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Danilo Restivo

Crime Files
Danilo Restivo

Danilo Restivo was born in April 1972 in Sicily, Italy. At the age of ten his family moved to the city of Potenza, where his father was a director of the national library. Local people spoke of Restivo as odd and prone to strange behaviour. Restivo’s actions would give cause for serious concerns; in 1986 he was found to have tied two children to a tree. The police did not get involved – the parents resolved the matter between themselves. It would be another 25 years before Restivo would be successfully challenged by the law. His sadistic streak developed and in 1992 he was convicted of harassing five young girls who were his neighbours – a trait which would run through his crimes. When, in 1992, 23-year-old Angela Campochiaro has a 10cm lock of hair cut from her head in a cinema in Italy, another of Restivo’s traits had manifested itself: his hair fetish. Around this time a number of women in Italy complained of being targeted in this way. The one group of people who did know Restivo had a serious problem was the military. He was medically examined at the point of joining up for his national service. Army doctors said he had strange attitudes towards sexual behaviour and he was turned down. It would seem that there was little challenge made to Restivo over his increasingly worrying behaviour. This would leave him free to unleash his own brand of depravity and horror on at least two unsuspecting victims.

The Aftermath

"I used to have nightmares and flashbacks reminding me of the events of the 12 November. My mum is no longer able to help me celebrate my successes and pull me through the disappointments. I will never get the chance again to tell her how much I love her and how much I now miss her." Caitlin Marsh, Heather Barnett’s daughter. BBC News Online, 30 June 2011Restivo has now also been linked to three unsolved murders in southern Europe.

The Trial

"This result has been a long time coming and it's an absolute relief to know that this man will now be off the streets." Retired Detective Superintendent Phil James. The Guardian, 29 June 2011It had taken nearly a decade, but in June 2011, Heather Barnett’s family finally had what they had waited for: Danilo Restivo on trial for the horrendous murder of their devoted mother.Heather Barnett had been struck several times on the head with a hammer-type object and her body mutilated.Restivo denied all knowledge of Heather’s killing and pleaded not guilty to murder. Presenting the prosecution’s case, Michael Bowes QC told the court that Restivo had planned Heather’s murder, visiting her at her flat to enquire about curtains shortly before her death. Heather had been left so concerned that Restivo had stolen a spare set of her house keys during this visit that she even wrote to his fiancée, now wife, asking if he had found them.The prosecution case called expert witnesses who explained crucial evidence regarding blood and DNA analysis, as well as presenting the findings of regular surveillance work.At the trial, the jury learnt of damning evidence from police surveillance: Restivo was seen watching women. A later search of his car uncovered a knife, a balaclava and other weapons. The officer leading the surveillance described this as a "murder bag". Making legal history, the judge allowed evidence of the 1993 disappearance of 16-year-old schoolgirl Elisa Claps in the Southern Italian town of Potenza and the subsequent discovery of her remains in March 2010. The jury heard of the numerous similarities between the murder of Elisa Claps and Heather Barnett.In his defence, Restivo claimed that a host of medical reasons resulted in his memory of key events being poor – explaining, he said, why he had refused to answer critical questions from Dorset detectives, as well as why several of his statements appeared to differ.Prosecutor, Mr Bowes said the defendant had told "lie upon lie upon lie". His final words to the jury were: "There is a reason that all the evidence points to him. It is because it is him."The jury took less than five hours to find Danilo Restivo guilty of Heather’s murder. In November 2011 a court in Italy tried Restivo for the murder of Elisa Claps. He was locked up in a British prison at the time, was found guilty in his absence and sentenced to 30 years.


1992 Angela Campochiaro, then 23, has a 10cm lock of hair cut from her head in a cinema in Italy, one of a number of women in Restivo’s home town in Italy who complain of being targeted in this way.12 September 1993 Elisa Claps, 16, goes missing after meeting Restivo at the church of the Most Holy Trinity in Potenza, Italy.March 1995 Restivo convicted in Italy of giving false information to prosecutor over an injury to his hand sustained on the day Elisa Claps disappeared. He was given a two-year sentence. As short sentences in Italy are suspended, Restivo did not spend any time behind bars.May 2002 Restivo arrives in Bournemouth to live with a woman he met on the internet. He moves into the house opposite Heather Barnett's home.12 November 2002 Heather Barnett is found murdered in her home.2002-2004 Restivo cuts the hair of 15 women and girls in the Bournemouth area.March 2004 Police put Restivo under surveillance. He is observed by police acting as a stalker. Assorted weapons and a balaclava were found in his belongings.2008 Police re-examine forensic evidence from a blood- stained towel found at the murder scene. DNA sample found and linked to Restivo, but it is still not strong enough to charge him.March 2010 Elisa Claps' body is found beneath a pile of tiles in a loft in the Most Holy Trinity church in Potenza.May 2010 Restivo charged with Heather Barnett's murder.June 2011 Restivo convicted of Heather Barnett's murder and given a life sentence.Nov 2011 A judge in Italy finds Restivo guilty of the murder of Elisa Clapps in 1993. He is given a 30 year sentence.

