The murderer used the same faulty gun each time he killed. But who was the man that the Press called the Monster of Florence?
The envelope was addressed to Florence’s central police station. Inside, an officer found a 14-year-old newspaper cutting from August 1968.
It detailed the murder of Antonio Lo Bianco, 29, and Barbara Locci, 32.
Both married, the pair had been lovers. But, on 21 August 1968, they’d been shot dead as they sat in a car, parked in a secluded, wooded area on the city’s outskirts.
Barbara’s husband Stefano Mele had admitted the double murder and been sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Case closed? Well, perhaps not…
Looking closer at the old news cutting, the office spotted a message written on it.
Why don’t you take another look at this case?
Straightaway, the officer knew what the message meant.
It was 1982, and the Florence police had been investigating three more shootings of lovers in the local area.
It seemed that whoever was responsible was frustrated the police hadn’t seen the link with the earlier crime, the shooting of Antonio and Barbara – to which Barbara’s husband had confessed.
But there had been other murders of couples since..
There was Pasquale Gentilcore, 19, and his girlfriend, Stefania Pettini, 18. They’d been shot to death at night while sitting in Pasquale’s Fiat on an isolated lane on 15 September 1974.
Then, there was Giovanni Foggi, 30, and Carmela Di Nuccio, 21, on 6 June 1981. They’d been shot in a quiet place outside Florence, too.
As had Stefano Baldi, 26, and Susanna Cambi, 24, on 23 October 1981.
And Paolo Mainardi, 22, and Antonella Migliorini, 20, on 19 June 1982. They’d been so close their mates had nicknamed them The Superglues. Like the others, they’d been shot dead in a secluded spot.
The crimes seemed to be linked. Always young lovers on a night before a weekend or public holiday in the quiet areas beyond the city.
The same gun had been used in each of the crimes since 1974, a Beretta .22 calliber. And always the same type of bullets.
The gun had a defective firing pin, which scratched the bullets as they were fired.
It seemed the same person had been responsible for all the murders.
But the killings had been impossible to predict, with gaps of years between some.
And now, this newspaper cutting and message – a link to a crime committed years ago.
Officers re-examined the evidence, and were startled to find the gun used to kill Barbara and Antonio back in 1968 was the same gun that had killed the most recent victims.
It meant Stefano Mele couldn’t possibly be guilty. Despite his confession…
He was released. And the police were left baffled – the crimes had similarities, but in some ways, they were different.
Barbara and Antonio had been shot, their bodies left. But, in the crimes since 1974, the killer had desecrated the victims.
After murdering Stefania, the killer had sexually violated her.
After killing Carmella and Susanna, he’d sexually mutilated them, taking body parts as trophies.
Police suspected he hadn’t done the same to Antonella because he’d been disturbed shortly after the killing.
Desperate for answers, the police reviewed the 1968 killing over again.
Stefano Mele was originally from Sardinia, and known to have mafia links.
His wife, Barbara, had been known to be promiscuous.
Had it been a mafia ‘honour killing’? And had Stefano taken the blame?
Now police arrested a man who was part of the same gang as Mele.
But no sooner had he been arrested, than the killer struck again, on 9 September 1983.
This time, the victims were two German tourists, Wilhelm Meyer and Uwe Rusch Sens in a camper van.
And the same gun was used.
Yet another gang member was arrested. And there was another double murder – Claudio Stefanacci, 21, and Pia Rontini, 18.
This time, the killer mutilated Pia’s body by slicing off her left breast.
It seemed the mafia connection was a dead-end.
By now, the killer was branded the Monster of Florence by the Press. And he was to strike once again.
On 8 September 1985, he killed French tourists Jean Michel Kravechvili, 25, and Nadine Mauriot, 36, as they slept in their car outside the city.
Over the next eight years, police questioned more than 10, 000 people in the hope of finding a lead.
A man named Pietro Pacciani – a convicted murderer and voyeur – was arrested and tried for the Monster murders. But evidence against him was so weak, an appeals court overturned a conviction against him.
However, unknown sources had also claimed that Pacciani was involved in an occult group with three other men, including Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti.
A subsequent trial saw Vanni and Lotti convicted only of killing the young German tourists.
In February 1998, Pacciani was found dead. Vanni and Lotti were behind bars.
Yet most of the murder cases remain open to this day, with police no closer to cracking them. Over the years, suspects have been arrested and interviewed.
All have been exonerated.
Police profilers suggest the killer is male, of average intelligence, has had few or no relationships and is probably impotent.
In 1995, a new chief investigator came to the case. He believed the victims were killed to order by the powerful leader of a Satanic cult.
Yet the police are still no closer to identifying the killer.
For years, it seems the Monster of Florence has toyed with the police.
And as they’ve yet to catch him, it seems the Monster of Florence may have had the last laugh…