You are listening to: The Evidence Locker.
Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones.
France Vu-Dinh, a beautiful young Vietnamese woman, who worked as an English teacher in Annecy, France, failed to meet her fiancé for dinner. He knew France wouldn’t stand him up and went looking for her. When he couldn’t find her anywhere, he reported her missing.
The fiancé told police that France had told him about an incident in the days leading up to her disappearance. She was outside her home, gardening when she noticed a man watching her from a distance away. He was wearing military fatigues, and his presence creeped her out – enough for her to go back inside.
Police went to France’s home and work, but could not find any trace of her. She had vanished into thin air.
The following day, 27-year-old doctor Michel Astoul was also reported missing. As in France’s case, the police could not find any clues as to what could have happened to the doctor. Investigators tried to find a link between the two missing people – were they perhaps romantically involved and had run away together? This theory was squashed as quickly as it was formed – other than living in the same region, nothing else linked the missing persons.
Police found the statement of a taxi driver who said that on the night of the 27th of April he pulled off the road to rest. A man approached him, insisting he handed over the keys. A struggle ensued, but he managed to escape his attacker. According to the taxi driver, the man had a woman with him, fitting France’s description.
When the driver and police returned to the scene, the assailant and his companion were no longer there. An hour later, Doctor Michel Astoul was taken from his home in Sisteron. Police believed that the same person who had kidnapped France Vu-Dinh also took the doctor.
It would be six months before they found the body of Michel Astoul. He was discovered in an abandoned barn at the end of October 1987 in Epersy, Savoie – about three hours’ drive south from his home. His body was in an advanced stage of decomposition, but the pathologist was able to ascertain his cause of death: a gunshot wound to the head. Doctor Astoul had been shot in the face, at close range. The gunman was about 1.7m tall, judging by the trajectory of the bullet. There was no sign of France Vu-Dinh.
A month before the kidnappings, a police officer was shot and killed outside his home. His car was still running, and his service pistol had been taken. The bullet that killed Michel Astoul was fired by this gun.
Who was the crazed criminal, who seemed only to strike when there was a full moon in the sky? The press dubbed him ‘l’assassin de la Pleine Lune’, The Full Moon Killer.
Roberto Succo was born in Venice, Italy on the 3rd of April 1962. He was the only child of Nazario Succo, a police officer and Marisa Lamon, a homemaker. The family of three lived in Mestre, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Venice, only a short drive inland.
For high school, Roberto Succo attended 'Liceo Scientifico Morin di Mestre' (a secondary school that concentrates on science, languages, history and art).
He did not have many friends at school and never really excelled academically. He got by, though, and never failed anything either. He was good looking and introverted and preferred to keep to himself. While all his peers were going out and looking for teenage romance, Roberto did not show much interest in girls.
Some people who went to school with him found his silent, solitary demeanour rather scary, unpredictable even. For instance, he would shout at passengers on a bus if they wouldn't offer him their seats. He also had a strange hobby. Because he loved science and dissected small animals like mice or lizards after putting them to sleep using chloroform. He referred to this as 'research', so he could understand the human body better. He always performed the dissections in his bedroom, and no one was allowed inside.
That was about the only space he had at home. His mother was very controlling of him, she expected him to excel at school and wanted him to be the best in his class. She felt that his slightly above-average results were due to him not working hard enough. He used to joke with her, saying that one day, he was going to be famous – she would see him on front pages of newspapers.
A teacher recalled that Roberto arrived at school one morning with scratch marks on his face. The teen told his classmates that he had fallen off his scooter, but he admitted later that he had had an argument with his mother and that she struck him and scratched him with her nails.
To avoid going home, Roberto did any sport he could: soccer, gymnastics, athletics. He was a good sportsman and felt that if he could achieve in sports, perhaps his mother would be satisfied. But nothing he did was ever good enough.
On Sunday night the 12th of April 1981, shortly after his 19th birthday, Roberto got into another argument with his mother. He asked if he could borrow his father's Alfa Romeo, and she said no. Roberto was still in high school, and Marisa was always concerned for his safety. He was a reckless driver who loved speeding. Whenever he took the car, she couldn't sleep until she knew he had made it home. On that night, she wasn't up for another sleepless night and firmly stood by her decision.
Roberto lost it and – in a fit of rage – grabbed a kitchen knife and went for his own chest, threatening suicide. His 41-year-old mother intervened and tried to take the knife off him. That is when the muscular teen turned on her and proceeded to stab her death. All up, he stabbed her 32 times: in the chest, the neck and her head.
With his mother dead, he turned off all the lights in the apartment and waited for his father to come home after a long shift at the police station. The unsuspecting Nazario arrived at 11:30, and his son took him by surprise, attacking him from behind, using a hatchet. As 53-year-old Nazario fought for his life, Roberto placed a nylon bag over his head and suffocated him.
When he was sure his father was no longer alive, he dragged both his parents' bodies into the bathroom and placed them in the bathtub. He covered them with water and lime, hoping it would delay the decomposition process, giving him time to flee before they were discovered. He stayed for the night, trying to clean up, but he did not do a very thorough job. All the while, the bodies of his parents were decaying in the bathroom.
The next day he took Nazario's service pistol and drove off with the family car. He set off, driving towards Brescia where Nazario's brother lived. He thought he'd go there and tell him everything. But when he arrived at his uncle's home, he lost the nerve. They had a quick lunch together, and Roberto didn't say anything about his parents. He did not seem agitated or stressed in any way, on the contrary, his uncle felt that he was very relaxed.
When Roberto left Brescia, he went back to Mestre and drove around town, aimlessly, detached from what he had done. He returned home where his parents' bodies still laid in the bathtub, undiscovered. After spending some time at the apartment, Roberto left again, driving in circles. Eventually, he left town and headed east, in the direction of what-was-then Yugoslavia.
Back in Mestre, neighbours noticed that Marisa had not opened the shutters on the balcony on Monday morning. She was usually the first to be outside, watering her flowers. But not on that day. Perhaps the family had gone away for the weekend, nobody was overly concerned.
At the police station in central Venice, police officers were confused when Nazorio Succo did not show up to work. It was unlike him to stay away, but they left it at that, thinking that if he skipped out on work, there must have been a very good reason. Two of his work friends went to his apartment, but nobody was home. They left a note and returned to work.
When Nazario didn't show up to work the following day either, they suspected that something wasn't quite right. The same two officers went back to the Succo home. Again, no one seemed to be there. They looked in the garage and discovered that Nazario's blue Alfa Romeo was gone. They decided to enter the house to make sure everything was OK.
With the help of the fire department, they used a ladder to access a balcony on to the first-floor apartment and went in through the French doors.
At first glance, everything inside looked undisturbed, it didn’t look like they had been burgled. The home was quiet, eerily quiet. Then officers entered the bathroom, blood was everywhere. They discovered the lifeless bodies of their colleague and his wife, piled on top of each other in the bathtub.
In the kitchen was the bloodied knife that was used to stab Maria. As a crime scene, it was easy to tell that the murders had not been planned. Investigators quickly surmised that the attack occurred in a fit of anger. Which made them ask the obvious question: where was the third member of the family? There was no sign of Roberto. They found his blood-stained clothes as well as bloody footprints on the carpet. The officers knew that he was the most probable the perpetrator.
They contacted the extended family, to ask if Roberto had been in touch. His uncle told police about his visit but wondered if Roberto was unaware of the fact that his parents had been murdered, seeing as he did not show any signs of shock or trauma. Police had to inform the family that Roberto was their prime suspect and that they had to find him before he hurt anyone else.
Family and friends struggled to believe that Roberto could have killed his parents. Mostly, because of how Marisa always spoke about him, how lazy and incompetent he was, they didn’t believe that he was capable of it.
Two days after the murders, police caught up with Roberto Succo. He was making his way out of a pizzeria in San Pietro Natisone, near the Yugoslav border. Police had received a tip from a member of the public who had recognised Nazario’s Alfa Romeo parked on the main stretch. Although it had stolen number plates, the witness thought something was fishy about the young man and the car. Succo tried to resist arrest, by pointing his dad’s service firearm at the arresting officers, but they were able to take it off him and diffuse the situation.
He denied killing his parents and started speaking incoherently, saying he was a secret agent. During his police transport back to Mestre, his behaviour was bizarre. After denying killing his parents, he spaced out, like he was hallucinating. He seemed to be in a confused state, kept mumbling that he was innocent, then he fell into silence.
Once in Venice, when he was taken from the police station to a court-appointed psychologist, he launched a sudden ferocious attack on the officer sitting next to him in the back seat of the police car. Fortunately, the officer managed to restrain him before he had caused too much damage.
Investigators took Succo back to the crime scene, his family home, and it was like he came alive once he started talking. He did not deny it anymore: Roberto Succo admitted that he was the one who had killed his mother and his father.
When he was asked why he said that his mother did not love him and he always felt excluded from the family unit. She was controlling, over-protective and made him feel worthless. He was trapped and yearned for freedom. Succo said that living with his mother was unbearable, and when she died, his problems were over. His father was more distant, but Succo respected him. According to Succo, Nazario only had one flaw: he always blamed him for driving too fast when he borrowed his car. The only way out of this perceived intolerable situation was to kill his parents.
His psychological report concluded that Succo was a paranoid schizophrenic. It explained that Succo did not remember the day of the murders at all. Yet he remembered the days before and after in meticulous detail. The court found that, due to his mental illness, he could not be sent to prison, but instead, he was sentenced to ten years in a psychiatric facility in Reggio Emilia.
Succo was a troublesome inmate at first. When he arrived at the facility, he claimed that he suffered from claustrophobia and struggled to adapt to living in a confined space. He became depressed at first, but then, with the guidance of his psychologists, decided to change his attitude. During this time, he finished his high school exams and only just managed to pass. Undeterred, he announced that he wanted to further his studies. He enrolled to study a degree in Geology at the University of Parma.
Succo corresponded with a priest from his cell, Father Domenico Franco. He wrote many letters, revealing his innermost, often violent thoughts. Succo admitted that he was a person without feelings, unsure of his psychological condition, and he felt like he was living a nightmare. He confessed that he was used to suppressing his feelings, he had done so all through his schooling career. There were so many times he wished he could have killed his classmates, but he never acted on it.
After spending five years at the facility in Reggio Emilia, Succo decided it was time to get out. He killed his parents so he could be free, but it ended up in him having even less freedom. He spent good hours talking to a chaplain and for the most part, was a model prisoner. But he was not necessarily hoping to better himself; instead, he was hatching a plan.
Because he was studying, he was given special liberty by the warden to attend extension classes outside of prison. This is something his psychologists did not agree with, but seeing as Succo was such a good prisoner, the warden decided to grant the exception. Guardians accompanied Succo to college and return him to the psychiatric facility each afternoon. He wrote to Father Franco that he could easily overpower five guardians at once, he fantasised about suffocating them. The only reason he didn’t do it was because he wanted to be free. If he hurt them, he would have been incarcerated for longer. He had to find a way to control his violent urges.
He managed to keep himself under control, in fact, he did such an excellent job of it, after a year, he was permitted to attend classes without guardian supervision. Succo made the most of his freedom privilege and, on the 15th of May 1986, he took the opportunity to make his escape.
He left the psychiatric facility in the morning and instead of going to class, he took a detour to the closest train station where he boarded a train to Genoa. From there, he disappeared into oblivion. Police followed the train route, but there was no sign of 24-year-old Roberto Succo.
What they didn’t know, was that, from Genoa, he had made his way to France, travelling by train and using false identity documents. In the weeks leading up to his escape, he had to renew his ID card in Italy, he made a slight tweak to his name, saying he was Roberto Zucco, with a ‘Z’ instead of an ‘S’. That was enough to help him slip through the cracks for a while.
He took odd jobs for cash but soon realised it was easier to get money in other ways. In the years that followed, he turned to a life of crime. It started off with theft and burglary but soon became more violent. Succo left a trail of destruction, committing robbery, rape and even murder.
On the 1st of December, he raped a woman at gunpoint. Despite wearing a stocking over his head, the victim was able to give enough of a description to the police so they could draw a composite sketch. She memorised details, like the fact that he was a muscular man, with intense grey eyes. Her father, a psychologist, told police that their home had been burgled a week before. Nothing was stolen, only a pocket Dictaphone he used to record sessions with patients. Police released the sketch of the rapist, but no leads came in.
At 6am on the morning of the 2nd of April 1987, police sergeant André Castillo left his home in Tresserve, Savoie to go to work. Hours later, he was discovered on the other side of Lake Annecy, in Veyrier-du-Lac. His body was lying in a pool of blood, next to his car, the ignition still running. It appeared to have been an accident of sorts, then responding officers found shell casings, carelessly left at the scene by the killer. Their colleague had been shot in cold blood. His service firearm, a 9mm revolver, was missing from the scene.
Investigators canvassed the area and spoke to everyone along the road where Castillo was killed. Some witnessed said that they saw a strange man casing out the neighbourhood in the days preceding the murder, but no one could provide a solid description, only that he was wearing military fatigues.
In the days following sergeant Castillo’s murder, four homes were robbed in the surrounding area. Less than a week later, a stolen car with stolen goods from these homes in the trunk was found in Aix-en-Provence.
Three weeks later, France Vu-Dinh was hijacked in her own car and kidnapped. A taxi driver was assaulted on the same night, an hour before doctor Michel Astoul disappeared.
In October, the wife of a furniture shop owner, Claudine Duchosal went to their weekend home in Menthon-Saint-Bernard to do some gardening. When she didn’t return home, her husband was concerned. Claudine was found inside the bathroom, stripped naked, raped and killed by a bullet wound to the head. She was shot with the firearm stolen from officer André Castillo.
Weeks later, the body of doctor Michel Astoul was found. He had been missing for six months. Ballistics experts confirmed that the bullet used to kill him was also fired by sergeant Castillo's gun.
Investigators' suspicions had been confirmed: the spite of crimes in the area could all be linked together. But there was nothing else to help identify the killer: no fingerprints, no footprints, no DNA evidence. It was like the killer emerged from the shadows and disappeared back into the full moon night.
From witness statements – victims who were robbed at gunpoint, hijacked or raped – police gathered the following information: the perpetrator was a European male, who spoke French with an accent. Accounts varied though… Some people said it was a German accent, others said it was Yugoslavian, Spanish or Dutch. So all they really knew was that he wasn't a French native. He always found his victims when they were alone, and he used a firearm to intimidate them.
He became a mythical creature, who only struck at night. He was fluid, unattainable. He was so elusive, the press couldn't settle on a name. Some journalists referred to him as 'The Full Moon Killer', others went with 'The Polyglot Killer'. Then there were ones that preferred to stick with a more physical description, opting to call him 'The Man in Military Fatigues'. Whatever you wanted to call him, the fact was: he was public enemy no1 – a cop killer, a kidnapper, a rapist and a burglar. Every law enforcement agency was out looking for the shape-shifting foreigner.
In January 1988, police were called to a nightclub in Toulon. Two men fought outside the club, over a woman. One of the men, a local petty criminal called Jacky Volpe, was shot in the stomach, and the bullet injured his spine. Volpe lived but never walked again. Eyewitnesses said that a man they only knew as 'André' was the one who pulled the trigger.
In talking to staff and patrons of the night club, police were able to trace 'André' to a room Hotel Premar. On February 2nd, inspectors Michel Morandin and Claude Aiazzi paid him a visit. It went horribly wrong. As soon as 'André' saw the policemen, he opened fire. Aiazzi was injured first, then Morandin, who fell down the stairs after being shot. Aiazzi saw his partner pleading for mercy as the gunman with the ice-cold eyes walked up to him, pointed the gun to his temple and fired. He ran out of the hotel and escaped before the injured Aiazzi could raise the alarm. 35-year-old Morandin did not survive the attack.
The crazed killer had taken the lives of two police officers, and French authorities were determined to catch him before he hurt anyone else.
But his erratic movements and unpredictable criminal behaviour made it close to impossible to track him down. He resurfaced four months later in Switzerland when he robbed a gas station. He took teacher, Nicole Veillet, and her 15-year-old son hostage. He released them and soon after, he kidnapped and raped two other women.
Again, he disappeared as quickly as he surfaced. Six months after these attacks, police found a stolen Alfa Romeo in Lausanne, with an army uniform in the trunk. Also, the firearm belonging to one of his first victims, Brigadier André Castillo.
At the end of January, a hijacker forced the female driver of a car to drive him from Geneva to Bern. During the ride the man was looking behind them, saying that police were looking for him. He said to the driver that he had nothing to lose and was prepared to end it all. The woman opened the door and jumped out of the moving car. Fortunately, she escaped with only minor injuries.
The hijacker brought the car to a stop and went ahead on foot, walking over train tracks at Bern station. Police surrounded the area, and he shot and injured two officers, before disappearing into the labyrinth of Bern's streets. He broke into an apartment where he hid for a while. When two women arrived home, he tied them up and raped both of them at gunpoint.
But again, he managed to get away. It was usually women who helped him, not knowing that he was a dangerous and unpredictable murderer. After each violent, brutal attack, he would find respite in the arms of a new lover. He was a handsome man with a broody intensity. He used this to his advantage, knowing if he turned on the charm, he could disarm people.
Police in Toulon left no stone unturned in the hunt for the cop-killer, only known to them as 'André'. They followed a trail of clues and found his apartment in 'Little Chicago' – at the time, a rough part of Toulon. Inside the small apartment investigators found a treasure cove of information. There was the Dictaphone, taken from one of his first victims' home. The killer had recorded his own musings, talking boastfully about his sexual conquests and robberies. He spoke in French with a recognizable Italian accent.
The press used the information about the tape, amplifying it to be 'multiple tapes' and saying that he spoke with an unpredictable metallic voice, portraying him as a cold-hearted, robotic-type of person. They also said syringes were found inside the apartment, proving that he was a drug user – but this was false information. Police made it clear that no drugs or needles were ever found in the investigation. Why would journalists be so irresponsible to publish a story like that? Perhaps it made it easier to believe that his attacks were the result of being high on drugs, rather than the callous and calculated attacks of a sober madman.
In the apartment were many false identification documents. The killer had used many aliases: Fred, André, Kurt, Pol… He slipped in and out of accents and even changed his appearance. Police knew they were dealing with one perpetrator, but trying to get an adequate description out, was near impossible. They issued a poster with four different images – all of the same man but depicting his various personas.
The media changed his nickname to 'The Killer with the Eyes of Ice' or 'The Crazed Killer'. Wanted posters and flyers, were distributed throughout the entire region. From Switzerland, all the way up to Paris. He was one of Europe’s most wanted people, with warrants out for his arrest in Italy, France and Switzerland.
The mystery of the elusive grey-eyed killer gripped the imagination of many. Putting a label on him, was tough: was he a serial killer, a psychopathic madman… Why did he kill? He could not purely be classified as a typical serial killer, due to the lack of pattern in choosing his victims and executing the murders. Sometimes he raped and stabbed, other times he shot. His victims were male, female – with nothing linking them. It was almost like he was an outlaw, someone who did as he pleased, moved around and took a lover in every town.
He didn’t have the ‘face’ of a killer, and the media didn’t want him to be a villain, he was simply too good looking. This strange paradox, of romanticising a killer, was similar to the reaction people had when it came to Ted Bundy, the so-called ‘The Bundy Effect’. They were fascinated with him, despite the heinous crimes he’d committed. Because he didn’t look like a killer, they were taken in by his charm. This was precisely the case with ‘The Killer with the Eyes of Ice’, a man whose ‘wanted’ poster had four photos of a handsome Adonis.
In February 1988, a student at Aix-les-Bains recognised the man in the photos. 16-year-old Sabrina went to the police station where she said she knew him as ‘Kurt’. They in Toulon several months before and he came to see her in Aix-le-Bains on weekends. They were in love, but she had broken things off recently.
When asked why, Sabrina said that she became suspicious of him, because every time he visited, his appearance was different. He told her that he was a secret agent and disappeared to an undisclosed location during the week where he did weapons training. One time he took her with him, to a deserted barn – the same barn where the doctor Michel Astoul’s body was found.
Sabrina also said that Kurt liked the Annecy region and often stayed there. He would break into holiday homes, once he made sure no one was there. She said they travelled together often, even going so far as Italy, where he was from. Together they travelled by train, to places like Treviso, Belluno and Milan.
On their trip had told her he came from a small town near Venice. He confessed to her that he had killed his parents. Sabrina told police in Aix-les-Bains that ‘Kurt’s’ dad was a police officer. She was also able to provide them with his birthday: the 3rd of April.
French police contacted Italian police with the information. Investigators in Aix-le-Bains attached the photos they had of the man who they knew as either André, Kurt, Fred or Pol. Italian police found a match in their system: it was none other than Roberto Succo. The man who was found guilty of killing his parents sent to a psychiatric facility and then escaped. Police finally had a concrete identity, they knew who they were dealing with, and it was time to end his ruthless reign of terror.
On the 28th of February 1988, police caught up with Succo near his hometown of Mestre. This was eight years after his first murders. He was driving a stolen vehicle, a Rover 800, that he had taken in Sirmione, en route to Mestre from Milan. He saw a police roadblock, stopped the car and tried to make his escape by running away. It took ten policemen to chase him down and confine him. Fortunately for them, he had left his firearm, a Smith and Wesson 38 special in the stolen car.
His arresting officer was one of his father’s closest colleagues, Raffaele Ruggiero. He said:
“I knew him as a child, and I arrested him as a monster.”
When he was taken down, Succo was armed with a kitchen knife. He had false identification on him, 60 thousand French francs, 400 thousand lire, some US dollars, British pounds, a cheque and a stolen ATM card. He also had a map with an escape route planned out via Sicily to North Africa. He repeatedly said that he was NOT Roberto Succo.
When the police escort arrived back in town, journalists and photographers had already gathered outside the police station. Succo swaggered as he walked, whistled, then lifted his handcuffed hands, waving as he said: “Hi guys.”
During questioning, he claimed to be Jean Louis Clua, a French citizen. But he did not keep that up for too long, before giving in and admitting that he was, in fact, Roberto Succo. During his interview, Succo was lucid and self-assured. He seemed proud of his accomplishments as a murderer. Wearing a black leather jacket and jeans with military-style boots, he said that he felt like he was Rambo. When he was asked what his job was, his chilling reply came without any emotion:
“I am a killer. I kill people.”
He confessed to all the murders, without showing any signs of remorse. Re-tracing his crimes, he recalled what he felt as he killed his mother. He said:
“I saw my mother’s face as I stabbed her. She looked like a slaughtered mouse.”
He spoke candidly about his father’s murder too:
“I didn’t want my poor dad to suffer. How can a man live with his wife murdered and his son in prison? If I had to go back, I’d do it all again – my mother was a two-headed dragon.”
In explaining the circumstances of sergeant André Castillo’s murder, Succo said that he was sleeping in his car when Castillo knocked on his window and asked for his papers. Succo got out of the car and shot the officer point-blank. He took his firearm and left.
When investigators asked him about the fate of kidnapping victim France Vu-Dinh, Succo said that he kept her hostage for weeks. She was handcuffed to a metal bed frame, and he raped her repeatedly. Then he stabbed her and threw her body into the sea. Her body has never been found.
He was not so clear as to the motive in kidnapping doctor Michel Astoul. Police were left to theorise that Michel saw France was in trouble and tried to intervene. Succo took him and killed him so he could not alert authorities.
While Succo was detained, he refused to eat or drink anything. Only one day after his arrest, he made an attempt to escape. He climbed onto the roof of the high-security Treviso State Prison, a move that lured the local press to the site. This incident became known as Succo's personal press conference. Prison guards tried to get to him, but couldn't.
He kept his childhood promise to his mother: he was on the front pages of many newspapers across Europe. But not in a way Marisa would have approved of, which made it even better in his view. He took off his shirt, exposing his chiselled torso and called a camera operator closer:
"Hey, you with the camera! Come here – I need to talk to you!"
Succo ranted and raved, throwing roof tiles at befuddled onlookers, hitting and damaging parked cars, before stripping down to his underpants. He spent one and a half hours on the roof, entertaining the growing crowd down below. He shouted at the journalists, calling them all liars and saying he was going to kill them all. Then he went on a tirade about his girlfriend who had sold him out.
"Tell Sabrina that she betrayed me! You betrayed me, you're a whore!"
