Transcript: 71. The Monster of Florence (Part 1) | Italy

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August 21st 1968 was a balmy late-summer night in the Florentine Hills just outside of the town of Signa. 29-year-old bricklayer, Antonio Lo Bianco, had taken his married mistress, 32-year-old Barbara Locci and her son out to see a movie. On their way home, six-year-old Natalino fell asleep on the back seat of the car and they took the opportunity to pull the car onto a dirt road so they could make out. 

Barbara was a stay-at-home mom, who had moved to Florence from Sardinia with her husband and his family and had recently met Antonio. It was not uncommon for her to take a lover from time to time, but this relationship was doomed and their tryst would end in tragedy. 

At 2am the blast of gunshots woke Natalino and he screamed when he saw his mother and Antonio dead in the front seat. In shock, the little boy ran over a mile to the nearest house he could find. He rang the doorbell and woke the landlord of the property. 

"Open the door and let me in, I'm sleepy and my Daddy is sick in bed. Then you have to drive me home, because my Mommy and my uncle are dead in their car."

… the boy said. The landlord was confused to find the barefoot child on his doorstep in the middle of the night. He looked around but could not see anyone else. 

The murders of Barbara and Antonio laid the foundation for an investigation that lasted over the span of three decades. However, it was not until the early 1980s that police realised they were hunting a serial killer. A man whose name became synonymous to The Boogy Man, The Monster of Florence.

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Six-year-old Natalino Mele was in shock when police questioned him about the death of his mother. They wanted to know how he managed to walk the distance of over a mile by himself – without wearing any shoes. He said that he was scared and ran all the way. Later he changed his story saying that it was either his father or an uncle who drove him there. He always referred to his mother’s lovers as uncles. In another version he said that a man, perhaps his father, carried him on his shoulders and sang a familiar song all the way so as to calm him down. He said that the man rang the doorbell at the farmhouse, as it was too high up and Natalino was unable to reach. According to Natalino, the man left him standing in front of the door, alone.   

Many years later Natalino changed his story again and said that he was definitely alone when he ran for help. He was in a state of shock and could not remember much of the events leading up to him appearing on the landlord’s doorstep. 

Barbara Locci was known to be promiscuous and people around town called her ‘Queen Bee’ (Ape Regina). Her husband, Stefano Mele was an older man and turned a blind eye to his wife’s indiscretions. At first he denied any involvement, saying he was at home, sick in bed at the time of her murder. 

Police were suspicious of Stefano from the start. He would not be the first person in history to kill an unfaithful wife and her lover. Using the paraffin glove test, investigators found gunshot residue on Stefano’s right hand. He had no alibi to confirm his story of being sick in bed and he certainly had a motive. Stefano had his back up against the wall and confessed. He said he shot her, then threw the gun in a ditch. However, in spite of conducting an extensive search of the crime scene, police did not recover the firearm. 

Barbara’s husband, Stefano Mele was charged with the and sentenced to life in prison. 

However, after his incarceration, another murder was committed. In 1974, in the Florentine hills, with the exact same gun – a .22 calibre Beretta. And yet another in 1981… 

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s – and in some cases even so today, it is very much in the Italian culture to live at home until one gets married. Religion played a big role in family life and pre-marital sex was a social taboo, especially back in the day. Couples had to be creative in finding opportunities to be intimate. The easiest way was to drive out of town after a date where they would find a private spot on a country lane so they could make love. 

Sneaky hook-ups were very common and because pretty much everyone with access to a car did it, it gave rise to a whole sub-culture of peeping toms. And absurdly, there were peeping toms, spying on the peeping toms, taking photos of them so they could blackmail them, threatening to tell their mothers or wives that they were voyeurs. 

With so many people lurking in the Tuscan countryside on mild summer nights, it might seem surprising that a crime could occur without any witnesses. However, on Saturday night the 15th of September, 1974 a gruesome murder took place near the picturesque historic town of Borgo San Lorenzo.

