The town of Kicevo, Macedonia, has a population of just under 30,000 people.
In the 2000s, the small European township was the hunting ground of a serial killer, dubbed the “Kicevo monster” by the country’s biggest newspaper.
Across four years, the bodies of three elderly women were found brutally murdered – all raped, beaten and strangled with a piece of phone cable. Their naked bodies were wrapped in nylon bags and dumped.
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64-year-old Mitra Simjanoska was found in 2005, 56-year-old Ljubica Licoska was discovered in 2007, and Zivana Temelkoska, 65, in 2008.
The women were all poor, uneducated cleaners.
A fourth woman, 78-year-old Gorica Pavleska, who disappeared in 2003, was thought by police to be the killer’s first victim, but her body was never recovered.
On May 18, 2008, a local journalist by the name of Vlado Taneski called Nova Makedonija, Macedonia’s oldest daily newspaper and pitched the story, suggesting that he thought the murders were all linked.
The mild mannered 56-year-old father-of-two, had been a respected member of the industry for two decades, and wanted to write about the suspected serial killer stalking his hometown.
The next day his story was published as the feature in the national crime pages.
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“The people of Kicevo live in fear after another butchered body has been found in the town. The corpse strongly resembles one discovered 20 kilometres outside Kicevo last year and there is a possibility that these monstrous murders are the work of a serial killer,” he wrote.
“The motive of the Kicevo monster remains unclear. Both women were friends and living in the same part of town. Police have a few suspects who they are interrogating,” he continued.
The story gripped the country, and so Taneski kept covering it. He wrote intricate details of the crimes, speaking to family of the victims and covering the arrest and trial of two men accused of killing one of the women.
In one article, he accused the police of wrongdoing, pointing out that the men had been in prison at the time of the murder.
But it was the inside knowledge the journalist had about things like the exact type of phone cord used in the murders, the fact that it had been left at the scene, and the chronology of the deaths that caught the police’s attention. Taneski knew things that police had deliberately chosen not to reveal.