|Pichushkin claimed responsibility for the murders in a dramatic confession on national TV|
Alexander Pichushkin, the man suspected of being one of Russia's worst serial killers, is about to go on trial in Moscow and could face life in prison if he is found guilty.
Accused of luring 49 homeless elderly men to their deaths at a park in southern Moscow, Pichushkin, a grocery shop worker, awaits his verdict, Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull reports.
Bitsevesky Park, or Bitsa for short, is where Pichushkin allegedly carried out most of his murders, hence the sobriquet Bitsa Maniac.
In October 2005, bodies started turning up in the park. Within six months the police had found the bodies of 12 people before realising they had a serial killer on their hands, Jonah Hull said.
The police were unaware that the murderer had killed victims much earlier to when the bodies were found and that the body count would considerably increase.
News of the murders terrified the local community until Pichushkin was arrested in June last year. A note left by the last victim identified him as the killer.
In a dramatic confession on national television, Pichushkin said: "For me, a life without murder is like a life without food. I was like the father of these people, since it was I who opened the door for them to another world."
Police found a chessboard in the apartment he shared with his mother. Pichushkin allegedly said his goal was to fill every square with a victim. So far, the prosecution only has evidence of 49 murders, but Pichushkin's board was numbered up to 62.
The victims, mostly men, tended to be homeless and aged. He lured them with the promise of vodka, and Pichushkin claims they joined him in a toast for a pet dog he had buried in the park.
|Pichushkin's chessboard was numbered up to 62 but police have only found 49 victims so far|
He then smashed their skulls with a hammer, or tossed them, drunk, into sewerage pits nearby, so goes the official account.
Russia's most prolific murderer to date is Andrei Chikatilo.
The infamous Rostov Ripper was executed in 1994 for killing 53 women and children. But his claim to fame may soon be passed on, Hull reports.
If the case is proven, and if new evidence confirms Pichushkin's own body count, then a serial killing spree that he says began in 1992, claiming 62 victims, will make the Bitsa Maniac Russia's worst murderer.
Source: Al Jazeera