Friday, November 7, 2008

Suspect Arrested In Brutal Murders of Catholic Priests In Moscow

BOULDER, Colorado -- Moscow police announced Thursday that they had arrested a suspect in connection with the murders of two Catholic priests in their apartment on October 28. From state-owned news agency RIA-Novosti:
MOSCOW, November 6 -- Russian police have detained a suspect in the October murder of two Jesuit priests in central Moscow, a spokeswoman for Moscow's investigation department said on Thursday.

Otto Messmer, who headed the Russian Independent Region of the Society of Jesus, and Colombian priest Victor Betancourt, were found dead in their apartment on Ulitsa Petrovka with multiple injuries.

Police said they had detained a Russian man from the Tver Region in central Russia. Investigators believe the suspect, whose name has not been released, killed Betancourt after an argument and then murdered Messmer to conceal the crime.

"The man has already confessed and the investigations are continuing," Viktoria Tsyplenkova said.

Police said that the detained suspect has been living in Moscow illegally and earned money as a same-sex male prostitute.

"The detained 'prostitute' has previous convictions for burglary, rape and two robberies," a source in the police said.

The source added that almost 24 hours had elapsed between the murder of Betancourt and Messmer.

"The detainee confessed, that after a heavy drinking session he killed Betancourt during a quarrel, he continued drinking in the apartment and when Messmer arrived, he killed him too to get rid of a witness. It is remarkable than even after all this, the man only left the apartment several hours later, once he had finished the remaining vodka," the source said.

The suspect was due to be taken to the crime scene on Thursday and take part in a police lineup. If the suspect is found guilty of double murder he faces between 20 years and life in prison. also reported that the suspect was identified by neighbors in the building, and police had pictures of him from the building's security cameras. The suspect was already well-known by local police, as he had been arrested several times for prostitution, burglary and rape.

According to Kommersant, Betancourt met the suspect at a gay nightclub, and the two returned to the priest's apartment together.

As with most things involving the Moscow police, I do harbor a certain amount of suspicion about this arrest. It is more than likely that this whole terrible affair went down like it was described here. However, relations between the Catholic Church and the Russian government are hardly warm and friendly, so I will not be surprised if in the coming days more is made of the fact that accused is a male prostitute in an effort to smear the Church.

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