19-year-old barman, Pasquale Gentilcore and Stefania Pettini, and 18-year-old accountant were high school sweethearts and had spent the night at ‘Teen Disco’ with their friends. They left the disco and drove to a deserted spot, so they could be alone. But they were not…

Pasquale had been shot and was still in the driver’s seat of his Fiat 127. Stefania had been dragged out of the car and left about 10 yards away. Her purse was thrown aside with its contents scattered around on the grass.

Like Pasquale, Stefania had been shot and killed before the killer stabbed and mutilated her body. Her killer stabbed her a total of 97 times, mostly around her breasts and pubic area. As a last insult, he inserted a piece of grapevine into her vagina and that is how he left her. 

One of Stefania’s friends told police that Stefania had mentioned a weird man who made her feel scared. Another friend said that a strange man followed and harassed them a couple of days prior to Stefania’s murder, during a driving lesson.

The news of the killings shook the city of Florence and its surrounding villages. In the idyllic bliss of early autumn-Tuscany, a monstrous murder seemed completely out of place. Witnesses came forward, saying that they had parked in the same lover’s lane as Pasquale and Stefania on previous weekends and were stalked by voyeurs who creeped them out. Police questioned all the known peeping toms, but did not come any closer to solving the case.  

The murders of Pasquale and Stefania were seen as a stand-alone, once-off incident, the work of a madman. The case remained unsolved for many years. The people of Florence put it behind them, but the scar remained… Who could have shattered the peace in the city of art and culture?

Almost seven years after the brutal murders, on Saturday night, the 6th of June 1981, engaged couple, 30-year-old Giovanni Foggi and 21-year-old Carmela De Nuccio drove on a winding country road near Scandicci, up a hill, through an olive grove where they found an isolated spot. Giovanni worked for the local electricity provider and Carmella was employed at the fashion label Gucci.

The following morning, an off-duty police officer out for an early morning walk discovered a grisly scene, the two lovers had been shot. Giovanni was found dead behind the steering wheel, with his head leaning against the window. Carmela’s naked body was found outside the car, stabbed and mutilated. Her pubic area was completely removed by someone who used a notched blade, like that of a Scuba knife. The killer must have taken her vagina with him, as it was nowhere to be found.

Carmella’s purse was not far from her body, upturned and it looked like someone had rummaged through it. 

Before the news of the murders became public knowledge, 30-year-old paramedic and known voyeur, Enzo Spalletti went around town speaking about it. He told his wife and other bar patrons that he had seen ‘two murdered people’.

Police arrested him, not so much because they thought that he was the killer, but rather because they believed that he had seen something. Spalletti professed his innocence, but police were not about to take any chances. Especially not with the media making a connection with the 1974 murder case of Pasquale Gentilcore and Stefania Pettini.

They kept Spalletti locked up for three months, until it became obvious that he was not the killer. While he was in prison, his wife received an anonymous phone call, saying that Spalletti would be released soon and he was in prison for nothing else than being an ‘idiot’. According to the caller, Spalletti had read about the murders in the press before it was published. He only had himself and his big mouth to blame for being arrested. 

The investigation into the murders carried on while Spalletti was in custody. Both victims were shot with a .22 calibre pistol. Forensic technicians recovered shell casings at the scene and ballistics confirmed that the firearm used was a 22. Calibre Beretta long rifle handgun. The exact same gun that was used in the 1974 murders of Pasquale and Stefania. 

Then the killer struck again…

Four months after the previous murders, on the 23rd of October 1981, 26-year-old Stefano Baldi and his 24-year old fiancée, Susanna Cambi were shot and stabbed in a park in Calenzano. Susanna’s pubic area was cut out and removed – exactly like the killer did with Carmela De Nuccio.

Stefano and Susanna did not regularly go to the spot where they were found, instead it looked like it was a spur of the moment decision, to pull over for a stolen moment of passion. Unlike the 1974 and June 1981 killings, both victims’ bodies were found outside of the car. 

This murder was somewhat different to the others. It was committed on a Thursday night, not a weekend night. However, it was on the eve of a national labour strike. This supported police theory that the killer was a working man. The crime was committed in autumn, whereas most of the murders occurred in summer. All the other murders were committed during new moon, whereas this time, there was a waning moon. Police thought that  the murders were committed out of the killer’s usual pattern, because at the time, Spalletti was in prison and the killer wanted to send a message, taunting police that they had the wrong person.

