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'I Killed Him:' Tatarstan Rocked By Bizarre Killing Five Years In The Making

"What I've done is bad," said Misbakh Sakhabutdinov at this court hearing. "It is not good. But what is done is done."
"What I've done is bad," said Misbakh Sakhabutdinov at this court hearing. "It is not good. But what is done is done."

NABEREZHNYE CHELNY, Russia -- By all accounts, 85-year-old Misbakh Sakhabutdinov is a quiet, modest, pious man. He prayed devoutly and followed the tenets of Islam, relatives say.

"Misbakh has never had a sip of alcohol or smoked a cigarette in his 85 years," says Asia Zinnurova, a cousin of Sakhabutdinov's who also lives in the industrial central Russian city of Naberezhnye Chelny. "He has never sworn. He's smart and well-mannered."

But now, to the astonishment of Russia's entire Tatarstan region, Sakhabutdinov finds himself in jail, charged with a murder he admits he committed.

On December 11, Sakhabutdinov walked into Municipal Clinic No. 4 and waited calmly until Andrei Zheleznov, a 52-year-old doctor, came into the reception area. At that point, Sakhabutdinov fired a single shot into Zheleznov’s chest from a homemade firearm hidden in his walking stick.

The doctor died at the scene.

Speaking softly at a court hearing on December 16, Sakhabutdinov recalled the events of that day.

"Zheleznov fell," he said. "I stared at him for a moment and went out. I took a seat in the corridor. Two police officers came and started asking around. There were some women there. I came up to them and said: 'I killed him. Don't look for anyone else.'"

The court remanded Sakhabutdinov into custody for two months and ordered a psychiatric evaluation. The defendant is unmarried and childless and has been living quietly for years with his elderly sister.

WATCH: Sakhabutdinov attends his court hearing. (Editor's note: Video is in original languages of Tatar and Russian.)

It is Sakhabutdinov's apparent motivation that makes the case so sensational. Five years ago, he went to the clinic with a broken finger and there he had some sort of run-in with Zheleznov.

"The doctor, apparently, asked him to take off his hat," Zinnurova said, referring to the traditional headgear, or tyubeteika, that Tatar men wear. "Misbakh said: 'I won't.'"

In court, Sakhabutdinov hinted at a more profound conflict.

"They insulted and made fun of me at the doctor's office," he said, adding that "killing is a sin and it's not easy to kill a person."

Sakhabutdinov apparently nursed his grudge all these years, meticulously crafting a homemade gun that was concealed in his walking stick. He admits that he tried to kill Zheleznov a year ago but his weapon misfired. That incident and the fact that Sakhabutdinov made his weapon himself were the main reasons why the judge refused a request that the elderly defendant be released on his own recognizance.

Questions about Sakhabutdinov's true motives and the years he apparently spent plotting his revenge remain to be answered -- or possibly left unanswered -- as his trial unfolds. But his statement at the recent hearing was contrite and conflicted.

"What I've done is bad," he said. "It is not good. But what is done is done. He might have been a good doctor. There were always many people with broken legs and arms waiting for him -- young and old. I can't understand why he was so hostile to me."

RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson contributed to this report from Prague

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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