Massacre Erba, all about the three proofs of discord: confessions, science and witness

After almost 17 years, a deputy prosecutor ‘supports’ the defense: “Olindo and Rosa are innocent”

Eyewitness, scientific evidence, and confessions, in this exact chronological order. Against Olindo Romano and Rosa Bazzi, definitively sentenced to life imprisonment for the massacre of Erba, there is everything the prosecution would like to have in their hands to win a trial. Yet, surprisingly, the deputy prosecutor of the Milan court of appeal, almost 17 years after the facts, accepts the ‘challenge’ of the defenders and tries to ‘crumble’ what all the judges – in each of the three levels of judgment – they never questioned. He does it through new evidence, relying on scientific and technological advances which, enclosed in three major expert reports, try to restore another truth and transform the guilty into possible victims of a judicial error. Innocents whose conviction is the result of “falsehood”.

The Milan prosecutor Cuno Trasfusser signs the first, difficult, attempt to request a review of what happened on the evening of December 11, 2006 when in just 22 minutes, starting at 8 pm, with weapons never found – he will write about bar and knife then thrown in a dumpster – Raffaella Castagna, her 2-year-old son Youssef Marzouk, the grandmother of the little Paola Galli and a neighbor Valeria Cherubini, who rushed after the flames that broke out in via Diaz, were killed with ferocity. Her husband Mario Frigerio, seriously injured in the carotid artery and the only eyewitness of the massacre linked to neighborhood disputes, will be saved only by chance.

Immediately the attention of the investigators focuses on the spouses, heard as witnesses on 12 and 20 December, then stopped on 8 January 2007. Against them – immediately intercepted – there is the bloodstain found on 26 December on the Olindo’s car, then the recognition (January 2) by Frigerio – admitted to the Sant’Anna hospital in Como – of Olindo as his aggressor. He doesn’t convince the couple’s alibi: the receipt from a downtown McDonald’s. “We did it”, they said on January 10, 2007, assuming responsibility for the slaughter. Case closed to read the sentences that dedicate dozens of pages to those three trials – a good 70 for the confessions, 23 for the acknowledgment and 21 for the bloodstain – and which the deputy prosecutor tries to dismantle – it will be necessary to pass the scrutiny of Brescia – in the 58-page review request.

Identification – Mario Frigerio is the only survivor, but also the only witness of the Erba massacre. Admitted to intensive care, only about 86 hours after the events – or at 10.30 on 15 December 2006 – can he be heard. From 15 to 26 December he was heard eight times: first by the unknown killer, then “from 2 January 2007” he spoke of Olindo as his attacker. He reconstructs what happened on the evening of the massacre, when his wife comes back from an evening walk with the dog and warns him that smoke is coming out of the house below – “frequented by non-EU citizens of Arab culture” – and goes to check. “I saw the door of Castagna’s apartment ajar. The man pulled out a knife and cut my throat, then I lost consciousness.”

The description of the man is “strong build, short black hair, olive complexion, dark eyes, no moustache, he was dressed in dark, but I can’t specify the color. The light on the stairs, which was in time, went out and this it didn’t allow me to react quickly to the attacker who had brute force. While being attacked I could hear my wife screaming, so I think there was at least one other attacker. I don’t know what language they spoke, because I didn’t hear them speak” , his words on the record. Five days later Frigerio meets lieutenant Luciano Gallorini and for the first time, according to an annotation “studded with various oddities”, asks him if he knows Olindo Romano and at a certain point, Frigerio, crying, is said to have said that “‘his assassin could be the Olindo'”. A revelation that does not lead to an acceleration: he is heard again on December 26, but there would be an “irremediable discrepancy between the summary reports of the service and the transcripts of the recordings”.

