Gun battle ends hunt for Italian serial killer



The hunt for a serial killer stalking the sleepy north Italian town of Merano ended in violence yesterday as the culprit claimed two more victims, holed up in a lonely farmhouse with two hostages, and then, after a dramatic gun battle with police, turned the murder weapon on himself.

The man responsible for shooting six people at close range over the past three weeks turned out to be a German-speaking neo-Nazi committed to reunifying the Alto Adige with Austria. All but one of the victims were Italian- speakers.

The alarm was raised in mid-morning when farmers in the hamlet of Rifiano, about six miles from the centre of town, heard gunshots coming from the house of a local bricklayer, Tullio Melchiori. The murderer, Ferdinand Gamper, had killed Melchiori, his landlord, and had forced his wife and daughter at gunpoint to follow him into a barn next door.

When police arrived, Gamper barely gave them time to discover the body before he opened fire, shooting a Carabinieri officer in the head. The officer was whisked to hospital but died three hours later.

Other police took cover in the surrounding woodland. Eventually they fired several volleys of tear gas into the barn, setting the building on fire. The shooting stopped and the police stormed in, to find the two hostages unharmed on the ground floor and the murderer dead with his weapon in his hand. A note in German read: "You got here too late." He had shot himself through the mouth.

With his hulking frame, blond hair and short beard, Ferdinand Gamper, 39, was a perfect fit for the Identikit picture of the murderer developed since the shooting of a factory worker in Merano's main square on Tuesday.

Next to his body was the blue rucksack that was spotted by several witnesses. The gun was a match for the .22 weapon used in the earlier killings.

Among the documents recovered by police were posters and stickers in German, advocating the Alto Adige's reabsorption into Austria. A long note left beside Melchiori's body included a "terrifying" paean to Nazism and an admission, which has yet to be verified, that Gamper murdered one or more children.

Merano had been living in fear since 8 February, when a senior Bundesbank official and his Italian fiancee were shot. At first investigators suspected a link with the banker's work or his estranged German wife. They now believe the two were "punished" for wanting to settle in Merano as an ethnically mixed couple. A shrine marking the site of their murder was smeared with human faeces a few days after their deaths.

The third murder, targeting a crippled local farmer, triggered the arrest of a young Italian-speaking plasterer, Luca Nobile, who was found near the scene with bloodstains on his clothing. He was released from custody last night.

The Alto Adige, or South Tyrol, was part of Austria-Hungary until the end of the First World War, when it was given to Italy. It was dogged by ethnic tension, owing to Mussolini's aggressive attempts to Italianise it; during the 1950s there were regular terrorist attacks.

In recent decades, the nationalist sentiments of the German-speakers and the strong neo-Fascist sympathies of many local Italians have been checked by the economic benefits brought by the Alto Adige's special status as an autonomous region. However, the two communities still have little contact, and in many bars, shops and hotels, members of one or other ethnic group are banned altogether.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine