Workers digging a trench in an old Moscow street accidentally unearthed the secret charnel house of bloodthirsty Stalin henchman Lavrenty Beria, a popular Moscow daily newspaper says.

The workers stumbled on piles of skeletons while digging at a building site close to the elegant former residence of Soviet Interior Minister Beria, widely seen by Russians as dictator Joseph Stalin's chief executioner.The popular tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets said Tuesday that the workers have uncovered the final resting place of dozens of young girls whom Beria deflowered, tortured and ruthlessly murdered during his time as Stalin's secret police chief.

Like Stalin, a native of the Caucasus Mountain republic of Georgia, Beria rose to prominence in the Georgian Cheka or secret police before becoming Communist Party Secretary of the Trans-Caucasus region and finally commissar of internal affairs and Politburo member in 1946.

During the struggle for power after Stalin's death in 1953, he was arrested on charges of conspiracy, secretly tried and shot.

Beria occupies a special place in Soviet folklore as the architect of the bloody purges, brutal repression and notorious gulag camps that became the trademark of Stalinism.

But Muscovites have embellished the pen portrait of a heartless hangman with legends of his dark and perverted sex life. Beria allegedly curb-crawled the Moscow streets in pursuit of young girls, whom he would bundle into his limousine and take back to his opulent mansion for sex parties.

Until now there has been no evidence Beria killed his victims. But Moskovsky Komsomolets quoted a Moscow forensic chief Tuesday who said Beria had a torture chamber under his house, linked by an underground passage to a secret graveyard where he deposited the corpses of the girls he had raped and slain.

It is this gruesome burial mound that the tabloid says was unearthed last week. It says the skeletons that were found were brittle and had clearly been scattered with bleach or lime to remove all trace of the crime.