Police Suspect Son Butchered Mother

Police are questioning a mentally ill man suspected of killing his mother and hacking her to pieces after hearing the voice of Woland, the devil character from the Mikhail Bulgakov classic, "The Master and Margarita."

According to a spokesman for the Cheremushki police precinct, a 43-year-old engineer, whose name he would not release, was captured by investigators Tuesday night less than a half hour after he allegedly stabbed and dismembered his elderly mother.

"He said the voice of Woland came to him in the morning," the spokesman said. "It told him he would go to heaven if he killed his mother."

Police captured the suspect after responding to calls from frightened neighbors, who said they had heard bloodcurdling screams at around 5 p.m.

Police arrived at the building on Profsoyuznaya Ulitsa to find the suspect covered in blood, having attempted to kill himself by slicing his jugular vein after apparently cutting off his mother's head, arms and feet and laying them out on his dinner table.

The suspect, who has a long history of mental illness and, according to neighbors, regularly beat his mother, survived the suicide attempt and is currently being treated in a hospital under police guard. Police and neighbors said he had recently found work as an engineer in the Defense Ministry.

On Thursday, neighbors in the quiet Cheremushki region neighborhood described the gradual mental collapse of the man suspected of killing the woman they all knew as "Auntie Lena."

"He was in a mental hospital for about eight months last year, until May of this spring," said Nina Florinskaya, who lives in the apartment above the victim. "And as soon as he got out, he started acting really weird. He was convinced the KGB was out to get him and was constantly checking all around himself for bugs."

Florinskaya, who said she watched as police carried the body of "Auntie Lena" out in pieces, said the suspect was an avid reader.

"He was always carrying a folder with books and papers," she said. "He never said hello to anyone, and was always reading -- when he wasn't beating his mother."

Police declined to say whether or not the book "The Master and Margarita" was found in the suspect's home.

Woland, the mesmerizing conjurer and "Professor of Black Magic" who descends upon 1920s Moscow in Bulgakov's Faustian satire, is one of the best-known characters in modern Russian literature. He makes his entrance in the novel by predicting the accidental beheading of a communist litterateur in the first chapter.

Neither the Defense Ministry nor Moscow Mental Hospital No.15, from which neighbors said the suspect had recently been released, had any comment.

Florinskaya, who said a family of 12 is living in the two-room apartment across her hall, said the murder was just another nightmare in what has become an increasingly unlivable neighborhood.

"Of course they shouldn't let out violent, sick people like that," she said. "But anything goes in a slum, I guess. That guy has been beating his mother, but they let him live here anyway."