The Hired Murderers of Medellín, Colombia, Are Laying Low—for Now
The Russian was 13 years old when he first killed a man. He has no regrets about it; the man he killed had mistreated the Russian’s little sister. He built a weapon called a chupa chupa—a blade tied to a length of PVC pipe—and plunged it into his victim’s neck. “I learned a man’s most fragile area is his jugular,” he said, adding that he was arrested for the murder but walked free due to a lack of evidence.
In Medellín, Colombia, during the 80s, the Russian (who, like all of the criminals interviewed for this story, wishes to remain anonymous—“the Russian” is not even his real nickname) was recognized as a talented and valuable hit man. Pablo Escobar, the drug lord of drug lords, was in the midst of building his trafficking empire, which of course led to constant altercations with rivals and the police. The dirtiest of the work was carried out by gang members from the slums who came to be known as combos, so it was all too easy for someone like the Russian to land a full-time job as a sicario, or “hired gun.”
The Russian’s most striking features are his red hair and a series of burn scars on his arms, which he calls his résumé. He got them when he was a young man working in a cocaine-processing laboratory. “One day a container of sulfuric acid spilled all over my body,” he recalled. “I spent six days in a coma—I had second-degree burns and a broken arm and foot. It’s not easy getting out of such a place alive. But I was lucky enough for them to think I was dead and just throw me out. The following day, a passing mule driver found me.”
After a year and a half of recovery, the Russian gathered some money he had buried for safekeeping and went after the people who had left him for dead. “A friend gave me a .38,” he said, before pausing, as if he was reliving the scene inside his head. “I killed them all.”