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The serial killer journalist who covered his own crimes

Image by Florian Klauer | Unsplash Images

‘The people of Kičevo live in fear after yet another butchered body has been found in the town. The corpse strongly resembles one discovered last year. There's a distinct possibility that these monstrous murders are the work of a serial killer. The latest victim was found in a rubbish dump; she’d been tied up with a piece of phone cable with which she had clearly been strangled. The motive of The Kičevo Monster remains unclear. So too does the motive, however police have a few suspects...’

- Reporter Vlado Taneski writing for Nova Makedonija on May 19th, 2008.

Vlado Taneski’s readers loved his work. Few had ever read such thoughtful, insightful and detailed crime writing in a Macedonian newspaper before. While covering three high profile murders for some of the country’s most prestigious papers, Taneski built up something of a following.

It was a nice boost for the journalist’s career. Before his break covering the 2004 disappearance and murder of 64 year-old Mitra Simjanoska, Taneski’s work life had been somewhat in the doldrums. A jobbing journo, he’d mostly file stories about local council developments and the like for local newspapers in his hometown of Kičevo, a small city some 70 miles from North Macedonia’s capital city of Skopje.

Simjanoska’s murder was Taneski’s opportunity and he seized it; pitching and writing a series of articles about the woman who had been kidnapped, tied up, tortured, raped and strangled. He continued his work over the next couple of years as two other women, 56 year-old Ljubica Licoska and Zivana Temelkoska, 65, went missing and were found dead shortly afterwards. By the third murder, Tankeski was writing for Nova Makedonija, to his biggest audience yet.

He wrote of the crimes with a passion, a fluency. He spoke with authority and precision. With so little information routinely released by police in North Macedonia to the press, the level of detail was impressive. How did Vlado Taneski know so much about the murders…?

Well, the answer’s painfully simple. He committed them.

Taneski knew so much about the cases, the victims and the specifics because he was the killer. It was like the plot of a cheap 90s horror-thriller. Only it was all too real.

Taneski’s motive, as best as anyone can tell, wasn’t purely to enhance his career. That was merely a bonus for the man. It’s thought that his anger was rooted in issues with his mother. So all very Freudian.

When she was alive, Mrs. Taneski and her son had what family members have since described as ‘a fraught relationship’. His mother, like all three of the victims, was a cleaner. Not only that, but it turned out that all three of Taneski’s victims knew their killer’s mother to varying degrees.

Antoni Novotni, a professor and leading psychiatrist in Skopje has his theory on motive: ‘There is obvious symbolism in the fact that his mother, like the victims, was a cleaner. 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. Perhaps he saw it as a way of resolving his inner problems and getting rid of the burden which came with killing these women,’ Novotni told The Guardian.

The incredibly unique and fascinating aspect to this case is exactly what got Vlado Teneski caught. Police began to become suspicious when the reporter started featuring details of the case that hadn’t been released to the media. Details that turned out to be disturbingly accurate.

Remember that quote we opened with? Go back and read it again. See you back here in a second…

… Read it? Good. This bit: ‘She’d been tied up with a piece of phone cable with which she had clearly been strangled.’ Did that strike you as a little odd? It was said with some conviction, wasn’t it? It was true, Zivana Temelkoska had been tied up with telephone cables. The very same cables that were used by her killer to choke her to death. The police didn’t tell the press about the cause of death in that much detail, however.

Taneski had grassed himself up, effectively. Agatha Christie couldn’t have written it better herself.

The killer journalist was eventually arrested and charged with two of the murders. Before he could be charged with the third, he committed suicide in his holding cell by drowning himself in a bucket of water. Police were planning to question Taneski about the killing of 78 year-old Gorica Pavleska as well, but didn’t get the chance. It’s widely believed that he was also responsible for this murder.

It wasn’t just the phone cord information that the authorities had over Taneski. He knew the game was up when his DNA was matched up with semen taken from his victims.

The moral of the story? Never trust anyone who writes about crime. Except us, of course. You can trust us.