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Monday, September 17, 2007

Chess board killer

A police manhunt in a Moscow park where 16 bodies have turned up in the last nine months has ended with the arrest of a man who could turn out to be the most prolific serial killer in Russian history.

The suspect, a 32-year-old shop assistant who lives with his mother, has been nicknamed “the Chessboard Killer” since his self-confessed aim was to murder 64 people, one for every square on a chessboard.

According to his own account, which is being painstakingly checked by the police, he managed to murder “only” 61 people over 15 years, three short of his target.

He was said to be particularly “excited” by the sight of crushed skulls and to have sometimes used a hammer to kill.

Identified only as Aleksander P for legal reasons, the man claims to have been consciously trying to surpass the number of victims notched up by the former Soviet Union’s most infamous serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo.

Chikatilo, known as “the Rostov Ripper” or as “the Russian Hannibal Lecter” raped, mutilated, murdered, and indulged in cannibalism. He is estimated to have killed 52 women and children between 1978 and 1990.

Newspaper cuttings relating to Chikatilo were found in a search of Aleksander P’s flat, as was a chessboard; 61 of its 64 squares were reportedly crossed through, the number of victims he claims to have murdered. Police also found a large stash of pornography, much of it violent, though there is no evidence that he raped his victims.

The shop assistant, an alcoholic loner reported to have never had any friends or girlfriends, has been quoted by the Russian media as telling police he killed for sport.

“It was all the same to me who I killed. I killed for the sake of the process itself. And, for the record, I wanted to kill as many people as possible and to beat Chikatilo’s record.”

He was arrested after a massive police manhunt for a serial killer – 16 bodies have been found in the last nine months in Bitsevsky Park in southwest Moscow.

The killer followed what became a familiar pattern, striking his victims with a heavy object around the back of the head after drinking alcohol with them.

Many of those he killed were elderly men and the murderer did not kill for financial gain, never taking money or belongings.

His calling card was some form of mutilation. He often punctured his victims’ lifeless skulls once or twice with the murder weapon after they were dead.

Police got their big break after finding the body of a 35-year-old woman in a river at Bitsevsky Park earlier this month.

The woman later turned out to have worked in the same shop as Aleksander P. She had suffered several blows to her head and small wooden stakes had been driven through her eyes and into her skull.

It later transpired that she had gone for a stroll in the park with Aleksander P that was to be her last. Crucially, she had left a note for her 15-year-old son beforehand, telling him where she had gone and with whom.

She had even written down Aleksander P’s telephone number which allowed the police to arrest him soon afterwards.

Police say they are 100% sure that he killed the woman but whether Aleksander P really is Russia’s most prolific serial killer remains unclear.

Though the authorities seem sure that he has murdered at least 10 victims they have yet to gather sufficient proof to back up his sensational claim that he has killed 61 people. He has been taken back to Bitsevsky Park where he has successfully pinpointed where he buried some of his victims but the police are nowhere near recovering 61 bodies and in some cases have found only skulls.

There is also a question mark over Aleksander’s sanity, with reports that he has done a stint in a home for the psychologically disturbed.

Under interrogation, he is said to sometimes become “hysterical” and parts of his confession are said to be vague and confusing, stoking police suspicions that he might be deliberately exaggerating the number of people he has killed, for effect

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