After the murders, Spalletti was released from prison and all charges were dropped. At a press conference, police made a statement that no law enforcement agency likes to admit. They were dealing with a certain type of killer, which was not a common phenomenon in Italy at all… Police said:

“You are facing a real serial killer, not a voyeur.”

Mario Spezi, a journalist who had covered the case from the 1981 murders of Carmela De Nuccio and Giovanni Foggi, was the first to use the name ‘The Monster of Florence’ in reference to the serial killer.

At the crime scene in Calenzano, crime scene technicians found one very clear footprint that was not made by either of the victims or any of the first responders. It was made by a men’s  size 44 – a rather large size, indicating that the perpetrator could be tall. 

In the days leading up to her murder, Susanna Cambi told her mother someone was pestering her and even chased her in a car. The morning after the killing, an anonymous man called Susanna’s mother, saying that he wanted to ‘talk to her about her daughter’. Susanna was strikingly beautiful and did receive a lot of attention from men, but she would never see anyone behind Stefano’s back. Was her killer a man whom she rebuffed and angered in the process?

Police questioned everyone in Stefano and Susanna’s life: family, friends, acquaintances but could not find anything that led them to a possible suspect. 

Paolo Mainardi, a 22-year old mechanic and 20-year old dressmaker Antonella Migliorni were engaged to be married. People referred to the couple as ‘Vinavil (a brand of superglue), because they were always seen together. Like many young couples, they used to drive out of town to have sex in their car, but after the killings Antonella was reluctant. The stories of the killer scared her and Paolo agreed that it was better to be safe than sorry. 

However, on the 19th of June 1982 after a night out, the couple took a drive into the country and wanted to be intimate. They decided to pull off a well trafficked country road in Montespertoli in the hope to avoid the crazed serial killer. Sadly, it was not enough of a precaution. It was the new moon and the killer was lurking in the shadows. Both Paolo and Antonella were shot inside the car. But unlike the other murders, Antonella’s body was not mutilated. Also, Paolo survived the shooting and was still alive when an ambulance arrived. 

Looking at the scene, it was obvious that Paolo tried to get away from their assailant, but had reversed his car into a ditch and got stuck. The killer shot the headlights out, so as to not catch the attention of any passers-by. Many witnesses spotted Paolo’s car with its interior light on and police concluded that the killer abandoned the scene, because the road was too busy and he feared he would be recognised. Another driver came upon the scene only minutes later, but did not see the killer.

Paolo was rushed to hospital where he passed away some hours later. The prosecutor saw an opportunity and arranged a false leak with the media. They would report that Paolo revealed some details before his death. Hopefully that would cause the killer to panic and perhaps make a mistake. Shortly after Paolo’s funeral, the paramedic who tended to him at the scene received a phone call in the middle of the night, asking him what Paolo had said. The paramedic was confused and asked who the person was. The answer came: 

“I’m the Monster of Florence.”

The same caller tracked the paramedic down when he was out of town on vacation. Police were unable to determine how he knew the paramedic’s whereabouts. Investigators began to wonder if the Monster worked for emergency services, so he would know the identity of the paramedic who had tended to Paolo on the night of the shooting. If the Monster worked for emergency services, he would also know his colleague was on leave and where he had gone. 

The prosecutor’s plan had worked: the Monster was rattled. But police were not able to trace the phone calls and all they could do was to wait for him to strike again. The false leak sparked an anonymous letter, signed by "Cittadino Amico” (or “Concerned Citizen”), to police regarding the 1968 murder of Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco, saying the same gun was used. 

Police ran ballistic tests and confirmed that they were, in fact, dealing with the same killer. The gun had a defective firing pin that left a distinctive mark on the bullets. There was no doubt that the bullets had been fired by the same gun. A ballistics check proved that the same gun, a Beretta 22 calibre long rifle, had been used with the same Winchester bullets having the letter ‘H’ embossed on the shell back. All bullets came from the same two boxes. Police knew if they found the gun, they would find the killer. But that was easier said than done.

