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Investigators believe 62 murdered by "chessboard killer"

MOSCOW, August 1 (RIA Novosti) - Investigators now believe the "Bitsa maniac," who claims he killed to fill squares on an imaginary chessboard, may have murdered 62 people, 10 more than previously thought, an Interior Ministry official said.

Investigators initially doubted many of Alexander Pichushkin's claims to have battered a total of 61 people to death in southwest Moscow's heavily-forested Bitsa Park, but links have steadily emerged, and recently the number of killings attributed to the 32-year-old Muscovite reached 52.

Over a period of six years, beginning in 2000, the former supermarket worker is believed to have hunted down his victims in the park and killed them with a blow to the back of the head with a heavy object - in some cases a hammer, and often a bottle of his favorite brand of vodka.

"I would sometimes wake up with the desire to kill, and would go to the woods that same day. I liked to watch the agony of the victims," the killer told investigators.

Most of his targets were elderly people walking alone in the park. Pichushkin said that initially he dumped the bodies in nearby sewage works. But he said he became frustrated that his murder spree was going unnoticed and began leaving the bodies out in the open. He told investigators he planned to kill 64 people, the number of squares on a chessboard, and that he had only three squares left to fill.

Pichushkin was arrested on June 16, 2006 in the park, 11 days after murdering his last victim and leaving her body in a stream running through the park. He said his aim had been to beat the record of the infamous Soviet killer Andrei Chikatilo, convicted of murdering 52 children and teenagers between 1978 and 1990 in southern Russia, and executed February 14, 1994.

Investigators also compared the killer to the Ukrainian cannibal, but previously warned against jumping to conclusions in the case, pointing out that an innocent man was executed while Chikatilo was left free to carry on killing. Pichushkin's poor health, frequent tantrums, and volatile mental state made investigators doubt that he was capable of systematically carrying out the multiple killings.

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