This is the story of one of the longest-running and most mysterious cases of crime in Italy. The peaceful landscape of the Florentine countryside suddenly found itself catapulted into a spiral of violent murders against young and innocent couples. A cunning and meticulous serial killer that spread terror in the area for 17 years.
A story that is still open, with many unanswered questions. Let’s start with the chronological reconstruction of the crimes.
Signa, August 21, 1968. Barbara Locci (32 years old) and Antonio Lo Bianco (29 years old) are two lovers who decide to spend the evening at the Michelacci cinema. Barbara brings along her son, Natalino Mele, only 6 years old. After the movie, the couple decides to spend some time in intimacy on their own near the Signa cemetery. This moment will be abruptly interrupted when a stranger approaches their car, firing 8 gunshots, which will be fatal for the couple. The weapon used is a .22 Long Rifle with Winchester H series bullets.
It is 2 am when Francesco De Felice, in his home in Sant’Angelo a Lecore (two kilometers away from the crime scene), is woken up by the doorbell ring. He looks out the window and sees a child in front of his door that says: “Open the door for me because I’m sleepy, and my father is sick in bed. Later, take me home because my mom and my uncle are dead in the car.”
De Felice calls the cops; when they arrive at the spot they find the car, an Alfa Romeo Giulietta, with the two victims inside.
For this crime Stefano Mele, husband of Barbara Locci, is convicted, although doubts remain about the real accountability of the accused, for lack of consistent elements and in consideration of what will happen in the following years.
Rabatta, a hamlet near Borgo San Lorenzo. It is the evening of September 14th 1974, Stefania Pettini (18 years old) and Pasquale Gentilcore (19 years old), an engaged couple, decide to go out to spend some time together. On the morning of September 15, the family members report the disappearance of the two kids, as they had not returned home the previous night.
The police also received the report of the discovery of two bodies. They are Stefania and Pasquale, brutally killed.
The two young people were together in the car on a path on the banks of the Sieve river. In that moment they received eight gunshots. Subsequently, the victims got a series of stab wounds. Stefania also reports 96 puncture wounds inflicted all throughout her body, a post-mortem deed and a vine has been inserted into her vagina.
A double cruel and heartbreaking crime. The firearm used is the same Beretta Caliber 22 that had killed six years earlier, even if the connection between the two events will take place years later.
June 6th, 1981: the bodies of another couple, Carmela De Nuccio (21 years) and Giovanni Foggi (30 years) are found in Mosciano di Scandicci.
The couple had stopped on a dirt road to allow themselves some privacy. A mysterious individual caught them by surprise and shot them to death. The killer inflicts further damage on the already deceased female victim by removing her pubis with a stabbing weapon.
After nearly seven years of silence, the unknown serial killer is back.
October 22nd, 1981. Just over 4 months have passed since the double crime of Mosciano, when two bodies are discovered along a dirt road in the area of Travalle di Calenzano. Stefano Baldi (26 years) and Susanna Cambi (24 years).
As for the previous victims, the young people were shot dead, and in this case too the killer raged on the girl’s body, carrying out the excision of the pubis.
On the evening of June 19th, 1982, Paolo Mainardi and Antonella Migliorini (22 and 19 years old) are in the boy’s car isolated in a road widening. Suddenly they are hit by gunshots: Antonella loses her life and Paolo though seriously injured manages to find the strength to start the engine and drive. Unfortunately the car crosses the road and gets stuck in the ditch on the opposite side of the road. The killer arrives, shoots at the headlights and opens fire two more times at the boy before vanishing assuming him to be dead.
Paolo, in critical conditions, is transferred to the hospital, and sadly he will die a few hours later. Following this murder, an anonymous report made to the investigators will make possible to link the first crime of Signa to the series.
Giogoli, 9 September 1983. Two men, Jens-Uwe Rüsch and Horst Wilhelm Meyer, both 24, are murdered in a Wolksvagen van. Killed with a total of 7 pistol shots, the now infamous Beretta Caliber 22 with Winchester H series bullets. Same weapon, same type of bullets.
The Monster of Florence is the name of that terrible serial killer who has been terrorizing the area for years. He strikes couples who go in isolated places, following a precise modus operandi. He is a person who knows very well the places where he acts, he knows how to get there and how to leave without being noticed.
It is the evening of July 29th, 1984. Claudio Stefanacci (21 years old) and Pia Rontini (18 years old) are parked in a field in La Boschetta, between Dicomano and Vicchio. The two, inside a Fiat Panda in intimacy. They are reached by a series of shots. The killer attacks both with a stabbing weapon. Pia undergoes post-mortem pubic excision and in this case the maniac also removes her left breast.
Another terrible double murder. The Monster returned to strike in the Mugello area, ten years after the Rabatta crime.
September 6th/7th, 1985. Two corpses are found in a pitch in the hamlet of Scopeti, in San Casciano in Val di Pesa. They are a French couple of French, Jean-Michel Kraveichvili, 25, and Nadine Mauriot, 36. The victims had camped with a tent. Both were attacked with gunshots and stab wounds. Also in this case the serial killer raged on the girl’s body, removing her pubis and left breast.
