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Life term for 'chessboard' killer

29 October 07 10:16 GMT

A Moscow court has sentenced serial killer Alexander Pichushkin, known to the Russian media as the "Bittsa maniac", to life imprisonment.

The Russian shop assistant was found guilty of 48 murders, which he once said he recorded on a chessboard.

Most of the murders were committed over five years in Bittsa Park, in Moscow's southern suburbs.

Pichushkin has never denied the charges. He was also found guilty on three counts of attempted murder.

The jury found there were no mitigating circumstances, and rejected a defence request to clear him of 18 of the killings. The prosecution requested a life sentence.

Woodland murders

Since 1996 Russia has observed a moratorium on the death penalty.

Pichushkin began his 14-year killing spree in Moscow in 1992, and was arrested in June 2006.

His victims were drowned in a sewer or bludgeoned to death with a hammer, investigators say.

In his final trial statement last week he told the court: "I alone decided the fate of 60 people... I was judge, prosecutor and executioner".

He described the killings as "a sort of ritual, my style, my handwriting".

Pichushkin originally said he planned to carry out 64 killings, one for each square on a chessboard.

But he later denied this, saying he would have carried on killing indefinitely if he had not been arrested. He puts the number of his victims at 61.

Many were elderly men who got drunk with him, investigators say, though he also killed three women.

The vigilance of a relative of one of the dead led to his capture.

Before the Pichushkin case came to light, Russia's most notorious serial killer in recent times was Andrei Chikatilo, who killed 53 women and children in the southern city of Rostov. He was convicted and executed in 1994.

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