The Monster bided his time before committing another murder. On the 9th of September 1983, more than a year after the murders of Paolo Mainardi and Antonella Mogliorini, the bodies two young students were found in a Volkswagen Samba Bus in Galluzzo. 

German students Horst Meyer and Uwe Rüsch travelled to Italy to celebrate a scholarship Horst had won. They were both students at the University of Osnabrück and studied fine arts. They were shot through the window, but no ritual was performed. Outside the van was a magazine that was torn up with its pages strewn on the grass, as if someone tore it up in anger. It was gay pornography. Police theorised that the killer had mistaken the slightly built Horst, who had shoulder-length blonde and curly hair, for a woman. When he saw the magazine and realised his victims were both male, he lashed out by tearing up the magazine. 

Another clue as to the Monster’s identity surfaced. The VW minivan was higher than the vehicles in previous murders and judging from the distance of the firearm to the victims, and the trajectory of the bullet, crime scene technicians were able to determine that the shooter was about 5ft10 or 1.8 metres tall. 

Young people became increasingly more cautious as panic swept across the city of Florence. Bars and Clubs had posters urging young couples to take care and not to go to isolated spots outside of the city. They used the slogan: “Occhio Ragazzi” (Watch out, guys!) – urging young people not to visit secluded spots in the countryside surrounding Florence.

A special task force was established, Squadra Anti-Mostro, made up of police and 

Carabinieri, which is Italy’s military police force. Police appealed to the public for help in identifying the Monster. A reward equal to almost 300,000 US Dollars was offered, for any information leading to the capture of The Monster. Police were inundated by phone calls and letters, wives suspecting their husbands, neighbours pointing the finger at each other, even priests were suspected by some anonymous callers… Every other tall male seemed to be a suspect in the eyes of the public. 

For almost two years, no murders were committed. But police and Carabinieri were holding their breaths, as this was the usual lull between killings. And they were right… His recent killings did not quite go according to plan. His objective was to mutilate the female body, and was unable to do so in the case of Antonella Migliorini and the German students. The killer took his time to make sure the next murder would fit his pattern yet again.

On the 29th of July 1984, Claudio Stefanacci, a 21-year-old law student and Pia Rontini, an 18-year-old barmaid and cheerleader were shot and stabbed in Claudio’s Fiat Panda, parked in a woodland area near Vicchio, around 9:45pm. The killer dragged Pia’s body a short distance away, removed her pubic area with the same notched blade as he’d used before. But this time he took things a step further. He also removed her left breast. Injuries on her torso indicated that he did not slice the breast off, instead he had ripped it off with severe force. 

Technicians were able to lift a palm print off Claudio’s car, as if though the killer steadied himself while shooting his victims. The print was made by his left-hand, helping investigators conclude that he shot with his right hand. Knee marks on the car confirmed the previous conclusion that he was 5ft10.

Eyewitnesses told police that there was a strange man who seemed to follow the couple when they left an ice cream parlour on the day of the murders. A friend of Pia’s remembered Pia telling her about an ‘unpleasant’ man who bothered at the bar where she worked.

Police were looking for a tall right-handed man with a size 44 shoe. If he stuck to his pattern, it would be some time before he struck again. But where and when… That was the million dollar question.

In September 1985, French couple Jean Michel Kraveichvili, a 25-year-old musician and Nadine Mauriot, a 36-year-old businesswoman, visited Italy in a campervan. On the evening of the 7th of September, the couple set up camp for the night in a wooded area near San Casciano. 

Evidence showed that the attacker slashed the tent with his knife first, probably hoping they would get out of the tent to investigate – which they did. He first shot Nadine in the face, killing her instantly. Jean Michel only received a shot in the wrist and made a run for the woods. He was an amateur sprinter and had a good chance of making an escape. However, the assailant caught up with him, shot him again and then slashed his throat. The cut was so deep, Jean Michel was almost decapitated.

