A St Petersburg doctor who allegedly anaesthetised 50 elderly female patients in order to steal their family heirlooms is on trial for murdering 17 of them when they awoke prematurely to hear him rifling through their possessions.
Maxim Petrov, who is in his 30s and is an emergency doctor based on the central Vasilievski Island, is accused of a two-year reign of terror during which he preyed on frail pensioners while off-duty.
Survivors have portrayed a twisted killer who in early 2000 decided to start killing his victims, often using a range of brutal means.
Anastasia Plotnikova,said: "I remember a call at my flat at about 2pm. The young man presented himself as a doctor from the local clinic. The doctor took my blood pressure, which appeared to be high, and offered an injection. He spent a lot of time trying to find the vein, and I thought: 'how can a doctor have problems with such a thing?'
"When I woke, there was fire around me. I cried for help on the balcony. The fire service came but the flat was badly burned."
Ms Plotnikova later discovered that gold earrings, wedding rings and two packets of tea had been stolen.
Tomorrow his trial will continue in St Petersburg.
"Five victims have spoken [in court]", Valentina Kudriashovo, the judge for the trial, said. "They are all very old people. This will not be a quick process. He is accused of a series of robberies and killings."
Dr Petrov, who was arrested in late 2000, has become ubiquitous in the Russian media, which has dubbed him Doctor Killer and Doctor Death.
He has fiercely denied the allegations and recently wrote a protest letter to the television channel NTV from his jail cell complaining that a series of documentaries about the deaths were "libellous". The media has claimed that Dr Petrov loves his fame.
Another survivor, Valentina Pleshikova, told local media that she was only saved because her husband returned home early from work.
She claimed she was injected with a substance by Dr Petrov and fell asleep. When she awoke, she discovered the gas oven had been turned on, and all the windows shut.
Her husband dragged her from the flat to safety. They later discovered that a set of silver forks, and 200 roubles (£5) were missing, plus some coffee.
When police began to suspect a serial killer was at work, they discovered that the victims may have been selected using a detailed list of elderly lung patients. They tracked down 72 possible future victims and arrested Dr Petrov as he called on one of them.