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14 Sep, 2007 11:23

‘Chess board' killer refuses to testify on first day of trail

The trial of a man who claims he's killed more than 60 people started in Moscow on Friday. Aleksandr Pichushkin is accused of murdering 49 and has refused to testify on the first day of the proceedings.

Chess teaches patience and strategic thinking, it also helps reduce the stress and frustration of daily life, but apparently it doesn’t always work this way.

Having caught me, they saved many lives. If they hadn't caught me, I would never have stopped, never!

Alexander Pichushkin,
accused serial killer

Alexander Pichushkin liked to play chess. So much so that he says he made a mark on his chessboard every time he killed somebody. His goal was to fill all 64 squares.

He 's now on trial on 49 counts of murder. Most of his alleged victims were old men killed over a period of five years in Moscow’s Bitsevsky Park. It’s difficult to understand why the killing spree lasted so long.

“I used to come here every evening, unaware of anything. I found out about the killings only after I met policemen who told me about the corpses recovered here. Why didn’t the police tell us earlier – it could have spared many lives?”  said Vladimir Rudenya, one of the park’s regular visitors,.

The suspect, Alexander Pichushkin, is not happy with the police either. He claims he killed more than 60 people but investigators didn’t find evidence for all of them. Still, Pichushkin does have some kind words for his captors.

“Having caught me, they saved many lives. If they hadn't caught me, I would never have stopped, never,” he stated.

Confessions like this are unlikely to arouse sympathy among the jurors, and on the first day of the trial, the previously outspoken Pichushkin refused to testify. But the jury has other people to listen to. Among the witnesses is Tamara Klimova, whose husband, according to the prosecution, was lured to the park with the promise of free vodka.

“Investigators told me that he was hit with a metal bar and then thrown into the sewers,” said Tamara Klimova,  the wife of a victim.

With about a hundred witnesses, the trial is likely to last for several months. If convicted, Pichushkin could be sentenced to life in prison and is unlikely to ever walk free again. However,  back in the park the fear is not over yet.

“We're relieved to hear about the arrest but we are still worried. Somebody else could take on the killings,” said Elena Voinova, a Bitsevsky Park visitor, expressing her anxiety. 

Psychiatrists say it’s not rare for serial killers to be inspired by each other. Pichushkin himself says he was trying to exceed the number of victims of Andrei Chikatilo, Russia's most notorious serial killer to date, who was convicted of killing 52 women and children.

“Any maniac wants to become famous. That’s why they count how many lives they’ve taken and compete with each other. That’s why they taunt investigators by leaving clues on the ground. Serial killers crave fame,” explained criminal psychiatrist Mikhail Vinogradov.  

For many locals, the question is not only whether Pichushkin was indeed responsible for all the deaths, but also whether the killing spree in Bitstevsky park is really over. 

Alexander Pichushkin has been in custody for more than a year, insisting, adamantly, that he is the Bitsevsky Park killer. But three months ago news emerged that two more bodies had  reportedly been recovered in the park, prompting speculation that that the real killer might still be at large.