Fiamma Marsango (m. 2004)
Maurizio Restivo, Marisa Fontana
3 April 1972 (age 48 years), Sicily, Italy
Crimewatch how they caught danilo restivo
Danilo Restivo (born April 1972) is an Italian man serving a life sentence with a 40-year tariff in Britain for the 12 November 2002 murder of Heather Barnett in Bournemouth, England. Investigators suspected Restivo had murdered Barnett because of his involvement in the 12 September 1993 disappearance of Elisa Claps in Potenza, but they were unable to charge him because of lack of evidence. Subsequent to the 2010 discovery of Claps's body, Restivo was tried for the murder of Barnett, with evidence of similarities in ritualistic placing of hair on the bodies of Claps and Barnett being heard by the English court. He was found guilty of murdering Barnett, and later convicted in absentia of the murder of Claps by an Italian court. Lawyers for Omar Benguit, convicted for the 12 July 2002 murder of a Korean woman, Jong Ok-Shin, in Bournemouth, suggested that Restivo may have committed the crime. Benguit was granted an appeal hearing. In April 2014 his conviction was upheld.
- Crimewatch how they caught danilo restivo
- Disappearance of Elisa Claps
- Conspiracy theorising and false leads
- Clapss friend suspected
- Investigation takes wrong track
- Trial of Restivo with Clapss friend
- Murder of Heather Barnett
- Body of Elisa Claps discovered
- Trial and appeal
- Related legal review
Restivo was born in Sicily. In 1972 he was living with his parents in the Italian city of Potenza. He would attempt to arrange dates with girls by claiming to have a present for them. Restivo harassed those who rejected him with phone calls in which he would play a soundtrack to Profondo Rosso (English title: Deep Red), a giallo film about a serial killer who plays a melody before every murder. Claps, the 16-year-old daughter of a tobacconist and a clerk, was an honor student and a devoted Catholic, with ambitions to become a surgeon and work with Médecins Sans Frontières. She was the youngest of three children and was described as a happy, clever and gentle girl, of remarkable kindness and very close to her family, especially with her father, who adored her. She felt sorry for Restivo, who appeared lonely and depressed, and she wrote several pages in her secret diary complaining about a strange boy's odd behaviour. Despite misgivings, she agreed to meet Restivo at the 15th-century Chiesa della Santissima Trinità in the centre of the city, after Restivo phoned and asked for a date, pretending he had a love match with a friend of hers and asking for suggestions.
Disappearance of Elisa Claps
On Sunday 12 September 1993, Claps, accompanied by a female friend, went to meet Restivo at the church, arriving at approximately 11:30 a.m., just as mass had ended. When she did not return home, Claps' elder brother, Gildo, telephoned Restivo's family residence and was told that Restivo was out of town due to university essays and they had no knowledge of Claps's whereabouts. When Gildo went to the church, he discovered the priest in charge, Domenico Sabia, had suddenly left for some days, taking the only key giving access to the upper story of the church building with him. Gildo reported the disappearance of his sister to police, but was initially told the matter had "no urgency" and policemen suggested Elisa could have run away with her boyfriend or something similar. When a policeman questioned him, Restivo fell into a near-hysterical state, then admitted that he and Claps had spent some time together discussing the girl he had fallen in love with. Claps had then left the church, while he had stayed to pray. He added that Claps had seemed frightened and had confided to him that she "had been harassed by a boy before entering the church". Restivo explained a cut on his hand as the result of an accident. Later that day, he said, he had gone to Naples, where he was a freshman at the Faculty of Dentistry. The Restivo family declined the policeman's request for clothes Restivo had worn on that Sunday morning. Moreover, the fiancé of Restivo's sister, a young man named Giovanni M., told the police that Restivo had looked terrified about that little cut on his hand and had insisted on being accompanied to the emergency room. Giovanni M. stated that Restivo's jacket looked very dirty and soaked with blood. Sabia opposed a search of the church. Restivo was known to police, who believed him be responsible for nine incidents in which women had had their hair clandestinely cut. He was also thought to have tied up two children before cutting one with a knife. A magistrate refused to issue an arrest warrant for Restivo in June 1994, but four months later he was taken into custody. An Italian policeman who questioned Restivo described him as "cunning" and "precise in his answers".
