Stolen corpse of Italian TV legend is found in a ditch

 

Milan

The gothic saga regarding the fate of Italy's best-loved television personality is to have a happy ending after all.

Eleven months after thieves stole the corpse of Mike Bongiorno, the Italian "TV Quiz King", from his tomb by Lake Maggiore, police have found the coffin containing his remains, and his family is now preparing a cremation to prevent further ghoulish activities.

"We want to cremate his body to protect it," said his widow, Daniela Zuccoli. Police were called on Thursday when a passer-by saw the coffin in a ditch on the outskirts of Milan. It is thought the coffin had been dumped there overnight.

Ms Zuccoli discounted the chances of one last wish for Bongiorno, who died in September 2009. "I imagine that Mike would have liked to have his ashes scattered on the Matterhorn. But I fear that religion and the law won't permit that." The life and times of the television entertainer were already remarkable enough. He was born in New York in 1924 but moved to Turin as a child.

A part of the Bongiorno legend comes from his Second World War heroics for the Italian resistance movement. He was captured by the Gestapo and spent time in various German concentration camps.

He survived to resume a career in journalism before changing tack to popularise the quiz show. He went on to dominate televised entertainment for more than half a century until his death.

But 16 months after his state funeral, his corpse was stolen from the family tomb in the lakeside town of Arona, north of Milan. Despite exhaustive inquiries, and at least one fake ransom note, police have no idea who took his remains, or why. His body will return to the family's private chapel in Arona to be blessed by the local pastor, Father Mauro Pozzi, before being cremated.

"I hope Mike can now rest in peace," said Fr Pozzi, "and I hope that he can remain in the cemetery of Arona Dagnente, close to the people, because in a way, he was like family to all Italians."

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