An ex-convict has confessed to raping and stabbing a former female US marine in Russia, then leaving her to die in a forest, according to local police.
Alexander Popov, 43, appeared in court on Sunday as a judge ordered his detention for two months over the death of Catherine Serou, 34, an Afghanistan veteran.
Serou had been studying law at a university in Nizhny Novgorod, a city 260 miles east of Moscow, after arriving from California three years ago.
Her body was discovered in a forest on the edge of the city on Saturday following a massive search operation by law enforcement and volunteers after she went missing last Tuesday.
Popov told interrogators that he drove her to a forest outside the city where he raped her before beating her with his fists. He then stabbed her three times ‘before leaving her to die in the forest’.
He is held on a murder charge.
Some reports say that Popov was an ‘acquaintance’ of Serou, but the woman had messaged her mother in the US after leaving a grocery store – saying she was in a stranger’s car and feared she had been ‘abducted’.
Catherine Serou, 34, had been studying law at a university in Nizhny Novgorod, a city 260 miles east of Moscow, after arriving from California three years ago.
Alexander Popov (pictured in court on Sunday) told interrogators that he drove her to a forest outside the city where he raped her before beating her with his fists. He then stabbed her three times ‘before leaving her to die in the forest’.
Alexander Popov, a man who was arrested on suspicion of murder and surrounded by police officers, arrives at a courtroom in the city of Gorodets, 36 miles north-west of Nizhny Novgorod, on Sunday
The suspect is known to have previous convictions for rape, sexual assault, hooliganism and robbery
The suspect is known to have previous convictions for rape, sexual assault, hooliganism and robbery.
The attacks came after his latest release from prison, say reports.
The American had served with Cherry Point Marine Corps from 2006 to 2011, and had been posted to Afghanistan.
Serou, originally from New Orleans, had two degrees from the University of California Davis, before going on to study at Nizhny Novgorod State University.
She had British links, having written a thesis for her Masters degree on the famous Low Ham Mosaic in Somerset for her Master of Arts degree in Art History.
Russian law enforcement had opened a criminal investigation after Serou was reported missing by her mother Beccy who had received a message from her daughter saying: ‘I’m riding in a car with a stranger. I hope I’m not being abducted.’
Police found that her cell phone signal had been traced to the village of Lindo-Pustyn, some 15 miles north of Bor, the suburb of Nizhny Novgorod where she lived.
As the hunt was underway, her mother said: ‘She is a Marine, she has got survival skills…
‘And so I think that if anybody can survive it, she can.’
Serou was a former US Marine and graduate student who was studying law at a university in the Nizhny Novgorod region, just over 250 miles east of Moscow
Local volunteer groups handed out and posted missing person posters asking for Serou’s safe return
Russian friends said Catherine had seen active service in Afghanistan but was ‘very well-balanced’ and showed no signs of post traumatic disorder.
They said she had killed enemies in the war zone but ‘did not like to speak about it’.
She came to Russia ‘for exciting adventures’ and was ‘loved by her university teachers and friends’.
Lilia Erushkina, head of admissions and academic support for foreign students at Nizhny Novgorod State University, said: ‘It’s very hard days for us now.
‘We are in touch with Catherine’s mother, as we have been throughout.
‘She was such a hard-working student, so responsible.
‘It wasn’t easy for her to study in Russian, especially legal terms, but she clearly did her very best.
‘Her spoken Russian was good, too.
Her mother, Beccy Serou, told NPR that she received an ominous text message on the night Catherine went missing. ‘In a car with a stranger. I hope I’m not being abducted’ it read
Serou was last seen on CCTV video shopping at a nearby market before disappearing after entering an unknown car on Tuesday night
‘She liked Russia and liked Russian language. It’s very hard.’
A Russian friend of the dead woman, Alexander Tokarev, 32, a local journalist, said: ‘This is the end.
‘My friend Kate (Catherine) is no longer with us….
‘He was previously convicted for rape, robbery, and a whole lot of disgusting things.’
He posted: ‘Forgive [us], my friend.
‘You went through a war, crossed the ocean, found good friends, all to die here, near Nizhny Novgorod, without any reason.’