witness who asserted having seen Zivana entering a car with two men just before her disappearance. In reality, Vlad had not witnessed any such event; it was a deliberate falsehood crafted to sow confusion among law enforcement.

Vlad orchestrated the broadcast on the radio, spreading false news about Zivana’s son, Zoran, being involved in a catastrophic accident. This deliberate misinformation compelled Zivana to hastily leave her home, making her susceptible to abduction and murder – precisely Vlad’s sinister plan. Exploiting his past association with the radio station, where he had previously worked, Vlad easily deceived them into broadcasting the fabricated story without any verification. In essence, the entire radio transmission served as a meticulously planned trap set by Vlad to bring about Zivana’s demise.

Vlad’s ultimate downfall stemmed from his article, where he disclosed highly specific information not yet made public by the police. By incorporating these undisclosed details, Vlad appeared to possess insider knowledge about the true nature of the events. For instance, he revealed that all three victims of the serial killer had been strangled with telephone cords left at the crime scenes—an aspect undisclosed by law enforcement. This revelation raised suspicions among the police, leading them to consider Vlad a potential suspect in the murders.

When Vlad sensed the police were following him, seemingly to intimidate, little did he know they were actually tailing him suspecting him of being the murderer. Subsequently, obtaining a DNA sample from Vlad confirmed their suspicions; he was indeed the killer.

Following Vlad’s apprehension, he swiftly faced accusations related to two out of the three murders. Authorities were in the process of preparing charges for the third murder, and they were also exploring the possibility of a fourth victim potentially linked to Vlad. However, certainty about the fourth case remained elusive at that point.

On June 23rd, a mere three days following Vlad’s arrest, he inexplicably perished in his jail cell. The circumstances surrounding his death were puzzling, as Vlad was found drowned in a small bucket of water, and remarkably, three other individuals sharing the same cell claimed to be oblivious to the incident. Authorities officially declared Vlad’s demise a suicide, leading to the closure of all ongoing murder investigations after his passing.

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