The Monster of Florence
Judge Rotella’s opinion, the route to be followed to discover the monster’s identity had, in any case, to link with the 1968 murder. In the preliminary phase of the investigations into that crime, a page had been overlooked, the one Rotella entitles: “Salvatore Vinci”. On that page Stefano Mele, withdrawing his accusations against Francesco Vinci, had said, “Salvatore was a bad egg, too. In Sardinia his wife died from gas poisoning, but there, too, the child was spared. He had a four- wheeled car.”The car detail is not negligible. In fact, it had been impossible to understand how Stefano and the others could have arrived from Signa to the scene of the crime and then leave again, because none of them had a car. Salvatore Vinci was the only one who had one. Rotella supposes that Stefano accused Francesco Vinci to shift the suspicion away from Salvatore, whom he had accused in the beginning.Salvatore Vinci’s role in the 1968 crime is reconsidered. It was Salvatore who starter to direct suspicion toward his brother Francesco. What we know is that, precisely after Salvatore’s insinuations to the investigators, Stefano Mele withdrew his accusations against Salvatore and, weeping, asked for his forgiveness. From that moment he, too, began to accuse Francesco. Why did Salvatore have so much ascendancy over Stefano? There was a rumor going around, and Barbara herself boasted about it, that Natalino was not Stefano’s son, but Salvatore’s. But this alone was not reason enough. Mele tried to hide the true reason: “If it existed,” wrote Judge Rotella, “it must have been much stronger than hate, fear, and the sacrifice of family affections demonstrated by Stefano.” The reason for Stefano Mele’s lies was discovered when the shocking personality of Salvatore Vinci was revealed: it was shame. With difficulty, but only in 1985, Stefano Mele confesses to Rotella that he had had heterosexual relations with his wife Barbara, but also homosexual relations with Salvatore Vinci. And that isn’t all: he adds that he had been with him, with his wife, and with his son Natalino at Le Casine, where Salvatore had his wife go with other men. Only when, in 1985, Stefano Mele gets up the courage to confess the truth about his and his wife’s sexual relations to the judge and relieves himself of that burden, 17 years later he goes back to repeating what, as if venting, was his initial version of the facts of the night of the crime: “Salvatore Vinci was with me.” Rotella goes back to check Salvatore Vinci’s alibi for the night of the 1968 crime. Salvatore had said that he had spent the time playing pool with two friends, a certain Nicola Antenucci and Silvano Vargiu, his shepherd servant, as well as his lover. Antenucci had already said back then that he had mistaken the date and was discarded as a witness. Silvano Vargiu remained, and in the end admitted that he had only said what Salvatore had told him to say. But there’s more: when Stefano Mele, two days after the 1968 crime, was taken to the scene for a reconstruction of the events, when he arrived in front of the house at which Natalino had rung the doorbell, he apparently made a mistake and indicated the house next-door. At the time the investigators thought it was an imprecision of Stefano’s. But instead the house indicated was Silvano Vargiu’s – in short, that of the man who had provided Salvatore Vinci with a false alibi. Was Vargiu the shadow, the unknown person, of whom Natalino had spoken? And another clue started to weigh on Salvatore: shortly before he left his town of Villacidro in Sardinia, someone had stolen from an elderly relative of his a Beretta caliber 22 bought in Holland. Rotella’s hypothesis was that between the Meles and Salvatore Vinci, who owed them a lot of money, an agreement had been reached: Salvatore would have definitively rid them of Barbara and they would have cancelled his debt. Salvatore allegedly demanded the presence of Stefano to make him appear as the only culprit. The Meles allegedly sent two representatives, Giovanni and Piero Mucciarini, to make sure that Salvatore would not steal the half million lire that Barbara had taken a few days earlier, and which they hoped to recover that very night in Antonio Lo Bianco’s Giulietta. In June of 1985 Stefano Mele tells Rotella that it had been Salvatore Vinci who came up with the idea of killing Barbara. The woman, nauseated by their homosexual relationship, was no longer giving herself to the two men. Salvatore no longer felt her as his. Mele says that Salvatore had organized everything; he had even decided that Stefano had to be the last one to hold the weapon, so that the gunpowder residues would have remained on him. He says that that night, Salvatore fired first, then Giovanni Mele, and lastly he, Stefano, who, however, had aimed in the air to avoid hitting the child. Stefano says that the gun belonged to Salvatore Vinci. Salvatore Vinci is arrested for the murder of his first wife, Barbarina Steri, who died asphyxiated by gas in 1961 in Sardinia. Rotella was convinced that the young woman had not committed suicide, but had been murdered by her husband. Three years later, in April 1988, the trial for Barbarina’s death opens in the hall of the Court of Assizes of Cagliari, competent for the territory. It is obvious to everyone that the real aim of the prosecution was not so much to sentence Salvatore Vinci fir the death of his wife 28 years earlier, as to demonstrate, through such a sentence, that he was capable of killing and that he therefore could theoretically also be the “Monster of Florence”. His son Antonio, by now an adult, was also called upon to testify, but refused to answer. Throughout the entire hearing father and son stared at each other hatefully, but neither of them said anything. So much hate was probably caused by the fact that Salvatore did not consider Antonio his son, but believed him to be the fruit of the relationship between Barbarina and her lover. The portrait depicted of Vinci was impressively frightening, but was it the portrait of the “Monster of Florence”? The reconstruction of the alleged murder of his wife Barbarina, almost 30 years later, was very problematic. Vinci was released. From Cagliari he went for a few days to Villacidro. Then he disappeared. According to several relatives, he had first gone to Venezuela, then to Spain, precisely in Andalusia. In 1995 he returned for a few months to Villacidro, accompanied by a Spanish woman. Then he disappeared again. Some time later the rumor – spread by his family – started circulating that he had died there, but the information was never confirmed in any way. During the program Davide Cannella, a private investigator in Lucca, phoned. According to information gathered by him – “all yet to be verified” – Salvatore Vinci could still be alive and well. Last year he allegedly phoned Villacidro, in Sardinia, a number of time.