Russian Man Arrested in the Murder of Two Jesuit Priests

Monsters and Critics
November 6, 2008

Moscow - Russian investigators have detained a suspect who confessed to the murder of two Jesuit priests in their Moscow apartment, the Interfax agency reported Thursday.

Interfax quoted a police source Thursday as saying the Russian suspect was arrested at 6 am (0300 GMT) and was a repeat sex offender from the town of Tver north of Moscow. He was charged with four counts of rape but there were also suspicions that the 38-year-old may have been a male prostitute.

The actual identity of the suspect is one of several aspects of the case that have raised questions concerning the death of the two priests, who were found bludgeoned to death in an upscale Moscow neighborhood on Ulitsa Petrovka near the Kremlin.

'The Jesuits want to find out the truth - even if it turns out to be not all positive for them,' a priest who worked alongside one of the victims told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa by telephone Thursday.

The bodies of Otto Messmer, 47, the head of the Russian Jesuit order, and Ecuadorean priest Victor Betancourt, 42, were found dead with multiple knife wounds and their skulls bashed in on October 28.

The church official, who attended a funeral for the two men Wednesday, said their caskets were closed because 'their faces were horribly brutalized and unrecognizable.'

The victims were both killed in the same way, he added.

After the funeral in Moscow the bodies of the two priests were flown home to Germany and Ecuador for burial.

The Jesuit order has said that Betancourt was killed on October 25 while Messmer was killed upon returning to the flat two days later from a trip to Germany. Authorities have presented differing accounts of the times of death.

The murderer reportedly stayed in the apartment after killing Betancourt, even answering the telephone when members of the congregation called up concerned that he had not shown up for Sunday mass.

The door to the apartment was found ajar, but it was not evident whether anything had been stolen.

Investigator Yury Sukharev last week told there were open wine bottles and absinthe found in the kitchen. Russian media reported used condoms had also been lying about the apartment.

An unnamed investigator told Interfax on Thursday that the suspect was 'living in the capital without official papers, did not work and received money from the rendering of sex services.'

The Russian Orthodox Moscow Patriarch Alexey II has expressed his condolences over the killings.


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