Like the other female victims, Nadine’s pubic area was mutilated. He also took off her left breast, as in the case of Pia Rontini. The French couple’s bodies remained undiscovered and no missing person’s report was made, because they were tourists and their families did not realise they had met with foul play. 

Frustrated that the bodies weren’t being discovered, the killer sent a taunting note along with Nadine’s nipple to state prosecutor Silvia Della Monica. He said that there was another murder and he challenged law enforcement to find the corpses. Della Monica was the only female officer in the investigation and it was clear that the killer knew exactly who to send it to. This incident rattled her to such an extent, that she retired from law enforcement soon after.

The letter was composed using cut-out letters from a magazine. The address contained a spelling error, the commonly used Italian word ‘Repubblica’ was written with only one ‘B’.

This gave another insight into the killer – he was perhaps uneducated, or finished school early. Perhaps Italian was not his first language.

Only a few hours before the letter arrived at the prosecutor’s office, a mushroom picker upon the heinous scene in the woods came and notified police.

After the murders of Jean Michel and Nadine, the killings stopped. No similar murders were ever committed in the Florence region in the following years or ever since.

Investigators looked at the characteristics all of the crime scenes to look for anything that matched up. Unfortunately, most crime scenes were not kept clear and there was a lot of contamination. Villagers came to the crime scenes with flowers for the victims and investigators did not wear shoe covers, hairnets or overalls – things that would be standard practice today. 

However, they were able to draw up a list of similarities between all the crime scenes. The killer usually dragged the female bodies a distance away from the vehicle, which showed he worked alone. No one helped to carry the victims. Also, placing the female a distance away could have been an attempt to show the killer possession of her – she was HIS, and not left to be found in the arms of her deceased lover. The couples were usually killed while they were making love and most of the murders occurred on moonless summer or early autumn nights.

Expert criminologist Francesco de Fazio compiled a profile of the Monster. He was a solitary male who killed alone. He was most likely a bachelor with no significant relationships in his life and he did not have a stable job. He was about 40 years old (in 1985). He was likely impotent because, even though the crimes were sexual in nature, he never committed sexual acts. He was a lust killer who was aroused by his murderous actions. The way in which the pubic areas were removed, showed that the perpetrator had knowledge about incision: a gynaecologist, a surgeon, a butcher perhaps.

Police went back to the drawing boards and revisited the 1968 case of Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco. The more they looked into the case, the more convinced they became that Barbara’s husband, Stefano Mele was innocent. After confessing to the murder, he changed his story and blamed his wife’s Sardinian relatives for the murders. But there was no proof and he was left in prison to serve his sentence. 

Police took a second look at Barbara’s Sardinian connections and the name of two brothers kept coming up: Francesco and Salvatore Vinci had both – and one point or another – been romantically involved with Barbara. 

On the very same day the false information about a death bed testimony by Paulo Mainardi was leaked in the media in June of 1982, an abandoned car was found, hidden beneath some branches in a wooded area. The car belonged to Francesco Vinci. He was arrested in late 1983, because police felt he had committed a crime and hidden the car to evade suspicion. Stefano Mele’s brother-in-law, Giovanni Mele as well as Piero Mucciarini were arrested along with Vinci. They were all held in captivity for a year, even after the 1983 killings of the German art students in Galuzzo.

The 1984 murders of Claudio Stefanacci and Pia Rontini prompted their eventual release.

Examining Magistrate, Mario Rotella, suspected that Francesco’s brother, Salvatore Vinci could have been the possible killer. He was involved with Barbara in the past and even lodged in the home she shared with her family. Of the two Vinci brothers, Barbara was closer to Salvatore and he would have had more of a motive to kill her in a jealous rage than his brother Francesco would have. Also, in one of little Natalino’s initial statements to police, he mentioned that he had seen ‘Uncle Salvatore’ near the car the night his mother was murdered. 

Police dug up Salvatore’s background in Sardinia. His first wife had died in mysterious circumstances and Rotella collected enough evidence to charge him for the murder of his wife. 

It was revealed that, before Salvatore married Barbarina, she was dating someone else. Salvatore did not like the young man and raped Barbarina. When she found out that she was pregnant as a result of the rape, he married her. She had a son whom she called Antonio, after the other young man she dated before she married Salvatore.

When their son was only two years old, Barbarina was found dead at her home. Police ruled that she had ended her own life, because of an overpowering smell of gas in the apartment. However, there was bruising around her neck and scratches on her face. Her son was not in the room when she was found, so someone must have removed him and left Barbarina for dead.

In December 1989, Salvatore Vinci was found not guilty of the death of his first wife. Along with his acquittal, the ‘Sardinian Trail’ of the investigation in the Monster of Florence case was squashed. All Sardinian suspects were cleared in 1989 and Rotella was asked to resign.

In the early 1990s, computer analysis was a new investigative tool that helped police to collect data more accurately in a central system. They entered lists of names from prisons of men who had been convicted of sex crimes. Working through the list and excluding felons who had left the area or passed away, one name moved higher and higher up the list. This man had been pointed out by an anonymous tipster; his name was Pietro Pacciani. He had been convicted of domestic abuse and rape of his two daughters in the past. He was serving a prison sentence between 1974 and 1981. The time in which The Monster did not commit any murders.

He also had a sordid past. In 1951, he was found guilty of the murder of a man who had slept with his girlfriend. The man was a travelling sewing machine salesman and Pacciani saw the two of them walking off into the woods. He followed them and waited until they were in the act of making love before he pounced. In a fit of rage he bashed the man over the head with a rock, which killed him. Pacciani continued stabbing him, making sure he did not survive. Altogether, he stabbed him 19 times. He then raped his girlfriend next to the dead man’s body. When they were done, he took the man’s wallet and left.

Pacciani was arrested shortly after the murder, after his girlfriend told police what had happened. He served 13 years in prison. Pacciani admitted that seeing his girlfriend’s naked body with another man made him snap. He remembered seeing her left breast against the man’s chest. Could this have been why he cut off Pia’s and Nadine’s breasts? He fitted the profile of the Monster. He was a peasant farmer, but he was cunning and manipulative. He had extreme physical strength.

In town, he was known as ‘The Fire’, because in his younger years, he worked as a fire-eater at the carnival. He was not well liked in the community, because of his bad temperament - the slightest provocation would cause a violent outburst. He was also a peeping tom, a compulsive liar and swindler. 

His daughters accused him of domestic abuse and rape. When the case went to court, the daughters testified that Pacciani was not only violent, but also cruel. To save money, he fed them and their mother nothing but dog food.

In contrast to his brutish nature, Pacciani, although uneducated, had an affinity for art and poetry: he taught himself to paint and was somewhat of an amateur poet. This almost split-personality made police believe that he was capable of carefully planning his murders with a large amount of self-control before performing rituals in the most violent manner. He approached the mutilation like a work of art.

The only physical evidence against Pacciani was an unfired .22 calibre bullet found in his garden. It was discovered after an 11 day search of the property. The bullet was the same brand the Monster of Florence used, but as it had not been fired, they could not tell if it was ever in the Monster’s Beretta. Police also found an artist’s drawing pad that probably belonged to Horst Meyer or Uwe Rüsch, because that the particular pad could not be purchased anywhere in Italy. It was in fact purchased in Osnabrück, Germany, where the students came from. 

Pacciani lived in the vicinity of the murders and his motor vehicle fitted the description of multiple eyewitnesses who reported seeing such a car near the crime scenes around the times of the murders.

Pietro Pacciani’s trail started on the 19th of January 1993. He pleaded NOT guilty and claimed that the bullet was placed in his garden by police in an attempt to frame him. Despite sending him to prison for abuse before, his wife and daughters testified that they did not believe Pacciani was The Monster. He was always drunk at home. He was overweight and had many health issues. They did not think it would have been possible for him to have committed such physically demanding murders.

The trial was televised and the whole country watched as the case unfolded. Some crime scene photos were shown publicly for the first time. It was so gruesome, that a police officer fainted in court when he saw the brutality of the murders.