Conspiracy-theorising and false leads
Claps' disappearance was the subject of intense media interest and speculation. Tobias Jones writes, "The case gradually became, for many, an obsession, one of the iconic Italian mysteries that enabled people to engage in dietrologia, literally 'behindery' or conspiracy-theorising. Claps' face—her long, dark hair, thick glasses and carefree smile—haunted the nation." An acquaintance of Claps said that she had been abducted by criminals. Claps' diary had a page missing; tests suggested that there were words written in Albanian. A connection to Albania was thought by some to be the most promising line of inquiry. Claps' elder brother, Gildo, alleged that the investigation into his sister's disappearance had been hindered by deference to prominent community figures. The investigation was taken away from the Potenza authorities and moved 120 km away to Salerno.
Claps's friend suspected
Claps' close friend who had accompanied her on the day of her disappearance told investigators that she had last seen Claps outside the church at 11:30 a.m., at which point Claps had departed to meet Restivo in the church. She claimed Claps had told her she would be back in half an hour. Prosecutors accused her of lying and suspected her of involvement in the disappearance; they asserted that she had been seen with Claps later in the day. The young woman, aged only 16, later confessed to several friends that she was worried and that she could have met the same destiny of Claps if she had been with her.
Investigation takes wrong track
The assumption that Claps had subsequently left the church moved the focus of the investigation away from the church building and onto other lines of inquiry; the church was not thoroughly searched.
Italian criminal procedure
In Italy, the accused is presumed innocent, and both the defendant and the prosecution can appeal a court's judgment. An appeal triggers what is essentially a trial de novo, in which all evidence and witnesses can be re-examined. A further appeal can be made to the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation (Corte di Cassazione), but only on procedural grounds or on issues of the interpretation of law.
Trial of Restivo with Claps's friend
In 1996, Restivo was tried for giving false information. He testified that he had met Claps in a curtained area behind the altar before she left minutes later. He admitted he had previously taken girls to a room on the first floor of the church. In 2010, the remains of Claps were found yards from that location. Tried along with Restivo were an Albanian man and Claps' close friend. Restivo alone was convicted, he was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment and lost an appeal. Because short sentences are suspended in Italy, Restivo remained free and without restriction on his movements. The prosecution appealed against the acquittal of Claps' friend, and at a second trial she was found guilty on a charge of perjury and sentenced to 14 months' imprisonment; the Italian Supreme Court later overturned the conviction.
When the body of Claps was discovered, it became clear that her friend had been telling the truth. She testified via a video link at Restivo's trial for murdering Barnett.
Murder of Heather Barnett
In May 2002 Restivo arrived in England, and moved in with a Bournemouth woman. He lived across the street from Barnett, a mother of two who worked from home as a seamstress. Restivo visited Barnett's flat on 6 November 2002, ostensibly to discuss having curtains made. On 12 November 2002, Barnett was found by her children, aged 11 and 14, when they came home from school. They waited for police to arrive at the home of Restivo. She had been bludgeoned to death with a hammer and her breasts, which had been severed, were beside her head. A lock of hair, which was not Barnett's, had been placed in her right hand and some of her own hair was under her left hand. The time of death was estimated to be shortly after Barnett had returned home after taking her children to school that morning.
Restivo was not immediately a person of interest for detectives. Along with his Italian landlady, Fiamma, he was taken to Bournemouth Police station on the evening of the 12th. With no translator to hand, Fiamma translated. At that interview, Restivo produced his timed and dated bus ticket. There were a number of innocent victims arrested prior to Restivo. Restivo was questioned by the Police in mid 2003 and released without charge. At an early stage he had produced a bus ticket with a time-stamp of 8:44 a.m. to support his alibi of having been on his way to a computer course at the time of the murder. The detective heading the inquiry later said that Restivo gave the impression of being "bumbling". Forensic investigation showed the killer had left few traces at the crime scene. Luminol tests showed a trail of bloody shoe-prints that ended suddenly, this was thought to indicate the killer had changed his shoes before leaving Barnett's house. Although Barnett's son told police the day after the murder that his mother's keys went missing after Restivo's visit of 6 November, and he was found to have soaked the Trainers he had worn on 12 November in bleach, Restivo was not strongly suspected at first because of his bus ticket.
