A FORMER cop has been arrested by police hunting a serial killing child sex rapist in Russia.
Vitaly Berezhnoy, 40, is being held on suspicion of the rape and murder of eight-year-old Nastya Muravyova, which he has denied along with involvement with the other killings.
Her naked body was found wrapped in polythene and a rug inside plastic bags on a lakeside in the city of Tyumen, seven weeks after she vanished when she went out to buy sweets.
The suspected paedophile’s arrest follows law enforcement linking the case to earlier disappearances of young children with eye squints in the city.
Russia’s famed leading serial killing expert Lt-Col Evgeny Karchevsky, nicknamed 'Maniac Hunter’ and a former classmate of Vladimir Putin, has been drafted into the case.
Berezhnoy has a teenage daughter and worked as a police sergeant after leaving the GRU military intelligence service.
He told interrogators he had been drunk and when he sobered up found the naked body of the missing girl in his bath.
Berezhnoy claimed he had no memory of abducting her but confessed to this killing, while denying murdering other girls, said police.
In a “panic” he stashed the body wrapped in plastic and cardboard behind his washing machine in a studio flat he rented after separating from his wife.
After seven weeks the odour became too strong, and he moved the body to the lakeside, a place that had been earlier repeatedly searched by volunteers looking for Nastya, he told his interrogators.
A video shows how he was today brought to the “crime scene flat” where the girl was allegedly killed.
He has denied involvement in a string of earlier child disappearances, several of which involved abduction, rape and murder, say reports citing law enforcement.
But probes are continuing into the cases, said the Russian Investigative Committee.
The boxes in which Nastya’s body was found led to a furniture-making company where the suspect now works.
All workers were requested to take DNA tests but Berezhnoy refused and came under suspicion.
“At the home of one of the workers, law enforcement officers found a rug, a piece from which was cut off,” said Interior Ministry spokeswoman Colonel Irina Volk.
The cut off piece had been used to wrap Nastya’s body, she said.
The suspect had volunteered to take part in the search when the schoolgirl was reported missing.
His sister Alyona Berezhnaya, 34, told REN TV: "He is a positive person, and has a family, two children. He is a hard worker from a normal, prosperous family.
“No-one would have thought he could do this. There must have been some kind of mistake.”
Before his arrest, reports citing law enforcement had linked Nastya’s murder to a suspected serial killer believed to have been active in abducting children in Tyumen – including some with eye problems – for two decades.
Nastya’s disappearance attracted huge publicity in Russia after a campaign to trace her led by her sister Tatyana, 18.
Their single-parent father Sergey Muravyov, 40, a porter with a previous murder conviction, initially came under suspicion in the high-profile case.
But he passed a lie-detector test and was no longer seen as a suspect.
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