Silence cloaks Rome campus killing

Law faculty `omerta' after student dies. Anne Hanley reports

Rome - Marta Russo, a brilliant 22-year-old law student, was killed on the campus of Rome's La Sapienza University with a single calibre .22 bullet fired from a window in the library of the Philosophy of Law department.

The apparently random, motiveless murder, on 9 May, shocked Italy to the core. Since then, key confessions have been withdrawn and watertight alibis have sprung leaks while staff at the law faculty have kept quiet, and ended up behind bars.

In a country with one of the lowest murder rates in the world - Mafia crimes excepted - indiscriminate assassinations by apparent loners are virtually unknown. That a law student of exceptional promise should crumple noiselessly to her knees on a crowded campus pavement and expire hours later in hospital was unthinkable.

But the initial shock has given way to disbelief as investigations uncover a network of omerta - the complicitous silence usually associated with the Mafia - in a university department where staff give every impression of having closed ranks. What remains to be seen is why.

Three low-ranking department employees are currently in prison, one charged with pulling the trigger and the other with complicity. One of the latter, Francesco Liparota, broke down under questioning and admitted to being with the alleged killer, Giovanni Scattone, and his friend Salvatore Ferraro when they shot, apparently at random, out of the window. Mr Liparota then retracted his testimony this week, after being released on house arrest and finding that his mother had received death threats.

But his original version has been confirmed by his mother, who said her son had confessed all to her. And it corresponds with the statement given to magistrates more than a month after Marta's death by assistant librarian Gabriella Alletto, who was on the other side of bookshelves when the shot was fired.

According to Ms Alletto, she reported the crime to department chiefs immediately. Her difficult decision to go to the investigators, she maintains, was made when it became clear that the department had no intention of coming clean. As a result, both the department head and the chief librarian have also been arrested.

"The university is corrupt through and through," commented one lecturer, who declined to be named. "And few departments have worse reputations than Philosophy of Law."

"Corruption" here refers to professors who attend the university only to pick up their pay cheques, delegating work and exams to low or unpaid minions such as Mr Scattone; to highly paid positions being given to under- qualified friends and relations; or to exam success depending on favours or payment.

But as they dig deeper, investigators are clearly having difficulty believing that members of a law department would protect the murderer to cover up administrative fiddles. And they are asking whether the silence surrounding Marta's death may prove to conceal something much more sinister.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - C#, ASP.Net, MVC, jQuery

£42000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a C# ...

Recruitment Genius: General Driver - Automotive

£15500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading Motor Re...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food