Satanic leader who murdered his friends is jailed for 30 years

A plumber who doubled as the charismatic leader of a group of self-styled Satanists in a small town outside Milan has been sentenced to 30 years in jail for murdering three of his former friends.

A plumber who doubled as the charismatic leader of a group of self-styled Satanists in a small town outside Milan has been sentenced to 30 years in jail for murdering three of his former friends.

Andrea Volpe was said to have inspired the group of semi-professional heavy metal musicians from the town of Busto Arsizio in their occult dabblings, and to have taken the lead in the brutal killings of three of them. He pleaded guilty to the charges and asked for a "fast-track" trial.

In the past, these have often delivered more lenient sentences than traditional, full-scale trials. When, on Monday, the prosecutor asked for 20 years for Volpe, there were cries of outrage from the victims' relatives. But the judge, Maria Greca Zoncu, decided yesterday that the sentences for the three murders should run consecutively, not concurrently as requested by the prosecution, to the delight of the victims' families.

The court was told that on 17 January 1998, Volpe and his friends drove Fabio Tollis, a guitarist in the Beasts of Satan heavy metal group, and Chiara Marino to a wood outside the centre of Busto Arsizio. Marino was stabbed in the heart and Tollis was viciously beaten with a hammer, apparently in the act of trying to save Marino. Their bodies were buried in the woods.

Volpe and the rest of the gang managed to keep the murders quiet for more than six years. But on 24 January last year Volpe shot and buried, supposedly still alive, another member of the gang, Mariangela Pezzotta. Police found her body in a shallow grave, and another of the group, Mario Maccione, went to the police and led them to the scene of the earlier crimes.

Maccione was acquitted yesterday while another of the group who admitted being involved in all three killings, Pietro Guerrieri, was sentenced to 16 years.

Lina Marino, the mother of Chiara, who had tried in vain for years to get her suspicions about the group's activities investigated, said after leaving the court: "We've got justice for Chiara. Now Volpe will have to stay in jail for 30 years. If people had listened to me seven years ago, Mariangela would never have been killed."

The trial of five others accused in the case who elected to have a full-scale trial will begin later in the year.

Francesca Cramis, a lawyer for one of the accused, said they were more interested in taking drugs and listening to music than practising Satanism. "They listened to death metal and satanic music," she said before the trial. "These are guys who have severe problems and they convinced themselves that they were in contact with Satan and they had the power to kill others. It was born as a game but ended in tragedy."

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