The investigation into the death of the Dyatlov group is unreliable

This conclusion was made by forensic expert Natalya Saharova

January 22, 2014. Source Komsomolskaya Pravda

Allegedly  the last photo of the group
Одно из последних фото Семена Золотарева в том самом роковом походе

In the winter of 1959, nine hikers died under very mysterious circumstances in the mountains of the Northern Urals. The cause of their death has not yet been established. The investigation into the death of hikers was suddenly interrupted in its midst and classified. KP journalists have been conducting their own investigation of this case for a long time. And more and more professional investigators are joining us. Natalya Saharova is one of such professionals. She studied a copy of this criminal case and this is the report she sent us.

How and when was the case filed?

The procedure for initiating criminal cases in 1959 was somewhat different from the current one, regulated by the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation. According to article 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the RSFSR of 1923, the reasons for initiating criminal cases could be:

  • statement of citizens, various associations and organizations;
  • communication of government agencies and officials;
  • surrender;
  • prosecutor's proposal;
  • direct discretion of the bodies of inquiry, the investigator or the court.

But for some reason, in the decision to initiate a case on the death of the hikers, there are no references to the "reason for initiating a criminal case", as it was then called (the modern name is the basis). The line "received from ..." (meaning data after the fact) is not filled. The absence of a primary communication (report, statement, memorandum or radiogram) was unacceptable both in 1959 and now. I believe that the specified "starting" primary information could have been "withdrawn" from the case by interested parties.

It is also suspicious that the date of initiation of the case on the cover and the date in the Decree are different. The black and white photocopy of the cover bears the date "6. II.1959". And the decision of February 26. Such a significant difference in dates is alarming.

When studying Tempalov's decision to open a criminal case, the date line visually shows that the height of the number "2" exceeds the adjacent number "6". But when studying samples of Tempalov's handwriting of numbers, I revealed a feature (private sign) of Tempalov's writing of "2" in two-digit numbers: two is larger than the neighboring numbers.

Therefore, I believe that there were no corrections in the date of this Decree.

Natalya Saharova
Natalya Saharova studied a copy of the criminal case and this is the report she sent us.

- 2 -

But in volume 1 sheet 48 there is a police protocol of interrogation, compiled by the head of the Polunochnoe settlement police department, Captain Chudinov. He interrogates a resident about who he saw in Vizhay and about the weather. Date of the protocol February 6, 1959 (a typo?).

Where did the traces of rebinding come from?

On the photos of the case files, dotted lines indicate traces of rebinding. The binding of sheets of criminal cases in practice is done as follows: the sheets of the case are folded into storage folders (paper folders without fasteners). Then, upon making a decision, the sheets collected from different investigators are simultaneously punched with a hole punch or an awl and stitched together. The sheets of the case are numbered after they are stitched together. On the sheets of the presented copies, along the inner edges, there are holes free from sewing threads, which coincide in their location in different sheets, that is, the sheets of the Case were previously stitched, then disassembled and stitched again (rebinding of the binder).

Cover note analysis

The accompanying note addressed to the prosecutor of the Sverdlovsk region contains a list:

  1. case in 1 volume
  2. Album
  3. copy of the letter to Comrade Slobodin

The operative instruction, written in the same color as the striking through the last line of the list, determines the location of the Case to be stored "in a secret archive" and further: "... store the package in a s/s production".

The submitted photocopies of the Case do not contain the specified "package" and the Album, as well as a copy of the letter to Slobodin.

I can only assume that the Album is photo tables for the inspection of the scene, the package could contain notebooks of Dyatlov, Zolotaryov, Kolevatov, as well as photographic films taken on during the inspection of the scene.

How was the scene examined?

Inspection of the scene of the incident was carried out extremely carelessly:

  • the trace picture near the tent is not reflected: how the snow is located, in layers or sediments, what is under the snow when it is removed in layers;
  • there is no description of footprint tracks with measurements, no indication of the presence or absence of traces of falls, dragging;
  • there is no exact description of the location of objects found near the tent with indication of distances (clothes, slippers);
  • the outer part was not examined for traces of blood spatter;
  • there is no exact description of the location of things inside the tent with a diagram of their location in the form of a picture.

