This magnificent article was written by my friend Giulia from Italy. Go follow her Instagram account at @parttimedandy
How it all began
Signor De Felice is exhausted. He has spent the whole night looking after his sick child and he’s now up again to bring him some fresh water.
Suddenly, someone knocks at the door. De Felice’s farmhouse is isolated, surrounded by thick woods and far away from any major city center. He gives a glance at the clock: it’s 2.00 A.M. He looks out of the window and is surprised by something totally unexpected: a child, alone. The child looks up and says: “Open the door because I’m sleepy, and Daddy is sick in bed. Afterwards, take me home, because Mommy and Uncle are dead in the car”.
The man rushes to the door and lets the child in. After some coaxing, the boy tells something more about the terrible events of the night: “It was dark, the trees were moving, there was no one around. I was so scared. To give myself courage I prayed and started to sing”.
When the Carabinieri arrive, the child gives his name: Natale Mele, nicknamed Natalino. “Mommy” is Barbara Locci, “Uncle” is Antonio Lo Bianco, one of Barbara’s many lovers.
They are the first known victims of the Mostro di Firenze (The Monster of Florence), the first Italian serial killer whose murder spree terrified the country for 17 years, from 1968 to 1985.
Sex, perversion, voyeurism, madness, murder: these are the ingredients of the saga of the Mostro di Firenze, the fiend who targeted couples who chose isolated places in the countryside surrounding Florence to have some privacy and make love.
The gun he used was always a Beretta .22 Long Rifle with Winchester bullets. After the murder, he separated the woman from her lover, then proceeded to removed her pubic area and the left breast with a knife. After this ritual, he repeatedly stabbed the lifeless body of the man.
The Mostro di Firenze has gained quite a “superstar” status, and his reputation equals that of more mainstream American serial killers. The Italian press and television covered the case in a way never seen before, even more so during the trial of the main suspects, Pietro Pacciani, Mario Vanni, Giancarlo Lotti and Fernando Pucci.
The case holds even more fascination because, despite Pacciani and Vanni being considered the killers, the murders are surrounded by a shroud of mystery and unexplained facts.
But let’s take a look at the murders and their victims:
August 21, 1968: Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco
Barbara Locci, 32, housewife and wife of Stefano Mele, is making love with Antonio Lo Bianco, 29, brick layer, inside an Alfa Romeo Giulietta parked in an isolated spot in the countryside of Signa, near Florence. In the back seat is sleeping 6 years old Natalino Mele, son of Barbara.
Suddenly, the night explodes in 8 gunshots that instantly kill the two lovers. After being rescued by De Felice, Natalino will lead the Carabinieri to the place of the murder.
The first suspect is obviously Stefano Mele, husband of Barbara: after all, what man could stand to be the laughingstock of the whole town because of the many lovers of his wife, known as “the queen bee”? But Mele is known for being totally dominated by Barbara, to the point of accepting her lovers in his own home.
Despite this, after 12 hours of interrogatory he admits to being the killer. And here the first mysteries and contradictions begin: he accuses himself but can’t hold a gun and doesn’t know which car window the killer shot through. What he knows is the exact number of shotguns and that one of Lo Bianco’s shoes is missing: this makes him at least a witness.
Stefano then recants and tries to put the blame on his wife’s many lovers, but to no effect.
Natalino, once more questioned by the Carabinieri, says that he has seen his father after being abruptly waken up by the shotguns, and that the man has carried him to the farmhouse of De Felice, recommending him not to tell anything. This would explain why the child’s socks were clean and how he could have rung the bell of De Felice, unreachable for him.
Despite the lack of evidence, the incongruences and the lack of the weapon, Mele is condemned to 14 years of detention.
September 14, 1974: Stefania Pettini and Pasquale Gentilcore
Pasquale Gentilcore and Stefania Pettini are reached by eight shotguns while in their car: he dies immediately, she is still alive. The girl is dragged out of the car and killed by three stabs on her breastbone. The killer then keeps stabbing her 96 more times, hitting her breast and pubic area. Than he penetrates her with a vine, a detail that leads someone to suspect an esoteric motive. Before fleeing, the killer stabs the body of Pasquale 5 times.
During the investigations it emerges that, the afternoon before being killed, Stefania has told a friend of a “strange encounter” with a weird man who has followed her during a driving lesson.
She isn’t the only victim of the Mostro di Firenze to report episodes of stalking before being killed.
