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People Who Turned Against Their Own: Familicide and Filicide in Former Yugoslavia

Updated on January 11, 2018

Former Yugoslavia and Its Government's Many Cover-ups

Murder is as old as life itself. Many animals' life depends on whether they are successful in taking life of another animal. Humans, however, became the masters of murder. It became the ultimate solution for many problems. For some twisted minds, it was a way to arouse and entertain themselves, making the human race one of the very few species who kill for fun. Therefore, murder was both a subject of fascination and a taboo topic in many cultures throughout history, familicide and filicide probably being its most gruesome subtypes.

Former Yugoslavia generally had a good reputation when it comes to safety. I, who grew up in this now non-existent country, can say that my youth was a pretty safe time. But could you really sleep in a park or on a bench, like many nostalgic folks claim?

If you take a look at Yugoslavia crime archives, you probably won't think so. Particularly interesting are the cases of familicide and filicide. Such monstrosities happened quite often. Numerous family murders were covered-up by the authorities, and were given little or no media attention, which may be the cause of suspicion and doubt among the residents of the former republic, when talking about these crimes.

Motives are different. Numbers are different. But one thing is common with all of these notorious people: They harmed their nearest and dearest. From the dusty criminal records of Yugoslavia, I present you spine-chilling stories of people who turned against their own:

The Child Killer: Ilija Živković

Ilija worked for "Yugoslavia Railways", in Smederevo. In Kusadak, he met Sloboda Vasiljević. She was thirty then, eight years older than him. They were both married. Ilija had a son, and Sloboda had a daughter.

At first, their relationship was platonic, but as time went by, they were spending more time together, and soon, they involved sex. Everything was perfect, except the children, who were bothering them. Among the many ways to solve the problem, Ilija picked the most cruel one.

On July 4, 1961, Sloboda's daughter Snežana was found strangled. Nobody was arrested for her murdered. Next year, Radoslav, Ilija's son was found in a well, dead. Friends and family were devastated. Nobody suspected the two deaths could be somehow linked, nor that Radoslav was actually murdered.

But when Ilija divorced his first wife only month after the sad events and married Sloboda, everything became clear. The couple was arrested, and charged with two first-degree murders. Ilija confessed to murder of his son, and Sloboda confessed to murder of her daughter. Later, Sloboda recanted the confession, and was released due to lack of evidence. Her partner, on the other side, was convicted of both murders and sentenced to the death penalty.

He complained, and his sentence was changed to seventeen years in prison. The prison staff described him as a model prisoner, completely rehabilitated and ready to live in the outside world. That turned out to be far from truth, because he killed again.

On March 5, 1979, Jan Červenji found a corpse on his property. It was heavily mutilated, so it was hard to identify the victim. After the identification, the police arrested Ilija. It was his new wife, Habiba Vehabović. He killed her because of a woman he recently met. This time, he didn't confess, but got the death penalty anyway. The aftermath is unknown.

Kusadak, where Ilija and Sloboda met
Kusadak, where Ilija and Sloboda met | Source

Daddy Came Home: The Ikanović Family Massacre

On October 15, 1970, in Raljaš, a remote village in Yugoslavia, five members of the Ikanović family were found dead. Mother and her four children, probably killed on October 13. The police of Prijedor (the closest city) sent an urgent letter to the police of Hagen, West Germany, where the head of the family, Nail Ikanović, worked and lived. They asked them to check Ikanović's alibi for the period from October 12 to October 15. After five hours, they got an answer from Hagen.

"As you said, the police patrol went to Mr. Nail's house, and he wasn't home. After an hour, we went to his house again, and we found him. We asked for his passport, but he said it was destroyed. He couldn't provide an alibi for the period from October 12 to October 15. Allegedly, he went in another town to visit his friends, but no credible evidences were found to support his statement. We expect your further instructions."

On October 16, in the morning, the special team entered the house. The first corpse they found was Mrs. Ikanović. She was almost naked, her body laying in the hallway.

In the children's room, they found all of the children. Three daughters: Elvira, Elzina and Raza were found in the room, while Elvir, the only son, was killed on the threshold. The murders were committed by an axe.

The main suspect was, undoubtedly, Nail, although there was still no apparent motive. The inspectors relied on hair found in Mrs. Ikanović's hands, and bloody fingerprints on the axe, both of which were proven to be Nail's.

