Russian police faked the murder of a pregnant woman in a sting operation to foil a conspiracy to kill her.
In a scheme that could have been taken from a Hitchcock thriller, detectives arranged for Kermen Basangova, the head of a civil service academy in St. Petersburg, to be “stabbed” in the street in front of witnesses.
News that Basangova, who was eight months pregnant, had died in the hospital was leaked to the Russian media in an elaborate ruse to catch three employees at the academy who had hired a man to kill her.
Basangova, 34, told reporters that the operation was so shrouded in secrecy that even her family did not know that her murder was being staged. Although she was pregnant, she said that she had worried most “about relatives with weak hearts” once news of her death began to circulate.
The trap was set after the would-be murderer tipped off police that he had been offered $10,000 to kill Basangova, the rector of the State Polar Academy. He identified her deputy, Vladimir Lukin, 70, as the man behind the conspiracy.
Basangova was appointed rector last year in place of Lukin’s wife, Azurget Shaukenbayeva, who had retired. The hired killer also named Vladimir Zhavoronkov, 53, the head of the transport division at the academy, and his son Mikhail, 21, who worked there as a driver.
Detectives told Basangova about the alleged plot and persuaded her to play the murder victim in a scheme to catch the conspirators.
She agreed and was taken to the hospital after the fake murder outside the academy by a masked, undercover policeman on Tuesday. Students and staff who witnessed the stabbing apparently had no idea that it was staged.
Neither did police who arrived to cordon off the scene of the attack, which included pools of fake blood, according to the Izvestia newspaper. They believed that they were dealing with a real crime, said Igor Paradayev, the deputy head of criminal investigations in St. Petersburg. He said that only the most senior officers and prosecutors knew the truth.
A police spokesman said that Mikhail Zhavoronkov was detained when he handed money to the hired killer. His father and Lukin were arrested later.