Russiaâ€™s most notorious female gangster is on trial for masterminding several murders.
48-year-old former nursery teacher Inessa Tarverdieva has confessed to ten murders.
She, alongside her husband, 35-year-old dentist Roman Podkopaev, stands accused of being the head of a crime family, her own, and being behind 30 murders, including that of her own 12-year-old goddaughter, Lera Klochko.
She’s also accused of turning her eldest daughter, 27-year-old Viktoria, into a trained killer.
Her husband was killed in a police shootout in 2013, and she and her daughter were wounded.
That was the last time she was seen – until now.
She was wearing expensive shoes and designer makeup as she stood in court for a pre-hearing.
By day, the family were said to be “normal” and enjoyed camping trips.
But by night, they transformed into heartless killers known as the Amazons, because of her dominant style of leadership.
Six policeman, according to prosecutors, were among the family’s victims.
She readily admitted that she saw murder and robbery as nothing more than “going to the office for a day’s work” while also confessing to despising police. “I’m a gangster by nature,” she said proudly.
In 2009, the crime family used a semi-automatic weapon to kill paratrooper Dmitry Chudakov, his wife Irina, and 7-year-old son Sasha before slashing and stabbing their 11-year-old daughter Veronika at least 37 times.
They stole a laptop, hair dryer and a camera, with a total value of Â£950/$1,300.
Six years earlier, they’d murdered her own goddaughter, 12-year-old Lera Klochko, and her 13-year-old best friend Tanya Cherednikova in a double shooting as they robbed her home.
The girls had recognized them, so the family took no chances and executed both of them with bullets through an eye.
“It’s as if they wanted to gouge out their eyes because of what they’d seen,” according to a police source.
It wasn’t until 10 years later that young Lera’s family found that the woman they’d believed to be the “ideal godmother” was the matriarch of a crime family.
Ms. Tarverdieva has confessed that she and her husband were in the house at the time of the shooting, and that she was involved in the botched burglaries leading to the killings.
“We had to get rid of them because they’d seen us,” she told state investigators. She denied pulling the trigger on her goddaughter and her friend, however, claiming her husband had pulled the trigger.
In the glass cage with her were her late husband’s sister Anastasiya, 28, and her now-husband Sergey Sinelnik, who are accused of likewise being gang members, but not killers.
33-year-old Sinelnik had allegedly hidden them and provided them with police radios so they knew at all times where patrol cars were before they committed their grisly crimes.
Viktoria is also accused of partaking in the killing spree, with police believing her first victim was her birth father, Arzu Podkopaev, Tarverdievaâ€™s first husband.
Tarverdievaâ€™s younger daughter, 15-year-old Anastasiya, was below the age of criminal responsibility, so she wasn’t charged. Police believe, however, that she played a full part in their crimes; usually disposing of the stolen items.
Tarverdieva says some victims were killed so the family could have extra arms – “others were shot purely for the sake of money,” she said coldly.
She is also charged with organizing a gang, other violent attacks, and illegal use of firearms.
While the lot of them are only accused of forming a full-scale gang in 2007, their killing and mayhem began almost 10 years earlier.
“The gangsters committed a large number of murders, attempts on lives of law enforcement officers, violent attacks, stealing of guns and burglaries,” said spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, the equivalent of the FBI, Vladimir Markin.
“Among the crimes Tarverdieva and her accomplices are accused of, is the murder of Dmitry Chudakov, his wife, and two young children in 2009.”
“Tarverdieva has partly admitted her guilt in the crimes, having explained that she took active part in the following murders and violent attacks on citizens in Lyubetsky, Krist, Kulkov, Sazonov, Zlydnev, Botnaryuk (all villages), and the Chudakov family, and an attempted killing.”
Her “involvement in these crimes was proved by the searches, forensic reports, evidence given by the victim and witnesses, along with other proof”.
“They looked like a totally good, nice family. Imagine them – a mother, a father, two children, including an underage girl,” he emphasized.
“I’m sure that when they were together, one could hardly imagine that they could even plan a crime.”
The group were finally arrested after a robbery at the home of a former military officer.
They killed an unnamed husband and wife, stole alcohol and candles, as well as chicken when they found no money.
Podkopaev and his adopted daughter Viktoria had tried to escape on a scooter, but just minutes after leaving the crime scene, they were stopped for an ID check by police.
He was killed and she suffered serious bullet wounds. She has since recovered.
Searches of the family’s homes revealed 20 firearms, including automatic rifles, grenades, shotguns, silencers and ammunition, in addition to items taken from their victims.
Her goddaughter Lera’s aunt, 41-year-old Inessa Anokhina, said, “It was Alexander, Lera’s father, who found the bodies when they came back from a visit to relatives. He went into their house and almost stepped on Tanya’s body, lying close to the front door. There was no light, the water was running… he immediately realized something was terribly wrong there.
He switched on the light, and in the next moment he saw his daughter Lera on the floor, only in her T-shirt and knickers.
The girls had been changing before going to a village dance show when they were slain.”
Lera’s mother Elena heard her husband’s screams and rushed into the house, sinking to her knees and weeping while crying out, “My daughter’s been shot!”
“Five bullets were found in Lera’s body, and many more struck the walls and floors. Lera tried to run away and they were shooting to get her. But they saw what they were not meant to when they unwittingly disturbed Inessa and her husband Roman during a burglary,” she said.
The murders had an unsurprisingly dramatic effect on Lera’s parents, whose marriage broke up as grieving Elena turned to drinking.
She died four years ago, unaware that her best friend from school was a crime godmother – as well as being a real-life godmother to her daughter.
“She would have been devastated, as we all were,” said Inessa Anokhina
“The funerals of the girls were excruciating. I took pictures of Lera in her coffin. We dressed her in a wedding dress, because now she’d have no other chance to wear it. She would never marry.”
“They masked the gunshot injury on her eye and she looked beautiful, but it was such a tragedy and my sister never recovered. It ruined her life. She would sit on her bed just staring into space.”
66-year-old Lyubov Govorova, Lera’s grandmother, said, “Tarverdieva used to be so meek and quiet. She was my Elena’s best friend. That’s why she made her godmother. I am stunned to discover she is a gangster.”
A close friend of Elena’s didn’t come to the funeral; the very woman who’d, unbeknownst at the time, had a part in the death.
“She called Elena and said she was too upset to attend, though my sister needed all the support she could get,” said the aunt.
She went into a long-term depression and her marriage fell apart.
She died four years ago from gas poisoning from a faulty ventilator while she slept, still not knowing that her best friend had essentially murdered her daughter.
“I only hope she and Lera are now together again,” said aunt Inessa.