Suspected Serial Rapist Arrested

Viktor Vasiliev, 39, of Haifa, is suspected of raping four women since 2007, police said yesterday. Vasiliev, who is said to have confessed to the assaults, is alleged to have attacked some of the women more than once. He was arrested about ten days ago, police said, but a gag order on the arrest was not removed until this week.

Police said Vasiliev, an electrician and father of one, would follow women who live alone in ground-floor apartments on Bar Giora Street in Haifa, stalk them by the entrance to the apartment, and then attack.

It took police over a year to identify a recurring pattern in several rape cases that had occurred on the street. A sample of Vasiliev's DNA had not been in the police database, as he did not have a criminal record.

Only three months ago, forensic investigators managed to match two DNA samples from different crime scenes. They then arrested Vasiliev when he returned for the third time to the apartment of a woman he is alleged to have already raped twice.

According to police, officers had instructed the woman how to act in case the attacker returned. When he approached her, she called police, which had stationed volunteers and regular policemen in the area for several weeks. The suspect attempted to escape, but was soon caught by a volunteer and a policeman.

Police believe Vasiliev is responsible for a series of rapes, the first of which occurred in October 2007. On this occasion, Vasiliev is alleged to have entered one of the victim's flats through the front door (which had been open), woken her up with kisses, and then raped her while threatening her with a knife. A DNA sample was collected from the crime scene, but police were unable to identify a suspect from it.

A year later, Vasiliev is said to have entered another unlocked ground-floor apartment on Bar Giora St., but the woman screamed and he ran away.

In March 2009, he allegedly sexually assaulted another woman on the same street. Two days following that, Vasiliev is suspected to have returned to the same flat and raped the woman residing there. In May 2009, police said, Vasiliev assaulted another woman on the same street, who was on the way out of her apartment.

The victim, whose name could not be disclosed, said the attack took place at 6 A.M. "I was just leaving my flat, when he pushed me back inside. At first I thought he was some neighbor, but then I noticed his pants were down," the woman said. "He told me to 'shut up, get into the room, and if you don't want me to beat you up, do what I say.' He tried to undress me, but only managed to remove my shirt. He started kissing me and tried to have sex with me, but I refused."

The suspect is alleged to have eventually sodomized the woman after some threats, recording the act with a video camera the entire time, police said. He then escaped from the apartment, stealing some money. Vasiliev is alleged to have studied the woman's routine prior to the attack.

Forensic investigators examining the scene managed to obtain a DNA sample and a finger print that matched similar findings at another rape scene. Police said only then did they realize there may have been a serial rapist operating in the area. Until that point, the investigation had relied upon composite portraits taken from the rape victims, but the portraits differed from case to case. Police had also arrested several suspects, but they were released due to lack of evidence. When the DNA samples matched, a new task force was set up, which guessed that Vasiliev would return to one his earlier victims.

Police said the accused criminal's DNA sample, which was taken after his arrest, matched samples taken from all six crime scenes. Police are now checking whether there have been more assaults than the recorded six. Vasiliev is accused of six counts of rape, sodomy and sexual assault. He is also suspected of several counts of voyeurism, police said.

Vasiliev's lawyer, Ohad Dahan, said his client claims he does not remember anything of what is alleged to have occurred because he was drunk. Police, however, claim the suspect confessed to four of the attacks and pointed out the houses in which they occurred.

Lian Morkovich, who lives near the suspect's apartment building, told Haaretz life in the neighborhood was ridden with anxiety and fear. "You need to make sure you lock your door, and never rent a ground-floor flat," she said.