The Arrest

Dorset Police used various methods to construct a case against Restivo. Identified early on as a likely suspect, Restivo quickly became the sole focus of investigation. Building towards the arrest, Restivo was questioned a number of times by the police.During the early stages of investigation, Restivo gave an alibi for the day of the murder. In police interviewing he claimed that medical reasons had affected his memory of the key events. He seemed to have an answer for all the police’s questions: he bleached his shoes to get rid of dirt; when arrested in 2006 about hair found in his Bournemouth home, Restivo claimed it was planted there.Though suspicious, without proof the police could only monitor Restivo through surveillance in the hope that they would find new evidence. In 2008, a new forensic technique called Leuco Crystal Violet identified blood in his shoes despite the efforts to bleach the evidence away.In May 2011, with this now compelling forensic evidence and special permission to use evidence from the re-opened Italian investigation, the police were finally able to arrested Restvio for Heather’s murder. Claiming poor memory, attempts to cover his tracks by bleaching clothes he wore during the murder and his defence of hair being planted in his house were no answer to the police’s questioning and Restivo was charged with murder.

The Crimes

On 12 September 1993, teenager Elisa Claps went missing from her home town of Potenza, Italy. She had reluctantly agreed to go on a date that day with Restivo, because she felt sorry for the bespectacled, strange young man. They arranged to meet at the church in the centre of the city. It was the last time Elisa was seen alive.On 12 November 2002, Heather Barnett was brutally murdered and mutilated in her own home. Her body was discovered by her 11-year-old daughter Caitlin and 14-year-old son Terry when they returned home from school. Bizarrely the killer had cut Heather’s hair and placed it in her hand. In her other hand, police found hair belonging to another woman.This brutal and disturbing murder was one of the worst crimes ever witnessed in the small Dorset town of Bournemouth and police were under considerable pressure to solve the case. There were no witnesses, no motive and minimal forensic evidence. Against this police were convinced that the killer was sophisticated; planned in his approach. All hallmarks that this was not his first crime. It would take a huge police effort to catch this clever and dangerous criminal.

The Investigation

The Heather Barnett inquiry was the most extensive, complex and sustained investigation ever carried out by Dorset Police. It lasted nine and a half years and cost millions of pounds. During this time police collected over 700 statements, 6,200 exhibits and 7,300 documents.At first, the investigation into Heather’s brutal death focussed on her ex-partner, David Marsh, but routine enquiries in the local area began to reveal some suspicious behaviour of Danilo Restivo.Police had footprint evidence from the crime scene. They asked to see Restivo’s shoes: he had bleached them. Concerns were further raised when it was discovered after at an earlier visit Restivo made to Heather’s home her house keys had mysteriously disappeared.In 2004, without any solid leads to go on, the Bournemouth investigators decided to visit Restivo’s home town in Italy to find out more about the Elisa Claps case, which he was questioned about over 20 years before. It seems opportunities to stop Restivo may have been missed at the time. Italian detectives went to his house for the clothes he was wearing on the day Elisa disappeared but were told by his father to return with a warrant. This, it transpires, never happened. And assumptions were made that Elisa had left the church alive so it was never thoroughly searched.On their return, the Dorset Police made an appeal for women to come forward that had their hair cut off while travelling by bus in the Bournemouth area. Several responded to the appeal: it seems Restivo’s hair fetish had created many victims in both England and Italy.In May 2004, police watched Restivo at secluded locations observing or following women. On one occasion, he was stopped by officers who found weapons and disguises in his belongings.In 2008, scientists finally made a link between DNA material found on a green towel recovered from Heather Barnett's house and Restivo. Still it was not judged strong enough to charge him.Body found in Italy The breakthrough the UK police desperately sought came in March 2010. A worker investigating a leak discovered the mummified body of Elisa Claps in the church in Potenza were she had met Restivo. Her remains had been hidden in the loft beneath a pile of old tiles. Another piece of the puzzle had finally fallen into place. Elisa had been stabbed and, most significantly, strands of her own hair cut from her head shortly after her death had been placed in each hand and locks of hair had been placed near her body. Further tests find DNA evidence which linked Restivo to Elisa.