Serial killer declares he is "almost God"

Serial killer Alexander Pichushkin, after he was accused of killing 48 people, came back to the Moscow courtroom and said he was "almost God" and had the power to decide who was to live and who was to die.

Pichushkin had boasted of plans to kill one person for each of the 64 squares on a chessboard.

He earlier claimed to have taken 63 lives during a five-year killing spree, but on Thursday he said he had killed 60 people because three of the attempts had failed.

Prosecutors could only find evidence to charge him with 48 murders and three attempted murders.

Most of the victims were killed in southern Moscow's sprawling Bittsa Park from 2001 until Pichushkin's arrest in 2006.

Pichushkin on Thursday mocked the efforts to bring him to justice, from the investigation carried out by "blockheads" to the five-week trial.

"A huge number of people have been trying to decide my fate. Meanwhile, I alone decided the fate of 60 people," he said in a final statement from the reinforced glass defendants' cage.

"I was prosecutor, judge and executioner. I decided who was to live and who was to die. I was almost God," he said.

Judge Vladimir Usov responded by saying: "There is a difference: You acted illegally."

Pichushkin said: "I did not break any laws. I was above them."

He told the judge he never robbed his victims, but took "only the most precious thing," their lives.

"I'm interested exclusively in human life. Because life is the most valuable thing," he said.

The jury pronounced him guilty on all charges Wednesday after deliberating for a little over two hours.

The judge on Thursday set the sentencing for Monday.

Chief Prosecutor Yuri Syomin recommended on Wednesday that Pichushkin be sentenced to life in prison, with the first 15 years in isolation, given his violent nature. Russia has maintained a moratorium on the capital punishment as part of its obligations before the Council of Europe.

About a dozen relatives of the victims attended Thursday's session. They showed little emotion during Pichushkin' speech.

Prosecutors said Pichushkin, 33, lured his victims _ many of them homeless, alcoholic and elderly and few mentally retarded _ by promising them vodka if they would join him in mourning the death of his dog.

They said he killed 11 people in 2001, including six in one month. He killed most of his victims by throwing them into a sewage pit after they were drunk, and in a few cases strangled or hit them in the head, prosecutors said.

Beginning in 2005, he began to kill with "particular cruelty," hitting his intoxicated victims multiple times in the head with a hammer, then sticking an unfinished bottle of vodka into their shattered skulls, prosecutors said. He also no longer tried to conceal the bodies.

Pichushkin's first victim was his school friend, whom he strangled in Bittsa Park in 1992 because he refused to join him in killing people.

He began his murderous spree nine years later, in summer 2001. "It dawned upon me on that day that I would murder someone," he said during the trial.

He kept count of his victims on a chessboard, with the goal of marking all 64 squares.

Experts at Russia's main psychiatric clinic have found Pichushkin sane.

On Thursday, Pichushkin said he disagreed that he had killed with cruelty.

"I did not try to cause them special suffering and torment," he said. "That was my style, my signature."

The country's most notorious serial killer was Andrei Chikatilo, who was convicted in 1992 of killing 52 children and young women over the course of 12 years.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova