This time I’m looking at Alexander Yuryevich Pichuskin, Pichuskin a Russian serial killer known as “The Chessboard Killer” and “The Bitsa Park Maniac”. It is estimated that Pichuskin murdered at least 48 people with a possibility of 60 between 1992 and 2006 in southwest Moscow’s Bitsa Park. Pichuskin actually caught my eye because it’s said that he was in competition with another Russian serial killer and a previous serial killer I’ve written about Andrei Chikatilo, Chikatilo was convicted in 1992, the same year Pichuskin began killing.
Pichuskin was born on 9th April 1974 in Mytishchi, Russia. He was described as a sociable child initially, he suffered an injury to the head after an incident where Pichushkin fell backwards off a swing, the swing then hit him in the forehead when it swung back, this injury is believed to have damaged his frontal cortex, damage to this part of the brain is known to cause poor impulse regulation and a tendency for aggression.
Pichuskin reached early adolescence and his maternal grandfather recognised that he was actually highly intelligent, he felt that school he was now attending did not challenge his intellect or nurture his talents and that they focused more on overcoming disability than promoting achievement. Pichuskin went to live with grandfather during this time and he encouraged Pichuskin to pursue intellectual activities outside of school, and one that really stuck was chess. Pichushkin was taught how to play and was introduced to an exhibition of games against local elderly men who played in Bitsa Park.
Pichuskin turned out to be a gifted chess player and for the first time since the accident he had an outlet for his aggression when he would dominate players on a chessboard. The bullying from local children still continued however and the emotional stress was only made worse when Pichuskin’s grandfather died toward the end of his adolescence. He returned to his mother’s home and enrolled to become a student.
The death of his grandfather had a huge affect on Pichuskin and he turned to large quantities of vodka to dull the pain and try to calm his aggressive tendencies. He did continue to play chess at home and at Bitsa Park, he now joined the older men in drinking vodka while playing, although the alcohol apparently never affected his play like it would the other men.
As he became an adult his hobbies became more sinister, unknown to other people he would take as video camera to the park when he knew children would be there and he would threaten them. One incident included Pichuskin picking up and holding a child by the ankle upside down and said “you are in my power now.. I am going to drop from the window, and you will fall 15 meters to your death” he would film these incidents and watch them repeatedly, he would do this to reaffirm his power to himself.
In 1992 Pichuskin committed his first murder, he was still a teenager at this point. He pushed a boy out of a window, he admitted this murder during a televised confession, the police did question him about this case after, but due to lack of evidence it was ruled as a suicide, he later said “This first murder, it’s like first love, it’s unforgettable”.
He began killing “regularly” in the early 2000s, he would kill people in Bitsa Park, his main targets were the elderly and destitute. Pichuskin used the ruse of free vodka to drink with him at his dog’s grave. He would bludgeon his victims with a hammer and push a vodka bottle into the gaping wound left on their skulls, this became his trademark as “The chessboard killer”. To dispose of his victims he would throw them into a sewer, some of the victims were still alive.
He started targeting younger men, children and women and would always attack from behind, he claimed killing people made him feel like God as he had the power to decide whether his victims lived or died he said “In all cases I killed for only one reason. I killed in order to live, because when you kill, you want to live.. for me life without murder is like life without food for you. I felt like the father of all these people, since it was me who opened the door for them to another world”.
Pichuskin’s seemed to become bolder with his kills he stopped really caring about the disposal of his victims, he started just leaving them out in the open to be discovered in Bitsa Park. By 2003, residents of Moscow, especially those local to the park feared the serial killer that was on the loose a man the media dubbed “The Bitsa beast” or “Bittsevsky Maniac”.
Pichuskin was clearly becoming more and more complacent and this is clear in his final murder. He targeted Marina Moskalyova aged 36 she worked with Pichuskin in a grocery store, Pichuskin asked if she would like to go for a walk to see his dog’s grave, this was a strange request that prompted Moskalyova to leave a note for her son to say she had gone for a walk to Bitsa Park with a co worker. This was his last murder. Her body was discovered in Bitsa Park along with Pichuskin’s signature vodka bottle violence. On her person they found a train ticket and this led the authorities to check the surveillance at Moscow metro system, and there they saw Moskalyova’s last few hours, she was on camera walking on the platform with Pichuskin.
Pichuskin was finally arrested on 16th June 2006, he happily confessed to the murders, he handed his diary over to the police and showed them his most prized possession, his chessboard which he used to keep track of his murder victims. He said he was disappointed he hadn’t completed it, he’d managed to fill 61 out of the 64 squares. He continued confessing to the police and the number of victims continuously changed he first listed 48, then 49 and then 61 and said that the count was so high he’d lost count of the real amount of victims. Police considered his chessboard as evidence of 61 murders and the bodies they had found as evidence of 49 murders.
Pichuskin’s trial started in October 2007 and it was a short one, Pichuskin was locked in to a glass box like his rival Andrei Chikatilo. Pichuskin was convicted of 49 murders with 3 attempted murders. This total put him with a larger victim count than the likes of Jack the Rippper, Jeffrey Dahmer and Son of Sam.
Of course Pichuskin was unhappy with this conviction and asked the court to include another 11 victims, bringing his total up to 60 murders plus 3 attempted. He said in court “I thought it would not be fair to forget about the other 11 people the judge handed him a life sentence and he must spend the first 15 years in solitary confinement.
It’s obvious that despite his brain injuries, Pichuskin was a very intelligent man, his downfall was his cockiness and impulsiveness, by abducting Moskalyova in such a public place with cameras, even if the authorities hadn’t checked surveillance at the train station someone would have seen her leave and be able to give a description that would identify him, that’s too bold of a move for a serial killer. I believe if they hadn’t caught him he would have gone on and on, after filling his chess squares. To someone like Pichuskin killing is like a drug it gives them a high of some sort, often it’s a sexual one, but in Pichuskin’s case it was all about the power, he said himself the murders made him “feel like god” and who has more control than God? This need for control and power developed after the years of bullying that made him feel powerless.
Of course this isn’t to say that Pichuskin was a particularly strong character, he targeted easy targets elderly homeless men that would not be as strong and wouldn’t be missed, women that he could easily overpower and children that he was always going to be able to scare and dominate, this shows he wasn’t confident enough to target other men that could match or beat his strength. As well as the fact all of his victims would be attacked from behind, not only is that a quick and easy way to gain control over victims, but it’s also a bit of cowardly way to do it because he wasn’t giving them a chance to fight back, because that’s the last thing a weak narcissist needs.
His narcissism was clear from his behaviour throughout the murders and legal proceedings, it was as if when he was caught he knew he would never be free to kill again so he found other ways to satisfy the narcissism and need for control by demanding to be tried for other murders, giving the authorities all the evidence they needed, and he even gave police a reconstruction of some of the murders in Bitsa Park showing them where he committed each one and how, in doing all of this the authorities, the media and the people of Russia were following his story, giving him the attention and control he wanted.
Pichuskin was sentenced to life imprisonment in a high security prison in North Serbian, and is supposed to be marrying a Russian woman, she is only named in the press as Natalya, she started to write to Pichuskin after seeing him on the news, she claims she saw him and it was love at first sight. It is unclear whether she’s been to visit him or if all of their relationship is just on paper.