Italy has a rich and cultured history and an equally colourful criminal past, from the Borgias to the Beasts of Satan to the most notorious and still unidentified Monster of Florence, who terrorised the Florentine countryside from 1968 to 1985. 360km to the North, the city of Udine experienced an equally mysterious series of murders committed by an unknown killer the media dubbed the "Monster of Udine". This killer or killers were possibly responsible for the deaths of upwards of thirteen women over a twenty year period of slaughter.
The first murder was that of Irene Belletti who was found on 21 September 1971. Police found Belletti, the mother to a 13-year-old boy, in her car with 7 stab wounds mainly to her back, indicating she was attacked from behind by her killer. Her car was located a short distance from the train station of Udine and it was reported the car was found to be covered in usable prints, but without a suspect these were useless and the investigation into Belletti's death went cold. A year later another body was found in an apartment in the city centre. 52-year-old Elsa Moruzzi had her skull smashed in and she had been strangled to death.
The difference in MO between these two crimes ruled out any potential link in attributing them to a single killer. Once again there was no witnesses and Moruzzi's death went unsolved with no more murders reported for another three years when in December 1975, Eugenia Tilling was found with stab wounds to her throat. With such drastically different circumstances in the manner of their deaths, the police were reluctant to connect the three murders because there was no definitive signature.
However, this all changed on 23 September 1976 with the discovery of Maria Luisa Bernardo, who's body was found in a wheat field at Moruzzo. When police looked into Bernardo's life they found that she was married with two children, whilst the previous three victims were believed to be sex workers. Investigators finally had a link between murders, noticing the similar circumstances between Bernardo and the previous murder of Irene Belletti. Both women had been stabbed numerous times, with Bernardo found with 17 stab wounds. Once again there was a large gap and no further murders were committed for another three years.
Maria Luisa Bernardo
Jaqueline Brechbullher was a French national and had been married 11 years previously, living in Udine ever since. The 46-year-old was found on 3 October 1979 at Colugna with ten stab wounds to her body. The following year on 19 February 1980, prostitute Maria Carla Bellone was found in a pool of blood with her throat cut. Bellone, 19, had been working the streets when her body was found on the outskirts of Pradamano. After cutting her throat, the killer proceeded to mutilate the lower half of her body, carving the shape of an S from her abdomen to the pubic area. The pathologist agreed with the police assessment that the killer had atleast some basic form of anatomical knowledge because the wound was intricate and cleaned with some care by the perpetrator.
Maria Carla Bellone
In March 1980 Wilma Ghin was found at the Gradisca di Sedegliano landfill after she vanished after a night out the Mereto di Capitolo ballroom. Her body had been burned and was too charred to determine the cause of death. It was reported in the papers that 19-year-old Ghin had nothing to do with prostitution and lived near the Marano Lagoon. Not long after, a young Pugliese from Apulia, 1,000km from Udine, was arrested for her murder but later acquitted. The police were either dealing with a killer who changed both his MO and signature constantly, or there was more than one killer.
Another three year gap saw the death of 22-year-old Luana Giamporcaro, a native of Trieste. Giamporcaro had been working in Udine as a prostitute and her body was found on 24 January 1983 with the same mutilations in the form of the S cut from her abdomen to her public area. This was now a clear link to the murder of Maria Carla Bellone and gave the police their first definitive signature which they could attribute to a single killer, disputing the previous murders as part of the same series.
This difference in MO was evident with the next several murder victims. 44-year-old Maria Bucovaz from Maimacco was found strangled with a nylon stocking between Cividale and Orzano on 22 May 1984 and Matilde Zanette, 44-years-old who was found dead on 9 September 1984. Gianluigi Sebastianis, a carpenter from Fagagna, confessed then retracted his statement and was then arrested and later sentenced for Zanette's murder. In 1986 the Supreme Court upheld the sentence of 17 years for the crime.
Finally in December 1984, Stojanka Joksimovic was found strangled to death and dumped near a landfill site at San Gottardo. The 42-year-old was of Slavic nationality but had been a resident of Udine for several years prior to her murder on the 29th. Some investigators believed they were dealing with two distinct killers, and the authorities were hesitant to rule out the possibility that all the murders were the work of different individuals.
On 3 March 1985, another sex worker was found with the same mutilations as previous victims. 42-year-old Aurelia Januschewitz was found stabbed to death in Torreano di Martignacco. The lower half of her body displayed the same cut from her abdomen downwards and was attributed to the same killer of Bellone and Giamporcaro, who were also prostitutes. Detectives suspected the killer was preying specifically on Udine's sex workers and interviewed prostitutes to see if anyone had seen or suspected a suspicious client.
This theory about specific victimology was proved wrong with the murder of Marina Lepre. 40-year-old Lepre was born in Comeglians, worked as a primary school teacher and lived in Cividale. She was married but separated with a daughter. Her body was found by a man jogging on the morning of 27 February 1989 on the banks of the river Tower, on the north outskirts of Udine. It was established she had been killed only 10 hours previously and was fully clothed except for her stockings which had been pulled down. She had a deep wound to her throat and the distinctive S-shaped mutilations were found on her abdomen. It appeared the killer had taken her purse which contained her ID documents. Two days later over 1,000 people attended her funeral at the Cathedral of Cividale.
In September 1991, 47-year-old Nicla Perabò, from the Cussignacco neighbourhood was found strangled to death. Although she was not a sex worker, when police looked into her private life, they found she was remembered by her neighbours as a good woman who experienced some problems in her life and had some questionable acquaintances in the past, including a man named Bruno Leita. Perabò was buried on 30 September 1991 and after being questioned by detectives, 68-year-old Leita, a native of Udine, was arrested for her murder and sentenced to 17 and half years imprisonment in January 1993. Investigators strongly believed they had two killers operating in the city of Udine, one who stabbed his victims to death and in some cases performed the mutilations afterwards and another who used strangulation. This "Butcher of Udine" was more prolific than the other killer, the "Strangler of Udine" who used a ligature such as the victims stockings.
The police suspected the four cases in which the killer had mutilated the women were possibly committed by a doctor, or medical student, because the gaping incision to the abdomen was done with a fine blade, such as a scalpel. Although they conducted a thorough investigation, and an unnamed doctor was eventually identified and arrested, he was acquitted of all the charges and no other suspects were identified. The case of the Monster of Udine remains unsolved.
Written by Nucleus
Written by Nucleus