September 10th, 1985. An anonymous letter arrives at the Florence public prosecutor’s office, with the following heading: DR. DELLA MONICA SILVIA – PROSECUTOR OF THE REPUBL – IC 50100 FLORENCE. The address was written with clippings from newspaper letters. Silvia Della Monica, Magistrate of the Prosecutor’s Office, is now out of the investigation, but the sender seems to call her back in the game.
The letter, inside a nylon envelope, contains a flap of human tissue coming from the breast of Nadine Mauriot, the latest female victim of the Monster. A macabre and menacing message. This episode represents the final act of the killer at an official level.
A long trail of bloody crimes of seventeen years with sixteen brutally broken lives.
The investigations engages several people, focusing in particular on the Sardinian community present in the area as it is assumed that it all started with the acquaintances of the first victim of 1968, Barbara Locci.
The trail ends in 1989 as no evidence was found on any of the suspects.
September 16, 1985. San Casciano. We are in the days immediately after the double murder of Scopeti, when an anonymous letter arrives at the Carabinieri barracks:
Please interrogate as soon as possible our fellow citizen Pacciani Pietro born in Vicchio and resident in our town in Piazza del Popolo in Mercatale V.P. According to many people this individual spent 15 years in prison for killing his girlfriend; he knows 1000 professions, a shrewd, crafty man, “a farmer with big shoes and a fine brain”. He has his whole family locked up, his lame wife, he never let her daughters out of the house, they have no friends. Please intervene and question the individual and his daughters. He is a sharpshooter.
Pietro Pacciani already had a criminal record, having served 12 years in prison for the murder of Severino Bonini, a 41-year-old man, stabbed to death after he caught him with his girlfriend at the time. Concern arose for this reason; the cops visited him at his house on September 19th, without finding anything compromising.
After this episode Pacciani was temporarily left out of the investigations, until his name reappeared again in 1991. The “Antimostro Squad”, led by Ruggero Perugini, began to strongly suspect his figure, which was included in the archives among possible matches for the Monster’s profile. From this moment on he was searched several times, 3 significant elements were detected: a drawing pad and a soap dish, suspected of having belonged to one of the victims (an allegation still without proof today) and a bullet that was found in his garden (more details about the topic later).
On January 17th, 1993 Pacciani is arrested, charged for the crimes of the Monster of Florence. On April 19th, 1994, the first degree trial begins, ending with a life sentence. This leads to the appeal process, which ends on February 13th, 1996 with the acquittal for not committing the crime; Pacciani is consequently released from prison. The Supreme Court cancels the acquittal and asks for a new appeal process. The new element of the accomplices is also introduced, better known as “Compagni di Merende” (“snacks companions”), Giancarlo Lotti and Mario Vanni.
Pacciani will never make it to the new trial as on February 22nd, 1998 he suffers a heart attack. The investigations on the Snacks Companions continues and ends with life sentences for both Giancarlo Lotti and Mario Vanni for four of the eight double murders committed by the Monster. A sentence that leaves many questions unanswered. Although a judicial truth – at least part thereof – has been established, today after more than 3 decades from the last murder there are many loose ends and the findings against Pacciani and his alleged accomplices appear rather weak.
A fact that may seem irrefutable at first glance is the bullet found in the garden during the search in April 1992. But even in this case, the element is not so clear; in 2019 the ballistic consultant of the Florence Public Prosecutor’s Office Paride Minervini signed a report that certifies that the marks found on the concerned bullet would not have been impressed by the insertion in the Beretta Caliber 22, the famous pistol used by the Monster, but seem to be artifacts instead. A statement that confirms the doubts already present at the time of the trial and which the Prosecutor is currently working on, in order to verify whether evidence was tampered. In this regard, there is another disturbing detail.
The anonymous florentine
The Anonymous Florentine is a mysterious character who during the 90s sent a series of anonymous letters to the Prosecutor’s Office, lawyers and newspapers, dealing with the story of the Monster of Florence. Letters full of invectives and with tones of challenge towards the investigators and beyond. Paolo Cochi, a reporter who has dealt seriously with the affair for years, brought to light a letter from the Anonymous Florentine, dated November 18th, 1991, which warned Pacciani’s lawyer Fioravanti about a possible burial by third parties of the Caliber 22 pistol in the garden of the farmer of Mercatale. About six months before the search, this anonymous person talks about an event that will be confirmed during the research of April 1992. It certainly speaks of a gun and not a bullet, The similarity of the context and the fact that the letter speaks of a gun, rather than a bullet, cannot be reduced to a simple coincidence. There are endless doubts about this episode.
Who was this anonymous person? How did he know these details? Can he be someone connected to the Monster?
The weird sightings
Over the years, dozens of theories have been exposed, from the Snacks Companions (convicted for four of the eight double murders of the Monster), to the instigators of the esoteric sect, passing through the Sardinian clan.
However, there is a hypothesis that is often overlooked, which sees a possible solitary serial killer who remained unknown, outside the investigation or in any case touched in a mild manner by them.