In the light of Restivo's connection to Claps' disappearance and suspicious behaviour detectives regarded him as chief suspect, but there was not sufficient evidence for a prosecution. In March 2004 he was put under close surveillance using electronic tracking and listening devices; police overheard Restivo being spoken to by his parents and female companion as if he were a child. He was observed on repeated visits to a beauty spot where he was covertly filmed as he apparently stalked lone women. On 12 May 2004 the surveillance team became alarmed, a uniformed patrol was ordered to stop and search Restivo on a pretext. Although it was a warm day he was wearing waterproof over-trousers. In his car police found an identical change of clothing, filleting knife, scissors, a balaclava and gloves. In June 2004 a schoolgirl identified Restivo as the man who had cut her hair on a bus, in November 2006 he was rearrested and his home searched. Police found a lock of hair. Trainers he had worn on the day of the murder had traces of blood, but it could not be identified. In 2008 new techniques revealed a bloodstained towel left at the murder scene had a DNA match for Restivo, but he claimed to have left it on the visit to the home of Barnett on 6 November. The evidence was still judged insufficient for a prosecution.
Body of Elisa Claps discovered
Priest Domenico Sabia from Potenza died in 2008, he had denied ever being acquainted with Restivo, but a photograph of Restivo's 18th birthday party emerged that showed Sabia had been one of the guests. In March 2010 a body was found in the church, in a brick alcove beside the bell tower. Forensic DNA analysis initially suggested the body was not that of Claps, but on re-testing it was found to be her. Strands of Claps' own hair had been cut from her head shortly after her death and placed near her hands. Italian investigation found DNA and other evidence indicating Restivo was the murderer of Claps.
In a move that the prosecutor said was unrelated to the Italian investigation, it was decided that the evidence against Restivo was sufficient for a prosecution. Two months after the remains of Claps were found, Restivo was charged with the murder of Barnett. Elisa's funeral service took place on July 2, 2011 and the holy mass was celebrated by Don Marcello Cozzi, an Italian priest well known for his strong battles against the mafia and crime. A large number of people from all Italy took part to the ceremony.
Trial and appeal
It was ruled that the English court could hear evidence that Restivo had murdered Elisa Claps in Italy, and about the similarities of that murder with the murder of Barnett. Italian investigators testified to the English court that DNA recovered from the clothes on the body of Claps matched Restivo and was consistent with blood. In May 2011, Restivo was found guilty of murdering Heather Barnett, the judge sentenced him to spend the rest of his life in prison. Appealing against the whole life term Restivo's lawers argued the judge was wrong to take the Claps murder into account when sentencing Restivo for the murder of Barnett, as Restivo had not been convicted of it at that time. In November 2012 the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Restivo and altered his minimum sentence to 40 years, but said it was "highly improbable" he would ever be released. In 2014 Restivo appealed against a decision he should be deported, the Home Secretary having ordered his transfer to Italy, where he would be jailed for life.
Related legal review
In 2011 the Criminal Cases Review Commission began examining the conviction of Omar Benguit to determine if it should be referred to the Court of Appeal. After juries at two previous trials had failed to agree on a verdict, Benguit was found guilty in January 2005 on a charge of murdering Jong-Ok Shin, a 26-year-old Korean woman who had come to England to study. She was attacked yards from her home, three blocks from where Restivo lived, in the early hours of 12 July 2002. One criminologist expressed the opinion that the likelihood of different killers with similar long bladed knives committing murders three streets apart within four months is "very, very small". Benguit's lawyers said the main prosecution witness in the case was unreliable; while several lines of circumstantial evidence pointed to Restivo. In a 2014 hearing, the Court of Appeal ruled the verdict was consistent with the testimony from the witness, who had not changed her evidence, and Benguit's conviction was upheld.