Professionally made photo tables are completely absent - a special kind of photographs made according to the rules of court photography (orienting, including from several points: nodal - a tent from four sides, the contents inside the tent; detailed - damage with a scale bar). In the Case files there is only domestic amateur photography.

There are no correctly photographed footprints. The photos were taken at an angle, without light filters, without a ruler or reference object (in the absence of a ruler, you can use the "standard" box of matches).

There are no photographs of the layer-by-layer extraction of corpses, fixation of objects around them, details of their clothes. In fact, there is NOTHING.

The rules of court photography have been known since the late thirties and, of course, in the mid-fifties, and such a gross violation in conducting an inspection in such a serious, high-profile case is almost impossible to imagine.

I believe that these photographs were still taken at the crime scene investigation, but they were removed from the case file. Photographs allow you to give the most objective idea of the scene of the incident and are the most reliable information. But it is missing, replaced by numerous, with discrepancies, subjective testimonies of witnesses.

I analyzed the available photographic materials. The tent for example. The snow lies in layers around, without marks. I assume that the area near the tent was deliberately covered with snow to hide the traces (shoes, wrestling, dragging, where the guys left the tent). With such an arrangement of snow on the tent, it is impossible to make linear cuts in the side panel - it must be stretched. That is, the cuts were made before the snow was piled up.

Apparently, the sequence was like this. First, the tent standing on the struts was cut, the actions near the tent were hidden under the snow thrown around, inside the tent was inspected using a flashlight (lying on a layer of snow), then the tent was covered with snow, which is why it sank, the flashlight was placed on top.

The photographs of the footprints do not allow a reliable assessment of the trace pattern.

- 3 -

Examination of the tent

The traceological examination of the damage on the tent was carried out by one expert, who also had little work experience. Such voluminous examinations in high-profile cases, both then and now, are carried out only on a commission basis, by at least two experts.

In this case, the examination was performed at a low professional level:

  • there is no photograph of the general view of the tent stretched out in the laboratory for inspection;
  • the scheme of damages on the tent does not correspond to their actual placement;
  • there is no detailed description of the condition of the inner and outer sides - burns, cuts, scratches, traces of repair, stratification (blood);
  • damages are described selectively, which is a gross, unacceptable mistake and distorts the picture of traces as a whole;
  • there is no description of the general signs of damage, which makes it possible to determine the group signs of trace-forming objects (a knife or an ice ax);
  • there is no description of the general signs of ruptures, the direction of application of force during ruptures (outside or inside);
  • there is no description of the point of initial impact (where the incision or rupture began);
  • there are no photographs from a microscope confirming the most important thing - where the cuts were made from. There are none! Although the method of photography using a microscope was successfully worked out back in the thirties.
  • There is also no reliable description of what was seen through a microscope - the direction of the bevel of the end parts at the sites of the cuts, their separation, the direction of the ends of the threads.

There is nothing!

I think that the expert did not use the microscope. To do this, it was necessary to excise a part of the canvas, which is necessarily indicated in the research part. There was no such thing. The word "thorough investigation" is not an argument for an expert.

What is important - no expert experiment was carried out on a similar product: cut the tent from the inside in the same dimensions as on the one under study, get out of it for several people, see if it is possible to get out at all and how the tent will behave after that - it will fall, fold, stay sustainable. An expert experiment is part of an examination and can be carried out as part of the so-called "expert initiative", which was then and is now provided for by law. An expert experiment proves or refutes any investigative version. But this was not done. Why?

I consider such an investigation to be completely unreliable. Based on only one visual inspection, which was exactly what was done by the expert, it was not worth making the "required" conclusions - from which side the cuts were made.

The involvement of an inexperienced expert, who is clearly badly trained in the trace science section, for the examination is very alarming. But the results of the examination were decisive for the whole case; the expert, as the analysis of the examination shows, did not cope with the task due to his incompetence and therefore could provide an incorrect conclusion.