Of course it is only a theory and I present it as such, specifying that regarding this case we have no certainty. What I wish to do is highlighting some episodes that have remained shrouded in the shadows and that perhaps deserve more attention. In addition thanks to the work of Paolo Cochi (author of the book Monster of Florence: Beyond any reasonable doubt), some very interesting depositions have emerged.
Let’s start with the testimony of Baldo Bardazzi. Baldo is the owner of a bar in Torre di Borgo San Lorenzo. He claims that on the afternoon of July 29th, 1984, around 4.45 pm (few hours before the double crime of the Monster) he has seen the two young victims, Pia Rontini and Claudio Stefanacci, at his bar having a snack.
Immediately afterwards he saw a gentleman enter.
“It was a man of about 45-50 years of age, about 1.75 meters tall or even more, of robust build with a fairly full face, regular features. Brown eyes, normal nose, broad bald forehead, very short blond, reddish hair, no particular signs… “
Bardazzi also reports that he was a distinguished person, well dressed. This person orders a beer and sits at a table outside the club. The witness notes that the individual observed intensely the young people having their meal inside the bar.
Once finished their drink, they got up to leave and at this point the subject suddenly gulped down his beer, brought the glass back to the counter and left, a few moments later than the two.
“I remember that I noticed precisely the fact that the stranger took almost half an hour to drink half a glass of beer and then drank the other half all at once as soon as he saw the kids getting up.”
The morning after, he gets to know about the news of the death of Pia and Claudio at the hands of the Monster of Florence, hence spontaneously presents himself to the police to report this events, claiming to have recognized from the photos in the newspapers the two young people who had been in his bar the afternoon before the events.
He also provides an identikit of the mysterious guy, stating that he had never seen him before that event.
The other testimonies
The statement of Baldo Bardazzi is not the only report of the circumstances of a strange character who wanders near the place of the tragic crime of 1984. There are other testimonies. Two of them are by Luciana Lelmi and Manuela Bazzi, barmaids of the bar “La nuova spiaggia” in Vicchio, exactly the same place where the victim Pia Rontini worked at that time.
The two witnesses declare that they too saw a subject who behaved strangely inside the bar.
Luciana Lelmi reports:
“About 1.75m tall, fairly robust round face, rosy complexion, short straight hair with a tuft that sent him on the left side perhaps slightly balding, the hair was light blond, apparent age of about 45 years”
“The stranger had a Tuscan accent and when he spoke he did not seem to me to be a completely normal person, he was looking at me eagerly, from top to bottom.”
Manuela Bazzi reports having seen him on two occasions, always in the usual period of the murder.
“He was ordering coffee and while I was at the car he came up behind me and asked me, after calling me by name, if sometimes I went to dance”.
The witness was struck by the fact that the stranger knew his name.
“The person I am referring to is about 1.80 cm tall, very sturdy, round face, quite rosy complexion, full lips, no beard or mustache, short reddish hair with receding hairline, eyes I guess light brown.”
Two weeks before the crime, an individual wanders a few meters from what the site of the murder of Pia and Claudio will be. As reported by the statement of another witness, Tiziana S:
“On Saturday 14th July, my attention was drawn to the sight of an individual who, strangely, from the Sagginese road, behind a bush, looked down at the people sunbathing… or fishing. The person was very distinguished. At one point, we all heard a noise, like a landslide. The individual noticing that all the people were looking in his direction, suddenly walked away… He was 1.80 cm tall, handsome build, short hair with parting on the left side, slight receding hairline. He had a slightly oval face. I believe that his age was around 40/45 years. I think his hair color was light brown, but I don’t exclude the shade of blond or reddish. “
Summarizing it all, we note how there are several depositions that probably describe the same person wandering around in the areas adjacent to those where the double murder of the Monster will take place, in 1984.
About 45-50 years old, strong build, balding, blond / reddish hair, well dressed. Certainly it could only be a strange individual, but the peculiarity of these sightings lies in the time period in which they occur, practically close to the crime. As well as the fact that this subject had never been seen before by witnesses, and that he will never be seen again in subsequent periods.
Who was this character? How does it fit into the whole picture of the story?
We also find another declaration that can match all others in some respects, made by a security guard, Nicola E., issued in September 1985 to Prato cops:
“In the summer of 1981, while I was having a coffee at the bar located in the locality of “Nome di Gesù” in Calenzano, I was approached by a man I didn’t know that was drinking a beer at the counter. This guy seeing me in uniform approached me and asked me a few questions about the weapon I was carrying in the holster. To make me understand that he also knew about weapons, he showed me three bullets .22 caliber LR, quite old and oxidized. He told me “do you want them? I have 5 or 600 more at home anyway”. I took them, put them in my pocket and left.
The man who gave me the bullets I can describe him as follows even if I don’t remember him 100%: height about 1.80, strong build with a little belly in front and shoulders wider than mine, quite round face with cheeks reddish, very short hair pulled back a reddish-blond color, no beard or mustache, he had no blue eyes and no scars on his face, a normal neck; he was quite balding, probably a Tuscan with no accent.”
It seems clear that there are still many aspects to be explored on this story.
Investigations are still underway and the hope of reaching a solution to the case sooner or later remains high, in order to do justice to the many victims and their families.