Russian 'chessboard killer' guilty of 48 murders

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MOSCOW, Oct 24 (Reuters) A Russian supermarket worker branded ''the chessboard murderer'' was today found guilty of killing 48 people after he confessed in court that the first time he took a life was like falling in love.

Given his nickname by Russian media because he had hoped to put a coin on every space of a 64-place chessboard, one for each victim, Alexander Pichushkin also admitted to killing 11 more people, making him one of Russia's most prolific serial killers.

A jury found him guilty of 48 murders and three attempted murders.

''On all counts Pichushkin has been found guilty with no mitigating circumstances,'' judge Vladimir Usov said.

Pichushkin, sitting in a glass cage, showed no emotion and instead stared at the ground between his feet, frowning occasionally, before being led away in handcuffs.

Wearing a grey V-neck jumper with the sleeves rolled up, Pichushkin wore the same frown through the trial.

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 or threw them down drains.

The court was told he preyed on victims from the margins of society; many were elderly and had a record of drug and alcohol addiction. Police often did not know for months that a victim was missing because no relatives came forward.

At court hearings earlier this month, Pichushkin's age was given as 33.

Moscow chief prosecutor Yuri Syomin asked the judge to sentence Pichushkin to life in prison ''taking into account the grave nature of his crimes''.

Syomin said many of the killer's victims were elderly or disabled. ''He admitted that he deliberately gave his victims vodka and committed his murders when they were not in any state to protect themselves,'' he said.

According to the prosecution case, Pichushkin lured some of his intended victims by saying he wanted company as he drank to the memory of a dead dog.

''He threw some of his victims down a drain when they were still alive and in some cases still conscious, even though some of them begged him to spare them,'' Syomin said.

In some cases, prosecutors said Pichushkin had stuck vodka bottles into the shattered skulls of his dying victims to ensure they did not survive.

Reuters SG DB2110

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