A serial killer who confessed to setting himself a gruesome goal - killing 64 people to match the spaces on a chessboard - was sentenced yesterday to life in prison for the murders of 48 people.
A Moscow court handed down Russia's harshest possible sentence for Alexander Pichushkin, 33.
Pichushkin stood in a reinforced glass cage, his hands cuffed behind his back, while the judge read out the sentence. When asked whether he understood the sentence, he replied: "I'm not deaf."
The courtroom was packed with the victims' relatives and journalists.
Pichushkin had boasted of killing 60 people and trying to kill three others. However, prosecutors could only find the evidence to charge him with 48 murders and three attempted murders.
After a five-week trial, a jury found Pichushkin guilty last Wednesday on all counts.
Prosecutors said most of his victims were killed in Bittsa Park in southern Moscow from 2001 until his arrest in 2006.
They said Pichushkin lured most of his victims - many of them homeless, alcoholic and elderly - by promising them vodka if they would join him in mourning the death of his dog.
Pichushkin killed 11 people in 2001, including six in one month, prosecutors said. Most died after he threw them into a sewage pit after getting them drunk, and in a few cases strangled or hit them in the head, prosecutors said.
Beginning in 2005, Pichushkin - a carpenter by training - began to kill with "particular cruelty", hitting his victims multiple times in the head with a hammer, then sticking a bottle of vodka into their shattered skulls, prosecutors said.
He no longer tried to conceal the bodies.
He was arrested in June 2006 after a woman who left a note at home saying she was going for a walk with Pichushkin was found dead.
"Justice has been done," Moscow city prosecutor Yuri Syomin said after the sentencing.
"The culprit has been held accountable," he added.
Pichushkin is to serve his term in a hard labor colony and to undergo psychiatric treatment for "a personality disorder expressed in a sadistic inclination toward murder," said judge Vladimir Usov. He added, however, that Pichushkin was aware of the criminal nature of his actions.
Tatiana Vlasova, whose son Vladimir was among the victims, said Pichushkin will never understand what he has done.
"He should have been treated as an exceptional case and given a death sentence," she said, holding a photograph of her murdered son.
Russia has maintained a moratorium on capital punishment as part of its obligations to the Council of Europe.
Pichushkin remained unrepentant and defiant during the trial, saying he was "almost God" in deciding who would live and who would die.
"The notions of good and evil are relative things," he said in his final statement on Thursday.
Prior to Pichushkin, Russia's most notorious serial killer was Andrei Chikatilo, who was convicted in 1992 of killing 52 children and young women in 12 years.
Source: China Daily/Agencies