Monster of Florence

Crime Files
Florence Skyline

Bits of breast were sent in the post by a monster that could carve out the genitals of his victims, but wouldn’t, or couldn’t, kill a child. Two innocent men were jailed for the murders, many more arrested, and the evidence in a later trial was gruesome enough to cause one of the police to collapse. But to this day, no one knows for sure the identity of the killer, or even killers, that murdered and mutilated under the moniker, ‘The Monster of Florence’. But there was an MO. The monster hunted in a 20 mile radius of Florence. He attacked on mainly moonless nights between 10 pm and midnight and usually on a Saturday. He targeted couples in their cars who had driven away from prying eyes to engage in amorous activities. Out of sight, and distracted by the heat of the moment, they were easy prey. The male would be dispatched first with a gun and finished off with a knife. The same gun was used in each of the eight double killings and each time the killer wore rubber surgical gloves. And as the confidence of the killer increased, so did the desecration done to the bodies of his female victims. By never being caught, the Monster (or Monsters) of Florence, belongs to that niche category of serial killers, like Jack the Ripper, who are only known by their tabloid nicknames. Unlike Jack the Ripper, there is a small chance that, as the Italians call him, ‘Il Mostro’, remains alive, and waiting. As the district attorney in charge of the investigation said, “The man could be your respectable next-door neighbour, a man beyond any suspicion.” (An interesting footnote is that the ‘Monster of Florence’ killings inspired Thomas Harris to set his ‘Silence of the Lambs’ sequel, ‘Hannibal’, in Florence. And of course, this renaissance city is home to another famous writer, Dante. His definitive version of Hell created in his ‘Inferno’, is indeed quoted by Hannibal.)

The Crimes

21 August 1968 is a hot, but black, moonless night. And undercover of the darkness, a couple drive to a cemetery for a quick bit of adultery in the front seat of their car. The married 32 year-old Barbara Locci certainly doesn’t expect her cheating session with Antonio Lo Bianco, a bricklayer, to last long. Her six year old son, Natalino, is asleep in the back. The couple begin to undress. Entranced in each other, they don’t notice the approach of a gunman. He shoots eight times, killing them both. But the boy is not only left unharmed, the killer drops him off at the safety of a farmhouse.The police don’t have far to search for a suspect. Antonio is not Barbara’s first lover. Her prolific encounters earned her the nickname ‘Queen Bee’, and her much cheated on husband, Stefano Mele, confesses to the murders just two days later. His confession, however, has many flaws, not least of which is why he decided to shoot into a car he knew contained his only son. He soon retracts his confession but two years later, the courts, believing him partially insane, sentence Stefano Mele to 14 years in prison.

14 September 1974: Six years have passed since the first killings. 19-year-old Pasquale Gentilcore parks his father’s car. He’s picked a romantic spot that overlooks a river few miles north of Florence. But on such a dark, moonless night, he and his teenage lover, Stefania Pettini, haven’t come for the view. Pasquale begins to undress and they start to kiss. Then, ten bullets rip into their car. Pasquale is shot five times and is stabbed twice. Her boyfriend is dead but Stefania, who has been shot three times, is still breathing. She’s dragged from the car. At some point during her 96 stab wounds, Stefania Pettini mercifully dies. She is spared the sickening acts that follow. Her naked body is spread-eagled behind the car and a vine branch is partially inserted into her mutilated vagina. The killer then empties the contents of her handbag onto the ground and leaves.

It’s June 1981, seven years after the sickening killing of the young lovers. An off duty policeman is spending his weekend walking with his son in the Florentine countryside. He comes across a Fiat with a handbag and its contents emptied beside the driver’s door. On closer inspection, he finds 30-year-old Giovanni Foggi sitting in the driver’s seat with his throat slashed. The police investigation found that eight shots had been fired into the vehicle. And nearby, they find the spread eagled body of Giovanni’s 21-year-old lover, Carmela De Nuccio. She had been repeatedly stabbed. This time, the killer had tried to remove her vagina with an almost surgical like approach. The autopsy showed that both lovers had died from the gunshots and hadn’t endured the subsequent stabbing, slashing and slicing. Ballistic tests showed a .22 calibre weapon had been used and detectives made a match to the 1974 murder. Did Florence harbour a serial killer?

Confirmation comes that October. Stefano Baldi, 26, and his girlfriend, Susanna Cambi, 24, park in a scenic area north of Florence. They are still alive when the shooting stops. Then the stabbing starts. Later that evening, another young couple discover the bodies. For the second time, the woman’s vagina has been removed. The police alert the press to their serial killer suspicions.

