Satanic gang leader's diary sheds light on murder case

The publication yesterday of chilling diary entries by one of the alleged leaders of a satanic gang accused of three murders has helped to shed light on a case that has shocked Italy.

The publication yesterday of chilling diary entries by one of the alleged leaders of a satanic gang accused of three murders has helped to shed light on a case that has shocked Italy.

The group of heavy metal fans from Busto Arsizio, a small town outside Milan, are facing prosecutors this week to answer questions about the deaths of three companions in what the diary describe as drug-fuelled orgies.

The killings came to light earlier this year, and the public has looked on aghast as details apparently linking the young men and women not merely to raucous rock music but to devil worship and black masses were breathlessly reported.

The discovery of the body of Mariangela Pezzotta, buried in a shallow grave after being shot in January, led police to the gang, and to the discovery that two other members, Fabio Tollis and Chiara Marino, had been killed in 1998 and buried.

The killings were grisly but the evidence linking them to satanic rites seemed thin, based more on a readiness on the part of media to believe the worst of these hirsute outlaws who had turned their back on society.

But now one of the alleged leaders of the group, Andrea Volpe, has turned state's evidence, and pages from a notebook have been leaked. They indicate that if the gang members were not fully paid up black magicians, they at least believed that they were performing rites of some kind.

The notebook contains what appear to be snatches of lyrics - "blood and death, blood raining down, blood bathing all my body, blood thirsty for blood"; "we are nasty individuals, we plague people and we play with their lives"; "crush those who are our friends, or who would like to be but aren't up to it, crush them then laugh".

But they also contain pages and pages on how the group's "rites" must be conducted, and the dangers to be avoided. "Madness is always one of the risks," the notes warn. "It's necessary to maintain concentration on hatred ... "; "The two leaders who direct the rite must act separately and not listen to each other ..." The bag that contained the notebook also held items such as teeth, nails and human hair which police believe had a ritual purpose.

In his first court appearance this week, Mr Volpe described the bizarre celebration held in a lonely chalet in January that culminated in him and another of the accused, Elisabetta Ballarin, shooting Ms Pezzotta, Mr Volpe's former girlfriend.

"Mariangela's death happened during dinner," Volpe told the prosecutor. "I asked Elisabetta" - Volpe's girlfriend at the time of the shooting - "to take the rifle and make sure that Mariangela did not leave the room. Before killing her we toasted each other in champagne, all together."

Ms Pezzotta, who is said to have threatened to make public the previous murders, seems to have understood where the evening was leading: both Mr Volpe and Ms Pezzotta were armed and had taken drugs.

Ms Pezzota finally broke down, screaming at her former boyfriend that he had given her "10 years of hell" - whereupon Mr Volpe shot her in the face. He then telephoned Niccola Sapone, the plumber who is the group's alleged leader, also in court this week, and told him "We're going to drink the beer" - code for telling him the deed had been done.

Mr Sapone ran over to the isolated chalet, Mr Volpe said, only to discover that the unfortunate Ms Pezzotta was still alive. "This is disgusting," he railed at them, "you don't even know how to kill someone" - then finished her off with a shovel.

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