Then he put his clothes back on, and in full view of cameras and bystanders, embarked on a risky stunt: he climbed onto an electric cable that went from the roof to the outside of the boundary wall, like a tightrope. Hanging on with his bare hands and feet, he made his way towards the wall. But as he neared the end, he lost his grip and plummeted about six metres to the ground. He broke three ribs and dislocated his shoulder, but it was worth the risk for Succo. He had orchestrated the event, hoping that he would be sent to a psychiatric facility again, as the conditions were better than in prison. During his rooftop rant, he said:
"If I had known, I would not have returned to Italy. I cannot stay in prison. Birds die in prison, and I am a bird."
Returning was a considerable risk, and it didn't pay off. So why take it? When asked about this, he became philosophical in his answer, saying that he didn't want to return, but that the NEED to return was too strong to resist. This implied that he had surrendered to the fact that this was his fate, like a moth to a flame, he went back home to face the music.
Magistrates from regions in France and Switzerland arrived in Italy, to ensure correct measures were taken to keep Succo behind bars. He had killed their law enforcement officers. Italian police were equally serious about detaining Succo, who had murdered in Italy too, also a police officer, his own father. And to make matters worse: he had escaped. It was an embarrassment, and they had to make it right.
Succo was an Italian citizen, but he had committed the majority of his crimes in France. On the 9th of May 1988, Italy refused to extradite Succo to France. French authorities were furious, one judge even calling the situation 'comical'.
His psychiatric evaluation, like the report in 1981, said that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and that he was a danger to society. In May 1988, he was committed to a maximum-security asylum.
Italian prison officials realised they had to keep a close eye on their newest inmate. Four officers guarded him during the day. Even during his one hour of outside time, he did not spend it with other prisoners, he was by himself, with four guards watching him. His only alone time was at night when he slept alone in his cell.
People who had met him along the way said that he was 'nice' 'sweet' 'good-looking'. They found it hard to believe that he could have committed such terrible crimes. While in prison, he received many fan-letters, mainly from young girls who gushed about his good looks, calling him the 'Italian Rambo'.
On May 22nd, prison guards looked into Succo's cell and saw that he was lying on his bed with his pillow covering his face. This wasn't unusual, as there was no other way to block out the light, that was on 24 hours a day. The next morning, he was still in the same position. On closer inspection, they realised that he had suffocated himself, using a garbage bag and a butane gas cannister. Prisoners were allowed small canisters inside their cells to make coffee. The prisoner had placed the pillow on top of his head to cover up what he was actually doing. Roberto Succo was announced dead by a prison doctor on the 23rd of May 1988.
He left a note, saying:
"When they tell you that I am dead, don't be too sad, I will be listening to the song of the birds."
There were no photos of Succo's face in his suicide report. The only pictorial evidence were four polaroid photos of his body. None of the images showed any distinguishing features. A new wave of fear and uncertainty washed over the local community: had Succo escaped again? Other rumours speculated that if he did in fact die, was he perhaps killed by authorities, to ensure he would NEVER escape?
A brief ceremony was held on the 26th of May, a memorial for Roberto Succo. A handful of family members attended, others felt they had no respects to pay.
In 1991, journalist Pascale Froment's book titled 'I kill you. The true story of Roberto Succco: Killer without reason' was published in French, which inspired a film about the young criminal's life. Cédric Kahn took a biographical approach, and law enforcement felt that the film commemorated Succo as the anti-hero. He was a ruthless killer and did not deserve a sympathetic portrayal.
Kahn felt that he gave a biographical approach and described the subject matter of the film as 'pure madness'. About Succo, he said:
"He wasn't a serial killer – that's someone who kills methodically, creating a certain mise en scène around death. With Succo, it's a matter of circumstance – it's chaos. He's a megalomaniac who sees himself as being above the world, having the power of life and death over people who get in his way. A psychiatrist could explain it, but I didn't want to get into that area."
By taking his own life, Succo took control of his own destiny. He had no remorse and no intention to reform himself. To him, his murderous career was a game – he managed to evade detection for as long as he could. There was no rhyme or reason to his crimes: why did he sexually assault some female victims, while he embarked on short passionate love affairs with others? Why did he rob some people and left it at that, while he chose to kill other victims? Perhaps he pushed the boundaries of his own conscience: he wanted to FEEL something like guilt or remorse but was incapable of it.
In his brutal game, he wanted to be the one to make the last move, to cross the final line, with one last unpredictable move: ending his own life.
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