Russian serial killer says murder is like love

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MOSCOW, Oct 9 (Reuters) A Russian man accused of murdering 49 people today asked a court to add another eleven victims to his tally, and told a jury when he first strangled a man it was like falling in love for the first time.

Supermarket worker Alexander Pichushkin, 33, has been branded the 'chessboard murderer' by Russian newspapers because he hoped to put a coin on every square of a 64-place chessboard for each murder.

''A first killing is like your first love. You never forget it,'' he said from a cage in the courtroom, after explaining how he started killing at age 18 with the murder of a classmate.

Pichushkin said he had suggested to his classmate that they kill someone, but when his friend refused, ''I sent him to heaven.'' He then smirked at the jury.

Often aggressive in court, Pichushkin gesticulated to show the jury how he strangled his victims and the marks his victims had left on his hands as they struggled.

Prosecutors have charged Pichushkin with 49 murders and three attempted murders, but he asked the court to take into account another 11 murders.

''I thought it would not be fair to forget about the other 11 people,'' Pichushkin told the court.

Prosecutors say he lured most of his victims to secluded parts of Moscow's Bitsevsky Park, where he plied them with vodka and then smashed their skulls with a hammer.

Other victims were strangled, drowned in a sewage pit or thrown off balconies. He said police interviewed him at the time of his first murder but let him go due to a lack of evidence.

''You should not credit the police with catching me. I gave myself up,'' he told the court.

If convicted, Pichushkin could be Russia's most prolific serial killer.

Andrei Chikatilo, the ''Rostov Ripper'', was convicted in 1992 and executed in 1994 for raping, butchering and in some cases eating as many as 52 people.

Pichushkin's trial is expected to be lengthy, with testimony scheduled from at least 41 relatives of the alleged victims and another 98 witnesses.

REUTERS SG VC1945

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