New trial ordered in Gucci murder

A court ordered a re-trial yesterday for a woman convicted of the 1995 murder of her former husband, the fashion heir Maurizio Gucci. Her family have claimed she was too brain-damaged to have committed the crime.

Patrizia Martinelli's family said she suffered the damage during surgery for a brain tumour years ago, meaning she couldn't have planned a murder. New medical tests show the extent of the brain damage, her defence said.

The court appointed four experts to report on her mental health. The defence had argued that new medical tests not available during the original trial provided fresh evidence about her mental state.

"It's a just and logical decision," Martinelli's lawyer, Danilo Buongiorno, said after the hearing in Mestre, near Venice.

Martinelli, who is serving a 26-year prison term, did not attend the hearing. "We are partially satisfied," one of her daughters, Alessandra Gucci, said. "We are very worried for our mother, because she is not well. We hope she can come home soon." It wasn't clear if Martinelli would remain in jail pending the re-trial.

Martinelli was convicted in 1998 of masterminding the killing of her former husband, who was shot four times as he walked into his office building in Milan. Gucci was the last of his family to hold a stake in the luxury goods maker.

During the trial, prosecutors said Martinelli had ordered his slaying for fear he would squander his fortune on his new companion. Four co-defendants were also convicted.

In 2000, an appeals court in Milan upheld Martinelli's conviction but reduced the sentence from 29 to 26 years. She has always claimed innocence. In 2000, she tried to hang herself with a bedsheet.