The next year, in June, the killer opens fire on a couple making love in their car. Unusually, it’s the 20 year old girlfriend, Antonella Miglionni that dies first. Her 22 year old boyfriend Paolo Mainardi manages to start the car and reverse it away. But he reverses into a ditch and is trapped. The killer approaches again. He empties his pistol into the victims. With his usual routine disturbed, the killer leaves before mutilating the female.Amazingly, Paolo was still alive when the scene was discovered. When he did die a few hours later, the authorities ask the press to state that Paolo had given a description of the killer before dying, in the hope of forcing him into the open. One of the medics who accompanied Paolo to hospital receives two telephone calls asking for details of the description. In the second call, the person identifies himself as the killer. But no new lead opens up. The only development is that a detective remembers the first 1968 double murder and calls for ballistic tests. They confirm the same weapon was used.Two years pass. On 9 September 1983, the killer shoots two German boys, Horst Meyer and Uwe Rusch Sens. But he doesn’t mutilate either. Investigators speculate that the killer mistook the long blonde hair of one of the boys to be that of a girl.On 29 July 1984 the killer ends the lives of another young couple. On the top of the shooting and stabbing (this time, the female is slashed over 100 times), and the genital removal, the killer removes her left breast.The Monster of Florence strikes one last time on 8 September 1985. A French couple are on a camping holiday. As they make love in their tent, the killer places his gun just 20 inches from them. He fires four bullets into each of them. Three bullets rip into the skull of Nadine Mauriot. But despite one of the bullets hitting his mouth, 25-year-old Jean-Michel Kraveichvili manages to escape the tent. He runs 30 yards. Then the killer catches up with him. He stabs Jean-Michel to death. The killer returns to the tent and over the next 10 minutes, he removes Nadine’s vagina and left breast.The next day, the assistant District Attorney receives an envelope. Her address on the envelope has been created using letters cut from a magazines and newspapers and contains one spelling mistake. Inside is a small plastic bag. Inside the plastic bag there is a bit of Nadine’s breast.

The Arrest

In January 1993, over two decades after the first killings, a seventy one year old Pietro Pacciani, a semiliterate farmhand and amateur taxidermist was arrested. It was not Pacciani’s first arrest. In 1951, he had caught his fiancée with a travelling salesman. Pacciani stabbed the man and stamped on his head till he was dead. He then raped the corpse. After his release, Pacciani started a family. He was arrested again for beating his wife and sexually molesting his daughters.But many considered him too stupid to have carried out the killings alone, and without direction. It was believed that he was part of an occult ring and two other people, Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti, were believed to have aided him. 

Aftermath

In March 2004 a new investigation was ordered. Inspector Giuttare, the head of the serial murder squad, believed that Pacciani was too unsophisticated to have both orchestrated such brutal killings and to have evaded capture for so long. He speculated that there was a mastermind behind him or even a larger ‘satanic cult’. Investigations still centred around Pacciani’s village but now more ‘respectable’ and professional people were interviewed.In 2006, Francesco Calamandrei, a bespectacled, overweight retired pharmacist was informed by Italian prosecutors that he was the alleged mastermind behind the Monster of Florence. It was said that he ordered Pietro Pacciani, Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti, the three men convicted of the murders, to obtain pieces of female bodies.In 2008, 20 years after his ex-wife first accused him of the murders, Calamandrei was exonerated because of a lack of evidence.That same year, authors Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, release ‘The Monster of Florence’ and say that they have definitively identified the killer. The man named denies the accusation. It will be interesting to see how Hollywood tells the story. George Clooney is set to play the inquisitive author, Douglas Preston, in a forthcoming movie. 

The Investigations

The clue that was to link all the crimes was found easily enough at the first crime scene. At the cemetery where the first killings occurred, police found eight .22 –calibre shell casings by the car.But with six years gap between the first and second double murders, no link was made between the cases and the similar bullet casings.When the connection was made with the third double murder, ballistics showed that the same distinctive copper-jacketed bullets, manufactured in Australia in the 1950s, were used in both cases and came from the same box of 50 Winchester bullets. And it was the same .22-calibre Beretta automatic pistol had been used in the second killings. But the weapon has never been recovered.The investigation was hampered by the fact that more than one person confessed to the killings when they were in fact innocent. Precious time was wasted on dead ends in a investigation that had very few leads due partly to an almost complete lack of witnesses to the killings.After the last killing in 1985, over a hundred thousand people were questioned over the next eight years. By 1991, the investigation has started to focus on just one man.

The Trial

The 1994 trial of Pacciani made international headlines helped by the fact that it was televised. It attracted the attention of author Thomas Harris, who sat through much of the trial. But despite the grisly criminal past of Pacciani fitting perfectly, little of the evidence did. It was mainly circumstantial. He protested his innocence but was convicted of seven double murders and was given 16 life sentences. Two years later, his conviction was overturned on appeal. But the police were now convinced he was part of a ritualistic slaying gang and just before his release, Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti, were arrested.Pacciani’s reprieve was, however, quite literally, short lived. In December 1996, his retrial was ordered but he died two years later, aged 73. Despite his old age, many suspected he was silenced before he could name names. The combination of drugs found in his system supported this theory.His conspirators, Vanni and Lotti were convicted of participating in five of the double slayings and remain in jail to this day.  

Timeline

The Victims.Barbara Locci  - 21 Aug1968 Antonio Lo Bianco -  21 Aug1968 Stefania Pettini  14 - Sept 1974 Pasquale Gentilcore  - 14 Sept 1974 Giovanni Foggi -  6 June 1981 Carmella De Nuccio -  6 June 1981 Susanna Cambi -  23 Oct 1981 Stefano Baldi -  23 Oct 1981 Paolo Mainardi - 19 June 1982 Antonella Migliorini -  19 June 1982 Horst Wilhelm Meyer -  9 Sept 1983 Jens Uwe Rüsch - 9 Sept 1983 Claudio Stefanacci -  29 July 1984 Pia Gilda Rontini  29 - July 1984 Jean-Michel Kraveichvili -  8 Sept 1985 Nadine Mauriot -  8 Sept 1985