A prominent Russian history professor was charged with murder after he was found in a river with a backpack allegedly containing a woman’s severed arms.
Oleg Sokolov, a 63-year-old history professor at St. Petersburg State University known for his reenactments of Napoleon Bonaparte, was pulled out of St. Petersburg’s Moika River early Saturday.
Russian media reports citing authorities allege that he either stumbled into the river while he was drunk, or had jumped into a part of the river shallow enough for a person to stand, in an attempt to dispose of the body parts in his bag.
Passersby along the riverbank heard his cries in the early morning, alerting police to what would become a gruesome discovery.
The arms allegedly found in Sokolov’s backpack are suspected to be those of his former student and lover, 24-year-old Anastasia Yeschenko.
Authorities say they found her decapitated head and body in Sokolov’s apartment — just a few houses down from where he was taken out of water.
After recovering from hypothermia in the Mariinsky Hospital, Sokolov was questioned by police Sunday, reports say.
Russian media, citing his lawyer Alexander Pochuev, said that he has since signed a statement of guilt, confessing to the killing.
Sokolov told authorities that he had shot and killed Yeschenko over an argument Thursday, hiding the body behind a closed door while he entertained guests the following day, according to the Washington Post.
Yeschenko’s head, arms and legs were also dismembered in an attempt to dispose of her body much easier — an act that Sokolov told police made him so physically ill that he had to drink heavily in order to keep going, the Post went on to report.
Sokolov then planned to make his way to the Peter and Paul Fortress, a popular tourist destination, in an attempt to dramatically commit suicide Sunday dressed as Napoleon, according to the Guardian, which cited local reports.
An author of several books detailing Napoleon’s military conquest, Sokolov was known particularly for his work on French military history. He has previously been awarded France’s Legion of Honour for his work.
His students told AFP that he was a talented lecturer, but was also a “freak” who asked his lover to address him as “sire.” Both he and Yeschenko enjoyed wearing period costumes, with Sokolov frequently dressing up as Napoleon.
According to CNN, Russian news agencies also reported that divers investigating the case found the remains of another person in the Moika River.
Russian news agency TASS said that the newly discovered remains have not been identified but are presumed to belong to a man. It is still unclear if they are related to Sokolov’s case.
— with files from the Associated Press