Russian killer wrote name of convicted punk rock band on wall to mislead police

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 31, 2012 7:24 AM
Russian killer wrote name of convicted punk rock band on wall to mislead police

By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A college teacher who has confessed to killing two women in the Russian city of Kazan says he scrawled "Free Pussy Riot" in blood on their apartment wall to mislead investigators, police said on Friday.

The initial hint that the killer was inspired by the actions of the Pussy Riot punk band, three of whose members have been jailed after performing an irreverent "punk prayer" in a cathedral, had provoked new criticism of the group by a Russian Orthodox Church official on Thursday.

But the police report made clear that the crime had not been committed by a Pussy Riot supporter and was not inspired by the group's protest against President Vladimir Putin in February near the altar of Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

The suspect, a 38-year-old man who lives with his parents, told police he had killed the victims - a 38-year-old former classmate who had helped him pay off debts and her mother - during an argument.

He said he then wrote the words on the wall "to draw suspicion away from himself and portray it as a ritual killing", the regional Interior Ministry said.

The women's bodies were found in their apartment on Wednesday and state television repeatedly showed images of the Free Pussy Riot slogan written on the kitchen wall.

Dimitry Smirnov, who heads the church department for relations with the armed forces and law enforcement agencies, told Interfax news agency on Thursday that the group's supporters now had "blood on their conscience".

But lawyers for Pussy Riot had said immediately that the band and its supporters had nothing to do with the killings in Kazan, capital of the Tatarstan region 720 km (450 miles) east of Moscow.

They said they suspected the scrawled slogan was either the work of a madman or was a provocation aimed at associating the jailed women and their supporters with a gruesome murder.

Many of Pussy Riot's supporters opposed Putin's return to the presidency in May and say the women's two-year jail sentences were disproportionate. The sentences have also been criticized by Western governments.

Police said the suspect was a former classmate of one of the victims and had pretended to be courting her after she agreed to him help pay off his debts by borrowing hundreds of thousands of roubles (tens of thousands of dollars) from banks.

The suspect promised the woman they would take a vacation together, but grabbed a knife and killed her during a quarrel when he told her they would be unable to take the trip.

Police said the suspect had taken the knife used in the killings with him after the murders and stolen 100,000 roubles ($3,100) and two mobile phones from the victims' apartment.

He was detained after the phones and the knife were found on the balcony of the apartment where he lives with his parents and was hiding from creditors. ($1 = 32.5715 Russian roubles)

(Editing by Jon Boyle)