Top Italian Unresolved Mysteries Part III
Monster of Florence
Every country has its version of Jack the Ripper and although locations, eras, victims and details might be different the end result are equally dramatic and tragic. Italy's version haunted the countryside of Florence from 1968 to 1985, targeting couples who were camping or together in their cars. The list of victims continued to grow without any substantial information as to who the culprit was until, finally, it seemed that some light was shed on the serial killings. It turned out that not one man but three were responsible.
A trial took place and Mario Vanni, Giancarlo Lotti and Pietro Pacciani were accused and convicted of being the monstrous serial killers; however, Paccciani was cleared on appeal before dying of natural causes. Where is the mystery, you ask? Well, the media and the public were never fully convinced by the final verdict as the efficiency and professionalism of the murders didn't match the rough, rural manners of Pacciani and his companions.
Indeed, many believe that the trial didn't identify the real killers, or at the very least not the mastermind behind them, and that it was all a big cover up, perhaps protecting a famous Florentine surgeon. In cases like these myth and reality fade into urban legends and fictional stereotypes while the truth becomes more and more elusive, and the only certainty of this horrible case are the couples who were killed.
One of the United States' greatest mysteries is the killing of JFK, an event that many believe is more than what the official story tells us. Italy's version of this is the Itavia airline crash that occurred in June 1980.
A DC-9 flying to Palermo, Sicily exploded in the air killing all 81 people on board. The explosion occurred at night, over the island of Ustica, and the remains of the explosion were scattered across the sea. After a brief investigation and vague explanation the airline was found to be at fault. At that time Itavia was the only private airline in Italy, but after the explosion their planes were grounded and eventually, after years of litigation, the company closed forever.
Eventually public outrage--both from the families of the dead and those who lost their jobs when the airline folded--made people take a second look at the crash. Another, more thorough, investigation was launched and a new truth began to emerge, one that was very different from the original story.
What seems to have occurred is that the DC-9 ended up in the middle of a NATO operation during which either a French or American fighter jet was chasing two Libyan military planes, one of which was reportedly carrying Gaddafi himself. It was the Cold War era and Gaddafi was on the list of the most wanted international terrorists. The NATO plane shot down one of the Libyan planes, but missed the second, hitting the civilian jet instead. Of course, this version of events is still unofficial, however, some judges have already ruled in favor of the new evidence and court cases are ongoing.
An alternate theory is that a missile strike ordered by the Italian government felled the plane. Those that support this theory believe the reason is the competition the private airline was giving to the state-run airline, Alitalia. It seems that we are inching towards more of the truth, but an official answer is still owed to the poor souls that lost their lives on that tragic evening and their families.