'The Wolf' wins cult following in Italy after murder of policeman

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The Independent Online

The man they call " Il Lupo", or "the Wolf", a professional thief on the run for more than two years, has gripped Italy in horrified fascination since allegedly murdering a policeman at point-blank range last week.

The man they call " Il Lupo", or "the Wolf", a professional thief on the run for more than two years, has gripped Italy in horrified fascination since allegedly murdering a policeman at point-blank range last week.

Despite nationwide roadblocks and the mobilisation of thousands of carabinieri, Luciano Liboni, 47, has vanished. When spotted and challenged by police in Rome on Saturday he fired on them, then hijacked a car and escaped.

It was during a routine document check at a bar in Le Marche, near Italy's Adriatic coast, that the shabby, bald-headed loner pulled out a .38 revolver and killed Alessandro Giorgioni, 36, with two shots, police claim, one to the neck and the second, as the officer lay on the ground, to the heart.

Road blocks went up across central Italy but Liboni, riding a powerful stolen Yamaha motorcycle, eluded them, even though his right hand was in a splint as a result of falling off the bike the day before the murder.

Then, on Saturday morning, police spotted a man answering Liboni's description close to Termini, Rome's main railway station. But when an officer challenged him he pulled a revolver out of the newspaper in his hand and fired two shots.

Before the police could close in, Liboni had hijacked a passing car, waving a pistol at the driver and his two small sons and telling him, "Drive fast or I'll kill you!". The driver, a male nurse, said later that he assumed the man was playing a part in a film. Two hundred yards on he jumped out of the car and vanished into Termini's underground station. Police closed the underground system for three hours and swamped the stations with officers, but despite his distinctive appearance, the Wolf melted away yet again. He has yet to be tracked down.

And incredibly, amid the outrage, " Il Lupo" has developed an underground cult following. He is being ranked alongside " Johnny lo zingaro" ("Johnny the Gypsy") who murdered his first man when he was just 15 and was finally apprehended in 1987 by a force of 400 carabinieri, and the Sardinian kidnapper Giovanni Farina, traced in 1998 to Sydney, Australia.

Pro- Lupo graffitti has sprouted along the roads both in Rome and near the site of the murder in Le Marche. "Luciano Liboni is my God," reads one. "I love you Luciano Liboni," another. And another, "Luciano Liboni, the father I never had".

This, though, is a man accused of widowing Simona Giorgioni and orphaning their six-year-old son Leonardo. And before attaining infamy, the truth was banal and squalid. Liboni's solitary life began two and a half years ago, when his then girlfriend, Francesca Toppetti, now 33, left him, "because he beat me when he was in a temper and I got fed up with it". Besides his larger thefts - he is believed to have stolen €23,000 (£15,200) in two jobs this month - he also regularly stole his mother's pension. He suffers from epilepsy, but police believe that his newly ruthless attitude may have been brought on by the discovery that he is suffering from Aids.

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