'Adopted' grandfather swindles Italian family and disappears

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The Independent Online

A lonely old man whose appeal to be "adopted" by a family tugged at heartstrings across Italy has disappeared after giving his "family" a stolen cheque, they said yesterday.

Elio Riva, the father of the family which opened its home to Giorgio Angelozzi, 80, a retired professor, said he left their house in Spirano, near the northern Italian town of Bergamo, a month ago, saying he was going to Rome.

Instead he stayed briefly with another family in nearby Piedmont, stealing cheques from them to pay €3,000 (£2,000) for expenses to Mr Riva, and €2,560, to cover a dentist's bill, Mr Riva said.

"We had no suspicions," Mr Riva said. "We took him to be a completely normal person." Carabinieri paramilitary police said they were trying to find Mr Angelozzi.

Last summer, Mr Angelozzi paid for an advert in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, seeking a family who would adopt him like a grandfather. He received so many responses that a policeman helped him field the barrage of telephone calls.

In the advert, he described himself as a widower and a retired classics teacher living with seven cats in a village near Rome, who rarely saw his globe-trotting daughter.

In September, Mr Angelozzi accepted an offer from the Riva family - Elio and Marlena, their teenage son, Mateusz, and daughter, Dagmara - saying that Marlena's voice reminded him of the voice of his dead wife.

"I would say it's more than sad, it's a letdown," Mr Riva said.