Man guilty of hair-in-hand murder

A man with a hair fetish was found guilty today of the murder and mutilation of a seamstress nine years ago using the same "hallmark" method he used to kill a teenager in Italy.

Italian national Danilo Restivo, 39, entered the flat of his neighbour Heather Barnett in Bournemouth, Dorset, in 2002 and bludgeoned her with a hammer before cutting her throat.

He then cut off the breasts of Mrs Barnett, 48, and left a clump of someone else's hair in her right hand and some of her own underneath her left hand in the carefully planned ritualistic murder considered unique by detectives.

The jury at Winchester Crown Court decided that the manner of Mrs Barnett's murder was Restivo's "hallmark" and linked the killing to the murder of 16-year-old Elisa Claps in Potenza, Italy, in 1993.

Restivo is subject to a European Arrest Warrant and is expected to be extradited back to Italy - where the case has attracted huge interest - to stand trial for the murder of Miss Claps.

During the six-week trial, the court heard that Restivo had arranged to meet Miss Claps, who he was attracted to, at the Most Holy Trinity Church on September 12 1993 to give her a present for passing her exams.

The teenager was never seen again and her body was discovered in a loft of the church on March 17 last year - giving Dorset police vital evidence to finally charge their prime suspect.

Unusually, the jury of five women and seven men heard evidence of the Italian murder but did not have to establish his guilt for it. But it decided the "striking similarities" meant Restivo was the murderer of both women 1,000 miles away from each other and nine years apart.

The court heard that next to Miss Claps' body there were locks of her own hair. Her trousers and pants were lowered to the same level as those of Mrs Barnett and Miss Claps' bra was cut or broken in the same way as Mrs Barnett's bra.

"The presence of cut hair after death in both cases, together with the other features relating to the clothing of both victims, is strikingly similar and is akin to a hallmark," Mr Michael Bowes QC, prosecuting, said.

There was "compelling evidence" Restivo murdered Miss Claps, the barrister explained.

Restivo moved to Bournemouth in March 2002 after meeting his now wife Fiamma Marsango on the internet. He had been implicated in the disappearance of Miss Claps and had been convicted of lying to the investigation, but never charged with the murder.

He denied Mrs Barnett's murder on November 12 2002. He said he was on a computer course in Bournemouth all day and claimed Miss Claps was alive when she left the church.

But Restivo's DNA was found on the body of Miss Claps near a stab wound on her back and on a green towel found in Mrs Barnett's flat.

Mrs Barnett's horrified children Terry, then 14, and Caitlin, then 11, found their mother's body in the bathroom of their flat in Capstone Road when they came home from school.

In a "repulsive charade", Restivo helped comfort the youngsters before the police arrived as he had just arrived back at his home 50 yards away with Ms Marsango.

Caitlin, now 20, was in the public gallery throughout the trial and watched intently as Restivo gave rambling evidence - claiming he suffered memory problems, the police could not be trusted and he had been framed by the Claps family.

Restivo also had a bizarre hair fetish and cut women's hair on buses or in cinemas in both Italy and Bournemouth for years so he could touch and smell it.

Police were so worried about Restivo attacking again he was put under surveillance - sometimes for 24 hours a day - and in 2004 he was stopped by officers who found him dressed in a coat, over-trousers and gloves as he followed women on a warm day. A knife, balaclava and scissors were also discovered.

Restivo has also been linked in Italy to three killings of young women in Perpignan, France, between 1995 and 2000 and of Yvonne O'Brien, 44, whose mutilated body was found in her apartment in Majorca in August 1999.

Dorset police have previously ruled out a link between the murder of Mrs Barnett and Miss O'Brien.

Restivo should never have been in Britain and able to kill Mrs Barnett because he should have been caught for the murder of Elisa.

The teenager's brother, Gildo, and mother, Filomena, have alleged that the Italian authorities covered up for Restivo in 1993.

The family claim the church where Elisa's body was found was never searched properly and a search warrant to enter Restivo's home nearby was not issued despite him being the last person to see her alive.

This was even though Restivo was known for cutting women's hair and also stalking them.

The allegations mark a series of conspiracy theories in Italy that Restivo was protected because his father, Maurizio, was then the director of the national library in Potenza and a man of influence.

Restivo showed no emotion as the verdict was delivered after five hours of deliberation.

Mrs Barnett's daughter, Caitlin, sobbed quietly as the guilty verdict was given in the hushed Court Two.

Mr Justice Burnett remanded Restivo in custody and adjourned the case until tomorrow morning for sentence.