'Brilliant' loner murders three in Italian village

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Angelo Sacco, 54, had received notice that a surveyor would visit him on Monday afternoon to assess the value of the house before it was put up for auction.

The surveyor, Claudio Morsuillo, had been warned that Sacco might be difficult. Irma, Sacco's mother, who also lived in the house with others in the family, had told him to come with a carabinieri escort. "My son won't let you in," she told him. "He's a strange one. Even I have trouble talking to him."

Mr Morsuillo paid no attention. He arrived alone at the two-storey white stucco house in Bogogno, a village near Lake Como, shortly before 3pm. " Mr Sacco," he said, "you've got to let me in. You know very well that your house has been repossessed." Sacco replied, "Wait here a minute." Then he went to get a hunting rifle from his collection of 30 guns and shot the surveyor in the face.

Standing on his balcony, Sacco then began firing at passers-by. The first to be wounded was Matilda Panicali, a lawyer, shot in the back as she drove past the house. The man in the car behind said: "The lady's Fiat suddenly stopped. I didn't understand why. I looked up, and on the balcony I saw a man in a green shirt and khaki trousers with a hunting rifle in his hand." He continued firing into the woman's windscreen. Ms Panicali, streaming blood, staggered out of the car and fled.

Sacco also killed a passing motorcyclist and the first carabinieri who approached the house. Several other carabinieri were wounded trying to retrieve their bodies.

Shortly after midnight, a carabinieri assault squad burst into the house and found Sacco sitting on a sofa in his underpants. He offered no resistance. "They wanted to take everything from me," he said. "They wanted to take my house."

People in the village said they had known Sacco all their lives and yet he remained a mystery. "He was one of the sharpest and most brilliant among us," said one old friend, "the best of the bunch. But then, at 22, he went to do military service with the Alpini, the mountain artillery regiment. When he left he was an angel, when he came back he was transformed."

"He became more and more taciturn," said Angelo Righini, a friend when they were both young."He rarely left his house, never saw anybody."

His promise was unfulfilled. He failed to get a university degree. He made himself an expert in computers and worked as a freelance IT consultant, but the firm he set up did not flourish. His only known hobby was hunting, but even in this he was solitary, invariably going on trips alone. He also frequented a firing range where he was reckoned to be an excellent marksman.