Estonian navy officer kills family, himself

  • 2002-07-04
  • Aleksei Gunter, TALLINN
A 34-year-old Estonian naval officer, claiming he wanted "to settle the score with life," shot dead his mother, wife and 6-year-old son in their Tallinn home before turning the gun on himself, police said.

Sergei Hohlov, a lieutenant in the Estonian navy, left Tallinn naval barracks without permission shortly after midnight on June 25 and took a taxi to his home near the Song Festival Grounds, police said.

Minutes after arriving home, police believe he shot his wife, Jelena, 32, his mother Margarita, 71, and his son, Viktor, with a Makarov 9mm pistol, what police believe was his navy service pistol. He then called the police and reported a murder before shooting himself in the head.

Police said Hohlov left a brief note, saying that he had decided "to settle the score with life," and to take his family with him. He wrote that all his property was to be left to a colleague.

All doors and windows were locked from the inside when police arrived shortly before 4 a.m. One officer had to break a window to enter. Hohlov, already shot, was still alive but died at a nearby hospital without regaining consciousness.

Police say financial difficulties and family clashes are the likely reasons behind the incident. Hohlov had debts of 500,000 kroons ($31,250) stemming from a loan he took to buy a family house. His monthly salary as a naval officer was about 7,000 kroons, police said.

Neighbors and colleagues characterized Hohlov, a 10-year veteran of the Estonian military, as an honest and dedicated man who had worked hard to realize his dream of owning his own home.

Born in Narva, he graduated from Riga Aviation College as an air transport engineer and joined the Estonian Border Guard service as a fuel expert in 1992. He was appointed logistics coordinator to a naval base in 2000.

His resume was better than average, according to the general staff of Estonian Defense Forces.

Neighbor Enda Heinrand, 64, said Hohlov had been depressed lately after realizing he could not afford a new heating system for his home. Heinrand also said Hohlov fought with his wife and mother, both of whom wanted him to sell the house and move into a Tallinn flat. The family put the property on sale several days before the tragedy.

"His look had been really sad shortly before it happened," Heinrand said. "But this is unbelievable. Sergei cared a lot about his family, and he was very kind-hearted in general."

Rear Admiral Tarmo Kouts, commander-in-chief of the Estonian Defense Forces, said psychological exams of serving military personnel had been stepped up in the wake of the tragedy .