June 6, 1981: Carmela De Nuccio and Giovanni Foggi
The usual 8 shotguns kill Carmela de Nuccio, 21, and Giovanni Foggi, 30.
The girl is dragged out of the car, her jeans are cut and her pubic area is fully removed by three precise cutting blows. This time, too, the killer stabs the dead body of the man, who is still in the car like in the previous murder. Another similarity is that the content of Carmela’s bag is scattered on the ground. While in the case of Stefania Pettini her wallet, watch and some jewelry are missing, this time nothing is stolen.
October 22, 1981: Susanna Cambi and Stefano Baldi
After just 4 months, the killer strikes again.
The victims are Susanna Cambi, 24, and Stefano Baldi, 26. Susanna is killed by 5 shotguns, Stefano by four. Like in the previous murders, most of the casings are missing. This time the killer has to drag both bodies out of the car to be able to mutilate the pubic area of the woman.
Susanna is found 10 meters away from the car, in a ditch, with her shirt pulled up to expose her badly wounded left breast. Her purse and the things in it are scattered around her.
According to the first reconstruction, the day before the double murder Susanna’s aunt received a phone call from a mysterious stranger who immediately hung up. Shortly before the murder, Susanna told her mother that someone had been following her, but she didn’t know who he was.
June 19th, 1982: Antonella Migliorini and Paolo Mainardi
Despite her fear of the “maniac of the lovebirds” (the term “Mostro di Firenze” had yet to be coined), Antonella Migliorini is convinced by her fiancé Paolo Mainardi to spend some time alone in an isolated area near the town of Baccaiano di Montespertoli. Favored by the darkness, the killer shoots but, this time, he only manages to wound Paolo. The man has the time to start the car and shift into reverse but the vehicle crosses the road and gets stuck in a ditch. The killer then shoots the front lights of the car and kills both Paolo and Antonella.
Two details make this murder different from the others:
- There is a steady traffic flow on the road near the spot where the couple has parked the car because of a festivity going on
- The killer has no time to mutilate the woman and stab the man.
The couple is soon discovered: Antonella is already dead, Paolo will die the following morning without regaining consciousness.
Near the place of the murder, the police find an empty box of a psychotropic medication: does it belong to the killer? Some witnesses talk of a man in a striped shirt who was pacing along the road around the time of the murder.
Public prosecutor Silvia Della Monica decides to set up a trap and asks the press to write that Mainardi has revealed something important before his death.
After a few days, the driver of the ambulance that reached the scene of the crime receives a strange phone call: a “voice with no discernible accent” asks him what were Migliorini’s last words. When the man refuses to tell, the mysterious caller starts to threaten him, saying he is the killer.
The same voice calls again two years later, in 1984, asking the same thing.
The police dismiss the call as a prank.
September 9: Jens-Uwe Rüsch and Horst Wilhelm Meyer
Two German tourists, Jens-Uwe Rüsch and Horst Wilhelm Meyer, are found dead inside their Volkswagen T1 truck. They have been killed by 7 bullets, 3 casings of which are missing. According to the reconstruction, Meyer is the first to die; Rüsch tries to run for his life but is reached by 4 bullets.
The killer notices after the murder that the victims are both men: probably Rüsch’s long hair and lean body made him look like a girl from afar.
The murderer flees without touching the bodies and taking none of their belongings.
July 29, 1984: Pia Rontini and Claudio Stefanacci
Pia Rontini and Claudio Stefanacci are half naked when the killer attacks them: he shoots the girl twice and the man 4 times, then he stabs tem both multiple times.
Pia is still alive and is dragged out of the car in a nearby field, where the killer removes her left breast and her pubic area. Her necklace is stolen, but her bag is untouched and is found in the car.
This time, too, Pia has told her friends that there were some customers in the bar she worked at that made her feel uncomfortable.
September 7th or 8th, 1985: Nadine Mauriot and Jean-Michel Kraveichvili
The last double murder of the Mostro takes place in the countryside of San Casciano Val di Pesa; the victims are French tourists Nadine Mauriot and Jean-Michel Kraveichvili.
This time, the couple is not in the car but inside a small tent set up near it. The Mostro cuts the tent and shoots Nadine, who dies on the spot. Jean-Michel is wounded but tries to run way. The killer reaches the man and stabs him to death, then hides the body near a dumpster. After mutilating the woman’s body, the Mostro hides in the tent.
Part of the woman’s breast is delivered to the Public Prosecutor’s office in Florence, and precisely to Silvia Della Monica, in charge of the investigation.