In the annotations the text is clear: “The person I saw in the face was a person known to me. It was my neighbor named Olindo, I recognized him immediately but then I removed it because I didn’t want to believe it and I wanted to delete everything”; then he adds: “I remember wondering what Olindo was doing there in that mess.” And again: “I didn’t say right away that I recognized Olindo not because I wanted to cover him up”, but because he found it hard to believe that he could have done such a thing. That aggressor will recognize him in the courtroom in Como – in the hearing of 26 February 2008 – with a whisper, but without hesitation, pointing his finger at Olindo: “It’s useless for you to look at me like that, wretch, it was you”.

Yet in the request for revision it is noted that the recognition had “a tortuous genesis, both affected by evident and serious critical elements that make it extremely doubtful but above all, which is based on elements which, despite being in the records, have never been evaluated” by the judges. And new elements are added: “From the clinical data acquired after 2010”, from the “transcripts of environmental interceptions never carried out before” ranging from December 20, 2006 to January 3, 2007, up to “new scientific data on memory distortions following suggestions” made on a witness in the same conditions lead us to believe that Frigerio, intoxicated by the monoxide given off by the fire, was the victim of a “false memory” of what happened on the evening of December 11, 2006.

The bloodstain – The trace of the victim Valeria Cherubini found on the sill of Olindo’s car would have a “strange” genesis. The car is viewed twice. The first time on 12 December at 14.21 by the carabinieri of the Erba station, when no trace of blood appears on the driver’s side, then on 26 December at 23 by a soldier from the Como operational unit. What could be the urgency of carrying out a technical assessment “15 days after the events” and drawing up the related report “only at 11 am on 28 December, or 36 hours later?” is the question about an act apparently drawn up by a sergeant, but not signed by him. Again: “Where are the photos of the traces, of the finds”?. The “inspection, collection, recording and transmission operations take place, not only in timescales and in ways that are, to say the least, non-transparent and non-traceable, but also with astonishing superficiality, despite the fact that it was a task potentially of great importance in an investigation of exceptional significance”.

A ‘strangeness’ that transforms the scientific element into evidence that “exudes criticality” right from the start. The pg’s questions on “authenticity” concern why the investigation, “very delicate and potentially decisive”, is carried out by a single brigadier “and not, with all the trappings in terms of professionalism, competence and with the appropriate technical equipment, by Ris specialists” already on site. Surprising, for the deputy prosecutor, the ability of the Romanos “to have managed not to leave any trace of them on the place where they unleashed an unbridled rage leaving a bloodbath and to have managed not to ‘bring’ any trace of the crime just committed” in their home.

The confessions – The first interrogation of Olindo Romano and Rosa Bazzi dates back to 8 January 2007. “Simply listening to the recordings (not reading the transcripts) of the interrogations given immediately after the arrest by the then suspects leaves one amazed. First of all, the environmental context. This it is characterized by an enormous numerical, cultural, emotional, legal imbalance. Even four prosecutors proceed to the interrogation of the two arrested, a semi-literate woman and a garbage man” and “the ubiquitous Gallorini” writes pg Tarfusser. The pressure, especially psychological-emotional, to which the two detainees are subjected “is enormous”, but despite “often suggestive questions, other times based on completely unfounded, incorrect, certainly incomplete assumptions” they do not confess. Olindo repeats his innocence for an hour and forty minutes.

Then the collapse. “It also remains to be understood what happened in the approximately 48 hours between the interrogations of 8 January and those of 10 January 2007. What is certain is that the two are subject to some ‘manipulation’ by the carabinieri who entered the prison, ostensibly to take fingerprints (…), an activity which in any case does not require three hours”, reads the request for revision. “In those 48 hours Bazzi and Romano were given the opportunity to meet and talk to each other. Unusual is the least that can be said even if having given this opportunity to meet had an investigative purpose given that the place of the meeting is intercepted which, however, did not give the desired result”.

The request cites neurological assessments that claim they are “false confessions”, even the videos of the experts in prison for the pg demonstrate the couple’s alleged performance. Yet those confessions, later written in the Bible by Olindo, the Cassation considers granite, underlining details – the position of the corpses, the fire fueled by the books, the death of Youssef slaughtered by a left hand – that only those who had been in the court that evening of via Diaz in Erba he could know.