The story of the Monster of Florence, after consuming energies and investigative efforts on the inconclusive Sardinian lead (see previous column), forced the investigators to start from scratch—almost. On September 11, 1985, just three days after the last murder attributed to the serial killer, an anonymous person wrote to the police of San Casciano naming for the first time Pietro Pacciani, a violent peasant who had already been convicted for murder twenty-six years earlier, killing a man whom he had caught making out with his girlfriend. An initial search of his premises failed to find any incriminating evidence, however, and only on October 30, 1991, did Pacciani (who had since ended up in prison after raping his own daughters) receive notice that he was under investigation for the Monster’s crimes.
A series of searches at Pacciani’s house in Mercatale eventually led to the discovery of several objects, including bits of paper with plate numbers written on them, a .22 caliber cartridge, and some German-made objects, perhaps belonging to the young German men who became victims of the Monster while camping in the Italian countryside in 1983. There was no gun, but another anonymous person sent the police of San Casciano a spring guide rod, part of a .22 caliber pistol, wrapped in two strips of flowered fabric. It was the same type of cloth found in the house of the farmer’s daughters. On January 16, 1993, Pacciani was arrested on charges of being the maniac killer.
Pacciani’s bad temper was sparked immediately (in his hometown he was known as “The Flame”), and he had a way of speaking in a dialect so colorful that it almost makes him a sympathetic character. TV stations competed to broadcast his rambling monologues during the trial, and when it was over, Pacciani immediately entered popular imagination. His very name became synonymous with a crude and violent person.
The Second Investigation: The ‘Pick-Nick Friends’
At the first-degree trial, Pacciani was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was found guilty of all the double murders, except the 1968 killing. On appeal, however, he was acquitted. But on December 12, 1996, the Supreme Court overturned this ruling. Meanwhile, Michele Giuttari, head of the Mobile Police Squad in Florence, began what would become known as the “second investigation” on the crimes of the monster.
Pacciani, in short, did not act alone but was helped by three friends: postman Mario Vanni (who was sentenced to life imprisonment on May 31, 1999), Giancarlo Lotti (sentenced to thirty years, later reduced to twenty-six) and Giovanni Faggi (released because of age limits and later acquitted). Added to these is Fernando Pucci, a man suffering from oligophrenia and therefore disabled, who admitted to the court having participated in some “pick-nicks” (voyeuristic outings) with his friends. Pucci testified in court against the others, placing them at the site of some of the crimes.
It was Vanni who coined the expression that would become omnipresent in everyday language: “pick-nick friends.” Pacciani, himself, and the others—he explained—only went “pick-nicking together,” as if to say that they knew each other but did not do anything wrong. The phrase has remained so impressed in popular culture that today, in Italy, calling someone a “pick-nicking friend” is a crime. The Supreme Court (sentence 6699) ruled in a defamation case that “the allusive expression and negative connotation of ‘pick-nicking friend’ appears as a suggestive and ironic synonymous with persons of ill repute who plot in secret.”
During the trial, Lotti at first denied any involvement but then confessed to having participated in the crimes. The motive, he claimed, was money: a mysterious client “ordered” human remains in exchange for money. During a new search of Pacciani’s house, a roll of postal bonds valued at ninety-five million liras (the equivalent of around $100,000 at the time) was found hidden in a niche carved into a wall.
On September 26, 2000, the Supreme Court delivered the final sentences for Vanni (he was released on April 14, 2004, for health reasons and died in 2009) and for Lotti (who died in 2001). Pacciani, waiting to face the new appeal trial, suddenly left the scene: on February 22, 1998, he was found dead, apparently of a heart attack, at his home in Mercatale Val di Pesa. In March 2001, however, the prosecutor of Florence opened a case against unknown persons with the hypothesis of murder. According to the investigative hypotheses, Pacciani may have been poisoned. But by whom?
The Third Investigation: The ‘Second Level’
After the convictions of the “pick-nicking friends” as the material perpetrators of the notorious crimes, in the summer of 2000 the investigation on the alleged masterminds began. A “second level,” suggested the investigators, was in fact a group of as-yet unsuspected professionals commissioning the crimes. These people would belong to an occult sect who used the parts removed from the bodies of the murdered girls in the course of rituals based on orgies and Satanic rites.
