Domestic row ends in explosive tragedy

  • 2004-12-01
  • By Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - The bomb explosion that triggered fears of terrorism and took the lives of the bomber and one police officer in Tallinn on Nov. 25 was most likely the result of a love triangle, according to police.

A police patrol arrived in Tallinn's Oismae residential district on the morning of Nov. 25 following a phone call from a woman in distress. The caller said that a man was trying to get into her apartment through a window and that her life was in danger.

Police arrived on the scene to find an emotionally distraught middle-aged man in the woman's apartment and wearing a belt of explosives under his jacket.

Police persuaded the man to leave the apartment while calling for backup. Before the negotiator and bomb squad could arrive, however, the man escaped the apartment as the patrol was leaving the building, police said.

As backup forces arrived, the man, later identified as 50-year-old Yevgeni, was reportedly unable to get any farther. With haste, the assailant approached and entered a police van, where officer Julia Gorbacheva was sitting along with another policeman. Gorbacheva's German shepherd, Bryan, was locked in a cage in the back of the van.

Yevgeni grabbed Gorbacheva by her neck with, according to police, the clear intention of taking her hostage. The assailant then ordered the driver to start moving. A policeman in the driver's seat then stepped out of the vehicle while nearby police officers surrounded the van.

The man set off his bomb just seconds after a policeman held him at gunpoint.

Gorbacheva died in the explosion and three policemen were severely wounded. The officers' conditions were described as satisfactory on Nov. 26.

Police said that it was unclear whether Yevgeni triggered the bomb intentionally or by accident.

It was later discovered that Yevgeni, who had a criminal record, had close relations with the woman who made the emergency call and was embroiled in a conflict with her new boyfriend.

The dramatic incident sparked concern among Estonian law-enforcement experts regarding the ability of local police to handle situations involving individuals armed with bombs and threatening to blow themselves up.

The amount of explosives Yevgeni wore was equal to about one kilogram of TNT, which is considered a significant portion - twice exceeding the amount needed to build a car bomb. It remains unclear how the bomber, who worked as a plumber, obtained the explosives.

Thirty-year-old officer Julia Gorbacheva joined the police-dog crew as an instructor in April 2004. She is the first female police officer to have died in Estonia while performing her duty.

Since 1992, 19 police officers have been killed on the job.

Toomas Malva, a former criminal police officer currently working in the penitentiary system, told the daily Eesti Paevaleht that the police officials who entered the apartment and saw the bomblike device on Yevgeni made the mistake of loosing sight of the man as they were leaving the building.

The police should have shot Yevgeni the moment he tried to escape, said Malva.