Outrage in Italy as swastikas daubed on grave of boy who died in well

Alfredo Rampi’s death broke the nation’s heart, now there is anger over the desecration of his grave

There is anger in Italy following the desecration of the grave of Alfredo Rampi, a six-year-old boy whose tragic death in 1981 captivated the nation.

Images of the tombstone broadcast by Italian television on Monday show a portrait of the smiling boy in a striped top against the backdrop of at least eleven swastikas, a symbol usually associated with Nazism. Police investigations are ongoing, but the offender and the motives remain unknown.

Rampi died in June 1981 after falling into a well near his family holiday home in Frascati, on the outskirts of Rome. After losing track of him, the boy’s parents found that he had plummeted into a freshly dug well – he passed away three days after the fall.

His death had a profound impact on Italians across the country who watched the unfolding tragedy live on television and who continue to hold memorial services each year. The three-day rescue operation became one of the first major events in Italy to be televised for an extended amount of time.

Rampi’s body was recovered 28 days after his death and buried in Rome’s Verano cemetery, where on Monday a passerby alerted authorities after noticing the symbols scribbled on the tombstone.

Italian citizens and officials expressed their shock in statements and social media posts, in heartfelt messages for a young boy who still holds a place in Italy’s collective memory.

“I want to express all my closeness to the Alfredino Rampi family. These are gestures that a human being with a heart and a conscience cannot do. Whoever did it is not a human being, but a beast,” one social media user wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

“I remember it perfectly and how much we hoped and prayed for him. Why this ignoble gesture?” asked another Twitter user.

“The Alfredo Rampi Centre expresses incredulity and profound disdain for the desecration of the tomb,” the eponymous organization focused on prevention of tragedies like Rampi’s death said in a statement.

“We’re close to Franca and Nando Rampi, personally wounded once again by the senselessness and foolishness of this gesture,” the statement read in reference to Rampi’s parents, whose youngest son died in 2015 of a heart attack.

On Saturday a towering mural of the boy was unveiled in Rome’s southern Garbatella neighbourhood, where crowds gathered to pay homage to him and his family.

"Some stories become a symbol without losing either the tenderness or the humanity that distinguished them,” the head of the neighbourhood council Amedeo Ciaccheri said during the presentation of the mural.

“We must recognize the collective debt we have towards civil protection units and volunteers which have now become a point of reference for cohesion for our community.”

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