The investigations pointed to Francesco Calamandrei, a former pharmacist of San Casciano, considered the mastermind of at least four of the last murders, and perhaps even involved in the killing of Pacciani. Accusing him was his ex-wife, Mariella Ciulla, who spoke of having seen Calamandrei return home wounded after one of the murders, and to have found years earlier a Beretta .22 and some human parts in the refrigerator. The house of the former pharmacist was searched, but no evidence was found.
The case of the Monster of Florence is also connected to the investigation of the death of a doctor from Perugia, Francesco Narducci, whose corpse was recovered in Trasimeno Lake in October 1985, a month after the last double murder. At the time, there was talk of death by drowning, but a new autopsy revealed that the man was in fact strangled and that, therefore, there must have been a substitution of corpses during the earlier forensic analysis.
Other details thicken the mystery: Narducci had disappeared from the hospital where he worked on October 8, 1985, after receiving a mysterious phone call. Who called him? And what did they tell him? And then where did he go? And again, who replaced his body with that of another dead person in Trasimeno Lake, trying to thwart the investigation? And why was the father of Narducci, a powerful man in Perugia, opposed to the autopsy? And why would the former superintendent Francesco Trio and Colonel of the Carabinieri, Francesco Di Carlo, at the time commander of the Police unit of the Umbri capital, who was then under investigation, help Ugo Narducci to pass his son’s death as an accident?
The assumptions on which the investigators worked was that Narducci, who seems to have been in a close relationship with Calamandrei, was part of the alleged sect who “ordered” Pacciani and fellow criminals to kill and cut up the victims. In addition, according to unconfirmed revelations, a sort of “super-witness,” a well-known Freemason of Perugia, had discovered that his friend Narducci “had the degree of ‘fetish guardian’ in the sect,” meaning that he was the one preserving the human remains from the Monster murders and that he “was finally killed for events related to these crimes. He knew everything, so maybe they were afraid he would talk” (Santoro 2002).
The investigation also ended up casting suspicion on a reporter, Mario Spezi, who had been following the events of the Monster since the beginning of the case but was skeptical about the “satanic cult” conspiracy hypothesis pursued by the prosecutors. However, he was not the only one to show some doubts: “Those of the Monster cannot be group crimes,” says criminologist Francesco Bruno, who was part of the Pacciani defense. “There are two elements that contrast strongly: the first is that there has never been a serial killer acting on commission; it never existed. Secondly, satanic sects in Italy, to my knowledge, have never killed anyone in a deliberate way” (Selvatici 2001).
Spezi’s arrest, with the accusation of helping and abetting the suspects, caused a sensation around the world and appeared to be an attempt to curb freedom of the press. However, the Court of Review canceled the arrest and three weeks later Spezi was freed.
Spezi, Calamandrei, and all the other defendants in the story of the death of Narducci were acquitted by prosecutor Giulio Mignini. In 2008, Calamandrei was also acquitted of any involvement in the crimes of the Monster of Florence. The prevailing belief is that the charges were fabricated by his ex-wife as revenge against him for leaving her for a younger woman.
To date, the legal system has not succeeded in establishing any esoteric motive for the crimes. While Vanni and Pacciani had contacts with Salvatore Indovino, a fortune teller and palm reader, it is also true that the investigation did not find any evidence against people other than the “pick-nicking friends.”
Lotti’s statement, according to which the “body parts” had been requested by mysterious instigators, is merely one of the many explanations given for their crimes: on other occasions, he had stated that the murders were a revenge against women who had rejected them, or that the human remains were taken by Pacciani with the intent of forcing his daughters to eat them. The seemingly incriminating “treasure” of the Monster found in the wall is perfectly explainable, considering that Pacciani rented an apartment and, in addition to his normal work, performed several undeclared jobs; as for his companions, not one of them died a wealthy man.
This ugly story, then, would seem to shrink in the end to the attempts of a disturbed man to satisfy his own perversions and to the state of submission that led other equally sick men to follow him. This case is further confirmation of the fact that “evil” almost never has the physique du role that literature, cinema, or even journalism generally give it. For each refined and brilliant Hannibal Lecter, the cannibal serial killer created by writer Thomas Harris, the real world reveals the squalor and the banality of people like Pietro Pacciani and his sad pick-nicking friends.
- Santoro, R. 2002. Mostro di Firenze, dieci nuovi sospettati. Il Messaggero (December 7).
- Selvatici, F. 2001. E l’esperto di serial killer giurò sull’innocenza di Pacciani. La Repubblica (September 5).