Maurizio Gucci had been shot dead on his way to the office...and his wife was standing trial for his murder.
Milan. Fashion capital of Italy. And the world.
Across the city, shop windows were decorated with silver handcuffs, radio stations broadcast hour-by-hour updates and customers in cafés and bars drank in the details of the case from newspapers as they sipped on espressos and dragged on Sobranie cigarettes.
And then, as paparazzi cameras clicked and flashed, she arrived at Milan’s courthouse wearing a pair of over-sized black sunglasses and a fur coat.
The biggest trial Italy had seen in a century had begun.
It was May, 1998.
Patrizia Reggiani was accused of ordering the murder of her husband.
Two generations before, the Gucci family had had nothing. In 1881 Maurizio’s grandfather had been a poor dishwasher in a hotel.
But then he’d taken a risk. He’d started importing leather bags from France to sell in his native Florence.
By 1921, he had a shop. He was employing designers and leather-workers.
The Gucci fashion empire was born.
Maurizio had inherited half of that empire 62 years later, in 1983. And he enjoyed the fruits of his grandfather’s endeavour.
Fast cars, luxury houses, champagne…
Like Patrizia Reggiani.
The millionaire heiress to an Italian road haulage company.
Over the next years, their glamorous married life filled the pages of Italy’s tabloids and magazines.
Young. Rich. Happy.
Except, they weren’t.
Patrizia soon tired of Maurizio’s string of mistresses. Younger women. More attractive women.
She was furious and insisted Maurizio buy her a luxury schooner. To apologise. To prove he loved her.
Trouble was, Maurizio could hardly afford it.
For years, he’d been spending recklessly. His own money, the company’s money.
And the brand itself was floundering. In 1991, it had made a loss of $31million.
By that time, Patrizia and Maurizio had been separated for six years.
He claimed he’d left her for someone else.
She claimed she’d left him because of his philandering.
In 1991, their divorce finally came through the complicated Italian legal system.
As part of their settlement, Maurizio would pay Patrizia $500,000 dollars a year. Alimony.
But Patrizia was not pleased.
She called the amount settled on her ‘a bowl of lentils’.
‘How am I supposed to live?’ she cried on a TV chat show soon afterwards. ‘All I have is $500,000 a year, a house in Rome and one in New York…’
And then, Maurizio sold his half of the Gucci company to a Bahrain investment group.
Patrizia was furious. She’d always believed his half of the Gucci brand would pass to the two children she’d had with him.
She started telling anyone who’d listen how she wanted her ex-husband dead.
And now, in that Milan courtroom, she admitted as much.
Her defense lawyers argued that most people said things like that about their exes.
‘I could wring his neck!’ or ‘I could murder him!’
And in 1992, Patrizia had undergone major brain surgery to remove a tumour. She claimed it had left her overly emotional, dependant on medication and prone to depression…and more inclined to angry rants about her ex.
She’d never expected anyone to kill Maurizio on her behalf.
But then, on 27 March 1995, Patrizia’s longtime friend Pina Auriemma came to see her.
‘Isn’t this what you wanted?’ she’d asked Patrizia. ‘Now, pay!’
Maurizio Gucci had been shot dead on the way to his office that morning. Four times in the head.
Pina had arranged the killing. Because she’d thought that was what Patrizia had wanted. And now, Pina was going to blackmail Patrizia, make her pay for silence.
Or, at least, that was Patrizia Reiggiani’s version of events.
Pina Auriemma’s version of events was quite different.
She claimed Patrizia had asked her to arrange Maurizio’s murder.
The two women had known each other for years. Pina was an astrologer. And Patrizia was a woman who could hardly do anything without consulting her stars.
But Pina was from the wrong side of the tracks. Patrizia knew she’d have the right contacts…
She hadn’t been wrong.
Pina hired Satanist Ivano Savion, heavy gambler Orazio Cicala and a debt-ridden Sicilian hit-man-come-pizzeria-owner, Benadetto Ceraulo to carry out the crime. For the grand total of £225,000.
Only, the police were soon onto the gang. They’d wanted Benadetto for years.
And realising the net was closing in, Patrizia wrote a note to Pina.
Leave me out of it and I’ll shower you with gold.
It seemed Patrizia was hanging her co-conspirators out to dry. And in her anger, Pina had confessed everything to the police.
But in that Milan courtroom, Patrizia denied involvement. She argued the gang had gunned down Maurizio in an attempt to blackmail her…pay up or be framed for the crime.
But then the prosecution played its trump card. Patrizia’s own diary.
She said she’d had nothing to do with the crime. So why in her diary, on the day her ex-husband had been murdered, had she written, There is no crime that money cannot buy…and then, underneath, the single word Paradise?
Her lawyers said the diary entries proved nothing. She’d wanted Maurizio dead. But that didn’t mean she’d planned his murder.
And when she’d heard he was dead, she admitted she was pleased…she was in paradise.
But that didn’t make her guilty of having him killed.
The case came down to three numbers.
One dead man, four bullets. And two explanations as to how those four bullets had ended up in that dead man’s head.
But the jury didn’t believe Patrizia’s version of events.
She was sentenced to 29 years in prison for her involvement in the murder of her former husband. This was reduced to 26 years
upon appeal. In October 2011, she was offered a chance of parole, but declined. ‘Parole would mean getting a job,’ she explained.
In 2013, she was released after serving 16years in prison. She is currently working as a fashion consultant for jewellery firm,
Pina Auriemma was also found guilty and sentenced to 25 years. Ivano Savioni was given 26 years, Orazio Cicala 29, and
Benedetto Ceraulo, for life.