A few weeks after the murder, the Public Prosecutors Paolo Canessa, Francesco Fleury and Pier Luigi Vigna receive three anonymous envelopes containing the copy of an article published on the newspaper “La Nazione”, a bullet and a sheet of paper that says “One for each of you is enough”.
There is no evidence that the sender is the Mostro and this episode is generally thought of as a prank.
The main suspect: Pietro Pacciani
After years of investigations, the turning point comes in 1991, when the SAM (Squadra Anti Mostro – Anti Monster Squad) led by Ruggero Perugini concentrates its effort on Pietro Pacciani, who is serving time for the rape of his two daughters.
Pacciani is a violent man, prone to bursts of anger and nicknamed Il Vampa (“the spark”).
In 1951 he kills his girlfriend’s lover and forces the woman to have sex in front of the body. During the trial, his justification is that he has lost his mind seeing the woman showing her left breast: forty years later, this detail leads the detectives to suspect he could be the Mostro.
For years, Pacciani beats his wife Angiolina Manni, a mentally ill woman, and repeatedly rapes his two daughters, Graziella and Rosanna, who are also forced to eat dog food and are kept segregated. After their coming of age, they leave for good and press charges against their father, who is found guilty and imprisoned from 1987 to 1991.
Despite all this, Pacciani loves to define himself as “povero agnelluccio” (poor little lamb) and to give the impression of an honest, god fearing, hard-working man. During his trials, he often shows the cameras a prayer card of Jesus.
In 1993, Pacciani is arrested again and accused of being the Mostro di Firenze.
According to the investigators, Paccian’s motive was to relive the episode of 1951 punishing the women victims with ferocity. In his home, the police find many newspaper clippings of the murders of the Mostro, and photos of female pubes marked in pencil. On a piece of paper, Pacciani has noted the license plate of a car belonging to a couple who often looks for intimacy around Scopeti, where Nadine Mauriot and Jean-Michel Kraveichvili were killed in 1985.
The Italian law considers Pacciani alternatively guilty or innocent, according to the evidence from time to time presented against him. It’s only around 1995 that the compagni di merende (“picnic companions”) are involved in the investigation.
I compagni di merende: Mario Vanni
The expression “compagni di merende”, a figure of speech still commonly used in Italy to describe a group of dishonest, conniving people, is involuntarily coined by Mario Vanni, one of Pacciani’s friends who are accused of being accomplices in the murders.
When, during Paccian’s trial, he is asked about his job, Vanni answers in a completely illogical way “Io sono stato a fa’ delle merende co’ i’ Pacciani, no?” (I’ve had several several picnics with Pacciani, haven’t I?). When questioned further, he keeps saying he has taken part in some unclear “picnics”.
After the trial, Vanni is given a life sentence because of the connivance with Pacciani. The sentence is suspended in 2004 because of the man’s poor health, and Vanni dies in a nursing home in 2009.
I compagni di merende: Fernando Pucci
A friend of Pacciani, Vanni and Lotti, Pucci is a key witness during the trial. Despite being oligophrenic, he is found fit to stand trial.
Pucci accuses Pacciani and Vanni of the murders of 1984 and 1985 with these words. “I saw this: the tallest of the two, Vanni, cut the tent with a large kitchen knife. The man inside bolted and ran towards the woods. The one with the gun, Pacciani, shot and ran after him”.
Pucci dies in February 2017 at 84 years old, taking all his secrets with him to his grave.
Death of Pacciani
After being acquitted by the second instance verdict, Pacciani goes back to his farmhouse in Mercatale, where he lives alone while waiting for a new trial. His wife has divorced him in 1996.
According to his neighbors, Pacciani is very cautious and always bolts doors and windows before going to bed.
And it’s one of his neighbors who alerts the police on the day of Pacciani’s death, in 1998:
“That morning I had not seen Pietro, whose garden bordered mine. I noticed that the kitchen door and the windows were open, which was odd because he led a very retired life. I tried to call him and, receiving no answer, I peeped inside and saw him lying on the floor”.
His trousers are pulled down and his sweater is pulled up around his neck. In his blood there are high levels of a medicine for asthma, which can be lethal for someone like Pacciani, who suffered from heart disease and is obese and diabetic.
According to journalist Gabriella Carlizzi, Pacciani wanted to tell his own truth, and Sister Elisabetta, Pacciani’s spiritual advisor, confirms that the old man was afraid of being killed “for knowing too much”.
Was it really them?