When he came to Yugoslavia, he was traced by the federal agents to Prijedor, where he was arrested. After a polygraph testing, the results were negative. The killer was completely emotionless during the test. Despite him pleading not guilty, he was sentenced to the death penalty.

At the time, a big earthquake occured in Banja Luka, where Ikanović was held, so he was moved to Sarajevo, waiting for the execution. He was never executed, however, because he committed suicide by hanging. There were many theories about the reason of his massacre, from the mistress who convinced him to eliminate his family, to mental delusions, but with his death, it will probably stay unknown forever.

A markerRaljaš -
Raljaš, Bosna i Hercegovina
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Remote area near Prijedor, where the killings took place

Trajče Mitev: Thrown Into the Pit

Trajče lived in Macedonia. He was a large man. His job was to watch on the woods in Pelister National Park. He lived with Cvjetanka, his wife, and his mother, Ljupka. Relationship between Trajče and Cvjetanka was not stable, because of his "adventures" with other women.

Cvjetanka was afraid of him, so she never complained, except to her mother–in–law, who was very supportive. Finally, when she couldn't take it anymore, the two of them came up with a plan to kill Mitev. They were just waiting for the perfect time for the execution.

It was October. Trajče fell asleep, after a busy day. While he was sleeping, his mother hit him in the head with an adze. He died immediately. Women then carried the body to a hut, where they chopped it in small pieces. In the dawn, they threw his remainings in a pit for dead animals.

A couple of days after, Cvjetanka reported her husband is missing. The police tried to find him, but even months after the search began, they were still at the beginning, clueless and hopeless.

The killers were afraid of being caught, so they decided to write a letter in Trajče's name, claiming he went to Albania (neighboring country). Because they were illiterate, they asked a girl from their village to write it for them. That turned out to be a mistake that will cost them. They were caught, and got twenty years each.

Adze | Source

They Were a Happy Family: Dušan Martinović

At the beginning of the 1990's, Yugoslavia was falling apart. The Yugoslav wars were one of the bloodiest Europe has ever seen. Thousands died. Out of six confederate republics, now there were only two. The country was poor and exhausted.

Dušan was a wealthy man before war. He owned a couple of drugstores in Beograd, but now, he was in a big crisis. He was planning to move to Slovenia, where his sister lived. At least he told so to his neighbors.

Only two days before the tragic events, Dušan was walking his rottweiler. The dog was sick for a long time, and after treatments, he was healthy again. Except the dog, he also had two children with his wife, Mirela.

Seemingly happy family, regardless of problems. Nobody knew that Dušan's thoughts were far from happy. He was thinking about suicide. But he didn't want to leave his family. He wanted to take them, too.

The postman delivered a letter to Martinović's home on June 6, of 2002. He first knocked at their door, but as nobody opened, he became suspicious. It was strange that there wasn't Oto's barking. He talked to neighbors. They called the police next morning. They broke into his apartment.

Inside, four members of the Martinović family were found. They were killed by a gun. The perpetrator was Dušan, who eventually shot himself. He even killed family dog, Oto. Neighbors and friends were shocked. Nobody believed he was capable of such atrocities. The police and psychiatrists found despair to be the main motive.

"I have a puppy, so Dušan and I often talked about dogs. He was a normal man, without any physical or mental issues. His kids were adorable... Yeah, he said he's a bit depressed and that he plans to go to Slovenia to his sister..." - Dušan's neighbor

Novi Beograd, where the Martinović family lived
Novi Beograd, where the Martinović family lived | Source

What case of familicide/filicide do you think is the worst?

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  • Ramljak, Alija. (1999). Medicinska kriminalistika. Sarajevo, University of Sarajevo. Pages 585-593.
  • Lopušina, Marko. (1997). Najzagonetnije jugoslovenske ubice. Beograd, Narodna knjiga. Pages 14, 29-31.
  • Durmaković, A. (2016). Sve izvršene smrtne kazne u BiH: Pred streljačke vodove izlazile su ubice djece.
  • Pobrić, Nedim. (2016). Ubistva koja i danas lede krv u žilama: Od „Žene monstruma“ do krvne osvete u Zenici.
  • D, Z. (2002). Ubio suprugu, kćerku, sina i sebe.
  • Stanković, Silvana. (2003). Ubica pisao testament.
  • Ćirović, Danijela. (2002). Kakve su pouke iz tragedije četvoro Martinovića u Novom Beogradu.


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