Also extremely unusual is the fact that no one from the expert department was involved as a specialist to carry out the crime scene investigation. In the fifties, unlike our time, there was no categorical requirement to include experts in the investigation team. Such a decision could be made by the prosecutor who conducted the inquiry and made the decision to strengthen the team. Despite the clear need for a specialist of the expert unit, none of them was involved in the inspection.

- 4 -

Where are the testimonies?

The incompleteness of the materials for disclosure is obvious. The absence in the Case of materials on the participants of the expedition themselves. There are no interrogations of their classmates and colleagues about their characters, habits, skills. There is nothing about the reasons why Zolotaryov ended up in the group. That is, in fact, there was no check on the participation in the commission of the crime of the participants in the expedition themselves. In a criminal case, either then or now, the participants in a joint event can not be ignored by the investigation. Instead, the native Mansi are interrogated.

For some reason, there are no interrogations in the case files of the pilots who flew around during the search. Not a single interrogation! Although almost everyone was interviewed among the searchers on foot.

So what happened there?

Summarizing the above, I believe that at height 1079, in the area of Mt Otorten, in the period February 1-2, 1959, a murder was committed. The footprints near the tent were deliberately destroyed, the tracks were covered with snow. Perhaps the killers approached the tent, took the guys out into the cold under the threat of weapons and then simply froze them out without using firearms. Firearms can almost always be identified - type, brand, range, in some cases the manufacturer of the ammunition. After the guys were taken out of the tent, for some reason they examined it inside with a flashlight. The tracks from the tent are measured, at an even pace, not running. Perhaps the guys were taken outside and taken away from the tent to the bare winter forest, to freeze.

The killers did not show mercy - to the stubborn ones that did not succumbed to hypothermia they broke the ribs and left them to die in a ravine. Two better dressed hikers Zolotaryov and Thibeaux-Brignolle could have been outside the tent at that time of the attack (for example, they went for firewood).

Taking into account the incompetence of the expert, it is impossible to reliably judge from which side the tent was cut and torn apart. Therefore, I consider the version about the tent ripping open by the hikers themselves unreliable.

Most likely, the killers had professional skills - this is evidenced by the injuries of the last four Zolotaryov, Thibeaux-Brignolle, Dubinina, and Kolevatov. The guys had very specific fractures of the ribs, which could be inflicted by blows of a fist or a boot on the chest from the front, followed by a jump on the chest of the defeated victim. In addition, injuries to the temporal parts of the skull also cannot be the result of falls on stones.

There are no diaries of the men, where some previous events could be reflected most objectively. The diaries were either confiscated or burned immediately.

Money, documents and valuables were not touched, so the motive for killing the hikers was to probably destroying them as witnesses to something.

The hikers were divided into groups either under duress (it is more reliable to kill with frost), or for dispersal, hiding from the attackers.

Slobodin, Doroshenko and Krivonischenko were the first to die. Then half-dressed Dyatlov and Zina Kolmogorova froze. The last ones were Lyuda Dubinina, Kolevatov, Thibeaux-Brignolle and after them the strong, well-dressed Zolotaryov. They were all searched (pockets unbuttoned). The men's diaries and pencils usually kept inside, were destroyed. Most likely, there were evidence, descriptions of what was happening, or what they saw along the way.

The "last four" were thrown into a ravine after dying since the cadaveric spots on them most obviously do not coincide with the position of the bodies.


We thank Natalya Saharova for her meticulous investigation, but we do not appeal to consider her conclusions final and indisputable. Of course, some villains could destroy the guys in this way, but no reasons for such a crime have been established. Neither the Mansi, nor the fugitive zeks, nor the poachers, nor the black gold diggers came under suspicion during our investigation. "They were probably destroyed because they witnessed something", Saharova suggests. What could be the event that only hikers in the taiga could have witnessed? Mass executions? But it's hard to believe it took place in 1959. And for something else, we simply do not have enough imagination.

Dossier "KP"

Saharova Natalya Semyonovna, forensic expert, 53 years old, from Irkutsk. She retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel of militia after 25 years of service in the police department. A doctor by education, she worked in the Eastern Siberia Corrective labor colony. She has extensive practical experience as an expert "on the field", in one of the most criminal areas of Irkutsk. Now she works for the Irkutsk Expert Bureau NGO.


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