Over the years, many people questioned the actual guilt of Pacciani and his compagni di merende: was there an instigator behind them?
Pacciani, a humble farmer, had in the years of the killings so much money that he could afford a new car, two houses and the complete renovation of his own home. He also had 157 millions of Lire (almost 500.000 €) in cash. Before the murders, according to the police, he had modest means.
Vanni, too, had more money after than before the murders.
Could it be that the murders were commissioned by someone interested in magic fetishes?
According to Lotti, the parts cut from the female bodies were purchased by a “mysterious doctor”.
A little digression: as recently as July 2017, the investigation has been reopened. An ex legionnaire called Giampiero Vigilanti, now 86 years old, is suspected of being the Mostro di Firenze, or at least of being an accomplice. In 1985, some of his neighbors indicated him as the possible killer, and in his home the police found many newspaper clippings about the murders, as well as 176 bullets of the same kind of those used by the Mostro.
Maybe as an attempt to divert the attention from himself, Vigilanti has spoken about a doctor called Francesco Caccamo, now 87, ex general practitioner and freemason. According to Vigilanti, he was one of the instigators of the murders but, so far, nothing has been found against Caccamo.
Another doctor pops up in the story of the Mostro: in 1985, a few weeks after the last murder, Francesco Narducci was found dead in the Lake Trasimeno. First ruled as suicide, the verdict was turned to homicide when, after the exhumation of the corpse in 2002, the autopsy revealed that Narducci was strangled before being thrown in the water.
Narducci came from a rich, influential family, and his father was a freemason: according to some, his lodge was the instigator of the Mostro, or at least protected him from the police.
The name of Vigilanti surfaces also in relation to Narducci: the old man claims to have been with the doctor in the countryside around Florence when the murders took place. Which is relevant, because the police thought Narducci was in America in that period.
Apparently, Narducci wrote a letter that was found after his death. It just said “I am the Mostro, and ask forgiveness from the whole world”. This document was never found, and those who are said to have read it mysteriously (and conveniently) lost their memory.
Exploring the medical clue further, a chemist, Francesco Calamandrei, friend of Narducci, was also among the suspects, but nothing solid could be found against him.
The police are also investigating the lead of the so called “eversione nera”, a form of terrorism inspired by fascist ideas. Some think the murders were used as a carefully planned diversion to keep the police and the public opinion from investigating too deeply on those connected with the Years of Lead, the period from late 60s to early 80s marked by right wing and left wing terrorism. Vigilanti was well known in far right circles, and he knew Pacciani too, as well as the compagni di merende.
It is hard to believe that such a gang of illiterate, alcoholic, incoherent men could be so sly to dodge the police for almost 20 years. For example, in the murder of Carmela De Nuccio and Giovanni Foggi, the woman’s pubic area was removed with a surgical precision that seems inconsistent with Pacciani’a and his compagni’s ways.
And it’s even harder to find a coherent reason behind the murders, as the convictions were mainly based on Pucci’s and Lotti’s depositions. At first, in 1996, Lotti said the victims were killed because they had rejected Pacciani’s sexual advances; then, a year later, he said Pacciani wanted his daughters to eat the “fetishes” cut from the victims’ bodies.
Plus, the gun used for all the murders has never been found, nor is there proof that it belonged to Pacciani or any “compagno di merende”.
Many suspect an esoteric motive: near the bodies of Carmela De Nuccio and Giovanni Foggi (1981) the police found a small truncated pyramid of colored granite, a possible magic symbol.
Close to the area where Nadine Mauriot and Jean-Michel Kraveichvili were found, a witness said to have seen three circles of stones, two open and one close. Inside them there were berries, burnt animal skin and wooden crosses. According to some investigators, these circles could symbolize the three phases of the murder: the targeting, the sentence to death and the actual killing.
Pacciani himself seems to have had an interest in Satanism, as books on black magic were found in his home and he used to join Salvatore Indovino, magician and fortune teller, at a farmhouse near San Casciano where orgies and satanic rituals took place.
The horror story of the Mostro di Firenze seems to be endless. Almost every year, new clues and accomplices seem to emerge, only to be once again dismissed as irrelevant.
So, was the instigator of the killings a masonic lodge? A deranged doctor who performed satanic rituals? Or, more simply, can the motive of the killings be traced to sheer ferocity, sexual perversion and voyeurism?
It is likely we’ll never know the entire truth, though the responsibility of Pacciani and his “compagni di merende” is beyond any doubt.