Italian domestic violence campaigner accused of beating wife to death and hiding body

Matteo Cagnoni's spouse had reportedly asked for divorce prior to murder

Gabriel Samuels
Thursday 22 September 2016 13:15 BST
Matteo Cagnoni was detained by police after his wife's body was discovered at an abandoned house in Ravenna
Matteo Cagnoni was detained by police after his wife's body was discovered at an abandoned house in Ravenna (Facebook)

An Italian domestic violence campaigner has been arrested on suspicion of beating his wife to death after she asked for a divorce, before hiding her body in a cellar.

Matteo Cagnoni, 51, works as a dermatologist in the city of Ravenna and has publicly campaigned for a number of years against the murders of wives by their partners.

Investigators accuse Mr Cagnoni of murdering 39-year-old Giulia Ballestri by hitting her over the head with a piece of wood after luring her to an abandoned villa formerly owned by his grandfather.

Italian media reported Ms Ballestri had demanded a divorce from Mr Cagnoni and claimed custody of the couple’s three children - aged between six and 11 - shortly before her death, and speculated she may have had an affair.

Ms Ballestri’s body was found almost entirely naked with severe head wounds, leading police to believe there may have been a sexual element to her murder. The autopsy on her body was due to begin on Thursday morning, Il Sussidiario reported.

Officers said the property she was found in was locked up with the security alarm on, and they arrested Mr Cagnoni at his parents’ house in Florence shortly after.

Mr Cagnoni was reportedly carrying a large amount of money and his passport at the time of his arrest.

During a four-hour interrogation, Mr Cagnoni repeatedly denied all charges made against him according to his lawyer.

Last year, 128 Italian women were murdered, the majority of whom were killed by their partners. Two women have been set on fire so far this year by their husbands when they tried to leave.

Mr Cagnoni campaigned for many years against jealousy killings by husbands, and organised a series of fundraising events to raise awareness of the issue.

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