Serial killer stalking Padua taunts police with stencilled letters

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The Independent Online

Residents of the northern Italian city of Padua are grappling with the horrific realisation that a serial killer may be operating in their midst.

Residents of the northern Italian city of Padua are grappling with the horrific realisation that a serial killer may be operating in their midst.

Three men - a rubbish collector, a taxi driver and an estate agent - have been murdered in the city in the past four months. All three were shot in the head and the two latest murders have been accompanied by letters in which the killer taunted his pursuers, vowing he would strike again. The Milan daily Corriere della Sera reported that the Padua killer had written to claim responsibility for his crime in an open challenge to the investigators. The letters were written using a stencil.

One letter was posted to police headquarters, the other left near the corpse of the estate agent murdered last weekend. The city's police chief neither confirmed nor denied the existence of the letters, adding only that the release of details of evidence could jeopardise inquiries.

Investigators have warned the citizens of the normally tranquil city to take extra safety precautions and to inform them if any strangers try to set up appointments.

The victims were all in their late thirties with no criminal records and were killed by a small-calibre weapon. The rubbish collector, Furio Dubrini, was shot dead with a pistol on his way to work last October. Pierpaolo Lissandron was found dead in his taxi on 29 January, just a short step from the Basilica of Saint Anthony. The corpse of Walter Boscolo was found last weekend in an apartment in the city centre after someone posing as a client had called his agency to set up a viewing.

To allay growing alarm in a city better known for its fine palaces, cycle of Giotto frescos and elegant cafés, a heavyweight police contingent has been dispatched to Padua. The élite "anti mostro" squad, originally formed to trace the elusive Mostro (monster of Florence) the man responsible for murdering eight courting couples in the hills around Florence in the Seventies, has been put on the case.

The agents are using sophisticated computer systems and psychological profiling to build the identity of the killer. The head of the national crime bureau, Antonio Managanelli, said yesterday the second and third murders - both men, it seems, were lured to their death - were definitely linked and there were strong similarities in all three homicides.

Padua's wealthy and well-read residents were further shocked with the revelation of another killing on Monday. The charred body of a 60-year-old chemistry professor was found in his laboratories in Padua university, one of Italy's oldest academic institutions. His son, a researcher, later confessed to murdering his father in a violent fight over falsifying exam results. The city heaved a sigh of relief to discover that the latest homicide was a purely family affair.

The public prosecutor's office has issued a statement, inviting all resident "who receive phone calls from strangers who fix appointments to inform us immediately". But the town council spokesman for public safety, Maurizio Saia, urged people not to panic, saying the brutal crimes could have happened anywhere in Italy.

Carlo Mazzacurati, who made a satirical film about thieves who rob the tongue of the city's patron, Saint Anthony, said the mood was changing. "It's no longer illegal immigrants who are perceived as a threat to safety and security but one of their own," he said. Maurizio Francescon, president of the local retailers' association, said he had been inundated with worried calls. "Businessmen who have to work frequently with people they don't know are extremely nervous," he told la Repubblica.

* Anti-Mafia police in Rome said yesterday they had uncovered compelling evidence that one of Italy's most wanted men, Mafia "boss of all bosses" Bernardo Provenzano, is still alive after almost 40 years on the run.