Victoria Arakelyan,
Antoine Schirer
& Jake Tacchi

Finding My Torturer
Commissioned by BBC

Finding My Torturer is as gripping as a detective novel and elevates the voices of young women, who are often abused for speaking up in authoritarian regimes. Visually striking with secretly filmed evidence of police brutality, we’re immersed in the largely unreported story from the start, and left with no doubt about the brutality of a force tasked with containing dissent.”

 -News Features Award Jury

In March 2022, three Russian women were arrested for protesting the war in Ukraine. They were taken to a Moscow police station, thrown into an interrogation room, and tortured by an unidentified officer they called the ‘Man in Black’. In that room, he called himself the ‘master’, the ‘judge’. But as he terrorised them, he missed something. Two of these women had hidden phones – and they were recording.

Despite public outcry after the event, the authorities refused to open a criminal case. But that wasn’t enough for these women. They teamed up to get justice themselves. Using a leaked database of a food delivery company, classified car adverts, and old dating profiles, the team worked alongside them to uncover not only the identity of the ‘Man in Black’, but also the man who commanded him.

Finding My Torturer is innovative and ‘digital-first’. It employs satellite imagery, motion graphics, secret recordings, animation, verified UGC, and on-camera testimony to reflect the horror these young women endured. And it shows how finding the ‘Man in Black’ all started with a single takeaway order he placed on a Friday lunchtime nearly two years ago. 


Victoria Arakelyan is a Russian investigative journalist and producer based in Canada. She graduated from York University’s Professional Writing program and has been working with independent Russian and international media for the last 6 years. She specialises in Russian investigations and has primarily focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine over the past year-and-a-half. Victoria has been twice nominated for the key Russian journalism award “Redcollegia”. 

Antoine Schirer is a freelance journalist, filmmaker and motion designer from France. He specialises in using emerging techniques in visual forensics, 3D modelling, open-source research and motion graphics to present new information in the clearest possible form. He has worked with Le Monde, Mediapart, BBC Eye Investigations, Libération, Disclose and Forensic Architecture. Antoine also teaches visual storytelling, videomaking and motion design on Youtube and in higher education institutes across France.

Jake Tacchi is a freelance journalist and producer specialising in open-source investigations. He has produced films with BBC Eye Investigations and has worked with the conflict research charity, Action on Armed Violence, in Lebanon and Eastern Ukraine.