ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA (CNN) – Police in the Russian city of St. Petersburg say they are investigating cannibalism and occult sacrifice as motives in the suspected slayings of at least 11 people by a pensioner dubbed the “Granny Ripper.”
The suspect, 68-year-old Tamara Samsonova, a former hotel worker, was arrested July 28 after security video footage emerged of her taking several large plastic bags out of the apartment block in the middle of the night.
Police said the bags contained the body parts of another pensioner, Valentina Ulanova, 79, with whom the suspect temporarily lived as a carer.
After her arrest, Samsonova was pictured blowing kisses to reporters in court, and she was videoed celebrating when the judge informed her she would be held in custody.
“I’m haunted by a maniac upstairs who forced me to kill,” she told reporters through the bars of her courtroom cage.
“I have nowhere else to live. I am a very old person, and I put the whole matter to rest deliberately. I have thought 77 times about it and then decided that I must be in prison. I will die there and the state will probably bury me,” Samsonova said.
Police said they have evidence linking the suspect to at least 11 deaths. Police have not revealed evidence to directly support allegations of cannibalism, but they said she kept a detailed diary of her crimes. It is believed the diary has references to cannibalism and the occult that have prompted police to investigate those as possible motives. Police said she has confessed to them in at least two killings.
Investigators said they suspect victims include other neighbors, former tenants and Samsonova’s husband, whom she reported missing 10 years ago.
Outside the apartment where police said the latest killing took place, in a grimy suburb on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, residents have placed flowers at the door in memory of the victim, described by neighbors as a kind old veteran who had temporarily taken in Samsonova on the advice of social workers.
Neighbors said they are shocked at what happened, but not altogether surprised.
“That Tamara Samsonova is a very strange women, tricky and suspicious,” said Natalia Fedatovskaya, an old friend of the victim.
“When I confronted her about my missing friend, she begged me not to call the police, and grabbed my arm. The police told me later I was lucky to escape,” she said.
Police said they are scouring records of unsolved deaths to see just how many people Russia’s “Granny Ripper” may have killed.