A contentious part of the case was that of the French tourists and the uncertainty about the time of their deaths. It was ruled they were killed on the Sunday night. But because of their stomach contents, a rabbit pasta they had at a restaurant on the Saturday night, it was more likely that the killing occurred that night. However, Pacciani had a solid alibi for the Saturday – he was at a country fair and many witnesses saw him there all night. 

In November 1994 Pietro Pacciani was convicted of killing 7 of the 8 couples. He pleaded for mercy, calling himself ‘a sweet little lamb’ saying that he was there like ‘Christ on the cross’. 

Two years later, however, his conviction was overturned and a new trial ordered. He was acquitted because the judge said the physical evidence against him was not strong enough – the items found at his home could not conclusively have ended up there because Pacciani  had placed it there – the implication was that evidence could have been planted. Profilers and psychologists felt very strongly about the fact that the Monster of Florence was impotent, yet Pacciani had a strong and dangerous sex-drive – he had fathered two daughters, was known to have affairs and frequented sex workers. 

His first crime in 1951, although similar to the Monster’s crimes, was a crime of passion, followed by sex. The Monster’s crimes did not include sex and it was more planned out.

None of the crime scenes showed any signs of robbery, wallets with money inside were always found untouched, whereas Pacciani was known to never miss an opportunity to cheat anyone out of money. He was 60 years old in 1985, overweight and had a heart condition. It would not have been likely for him to have caught up with the athletic 25-year-old Jean Michel Kraveichvili when he ran away. Pacciani was shorter than what investigators estimated the Monster to be, standing 5ft2 and not 5ft10 as forensic evidence concluded at more than one crime scene.

Pacciani would never have his day in court. He died days before the second trial could begin, on February 22nd 1998. After his release in 1996, he lived in isolation, bolting all doors and windows shut. He was found dead with his pants down and a sweater around his neck. His death was caused by his own heart medication. It was investigated as a crime, but no foul play could be proven. In case of a heart attack, patients often take a larger dose of medication. Pacciani could possibly have ended his own life in a desperate attempt to prevent a heart attack from happening.

Police were still convinced that Pacciani was involved in the Monster murders somehow. They changed their theory and stated that the murders were committed by a group, led by Pacciani. His alleged accomplices, Mario Vanni (a friend of Pacciani’s who worked as a postman) and vagrant Giancarlo Lotti were also charged as accomplices. At Pacciani’s first trial, Mario Vanni testified and he said that they were not close friends, but rather ‘picnic companions. The name stuck and the group of alleged killers became known as Compagni di merenda.

Giancarlo Lotti claimed that he was only a witness and that he saw Pietro Pacciani and Mario Vanni committing the 1985 murders of Jean Michel Kraveichvili and Nadine Mauriot. As time went on, Lotti incriminated himself in the murders as well. He confessed to being the one who pulled the trigger in the case of the German art students. Along with Mario Vanni, Giancarlo Lotti was sentenced to life in prison. His testimony did not fit any of the evidence, yet he was found guilty, based solely on his confession.

At the time of the murders, Lotti was an out-of-work alcoholic vagrant. The archetypical village idiot that was teased and bullied by everyone. Some think that he confessed to the murders, hoping to gain notoriety. And as strange as it sounds, going to prison would in fact have improved his living conditions. As a witness, he was kept at an undisclosed location and received police protection. He was given lodging and food and he saw it as an opportunity could escape the pressures of the outside world.

Vanni was sentenced to life in prison in 2000 but was released in 2004 on medical grounds. Lotti received a 30 year sentence but was also released for medical reasons in 2002.

Many people think that police were mistaken about the Picnic Companions and considered the case to be unsolved. The issue of the gun could never be adequately addressed. None of the so-called companions were known to ever own or handle firearms. The shootings were performed with callous precision, by someone who knew what they were doing – he never missed a target.

With many unanswered questions, there is an abundance of theories as to the real identity of The Monster of Florence. Join us next week for Part two of this intriguing case. Perhaps police had the killer in their sites all along…

Thank you for listening to Part 1 of The Monster of Florence. Part two will drop next week, same time, same place.

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