The beheaded bodies of a Ukrainian judge and three members of his family have been found in their apartment in the eastern city of Kharkiv, police said on Sunday as they searched for those responsible for the killings.
The gruesome crime scene was uncovered a day earlier by a relative, who found the bodies of Judge Vladimir Trofimov, his wife Irina, their son Sergei, and the son’s girlfriend, Marina Zoueva.
As of Sunday evening, the corpses’ heads had not been found, officials said.
The son appeared to have been decapitated while alive, whereas the other victims’ heads were removed after they were already dead, Ukrainian Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko said.
Prosecutor Viktor Pshonka said the quadruple slaying had been carefully planned.
At least three motives were being considered, including whether the killings were connected to the judge’s professional activities or were the result of a robbery gone bad at his home. Vladimir Trofimov was also a renowned antiques collector.
The slayings could have also been carried out by a contract killer, Pshonka said, adding that investigators would consider any other possible motive.
The probe is being closely watched by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.
Witnesses saw the 58-year-old judge leave his apartment, then return between 8:30am and 10am on Saturday. Trofimov, had been a magistrate for more than 30 years. He was also an internationally known collector of rare coins, World War II medals and china statuettes.
His wife Irina was 59, their son Sergei was 30 and Marina Zoueva was 29.
Several antiques were missing and investigators were to question collectors who knew Trofimov.
Pshonka said some evidence showed at least two people were involved in the killings.
Dozens of investigators and experts were working on the case, Zakharchenko said, and additional information was expected from forensics experts.
Domestic secret service SBU chief Igor Kalinin said that police and SBU experts were part of the investigation.
Trifomov was “a very discreet, peaceful and modest man,” Kharkiv appeals court president Andrei Solokov told Interfax news agency.
“The fact that his parents are still alive adds to the tragedy,” Solokov said.
Trifomov’s father is 90 and his mother is 86.