Maurizio Minghella: The Valpocevera Strangler

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On April 18th, 1978, Italian serial killer Maurizio Minghella killed a prostitute named Anna Pagano. The corpse was found by shepherds, her head had been bashed in and a ballpoint pen was embedded in her anal cavity. He would kill again on July 8th, July 18th, August 22nd and November 1978. In separate killing spans, he would kill a total of 15 women before his arrest in 2001 with five of them in 1978 alone.

The Italian press gave him the nickname Killer of Prostitutes. Sex workers and prostitutes are more likely to be targeted by serial killers than any other female. Yet, in Italy, serial killers were not as common as they were in the United States, Russia or even the United Kingdom.

Minghella was born in Genoa in 1958 and was raised from the age of six-years-old by his single parent mother. She then married a new man who would subsequently beat her and Minghella’s four siblings. It was later confirmed that Minghella’s stepfather was an abusive alcoholic who would brutally beat every member of the family.

Minghella was failing in school because of the abuse and started to bully other pupils. He would get them in headlocks or push them by their necks. Sometimes he would drag them by their noses or mouths. Beyond his school life he had taken on many small jobs and had been seen with plenty of girls on his arm.

He had then been nicknamed the Travoltino of Val Polcevera due tohis affection for women and disco music. Travoltino translates to Travolta.

Beyond his bit-part jobs he would steal motorbikes and small cars to charge around the streets of Val Polcervera. Shortly after, his brother was killed in a car crash, and it is suggested that this event had a huge psychological impact on him. Afterwards, he developed a morbid fascination with dead bodies but somehow held off from killing.

He married a 15-year-old girl named Rosa Manfredi. Although that might shock a lot of people in other countries, the age of consent in Italy was 14-years-old in 1977 and remains the same today. The law even stretches to 13-years-old if their partner is under the age of18-years-old.

Rosa died shortly after their marriage of a drug overdose, related to suffering depression after a miscarriage. She was already dependent on psychotropic drugs when they had met. Her death just a few months after their marriage had an even deeper psychological impact on Minghella’s own mental health.

He began to visit prostitutes more so after Rosa’s death, but even while they were married. At the beginning of 1978, he was briefly under the care of a psychiatric clinic in Genoa, but they failed to see the path he was going to take.

On April 18th 1978, he killed 20-year-old prostitute, Anna Pagano. He attempted to divert any following investigation by writing messages related to the Red Brigades on her body. It is said that the police didn’t take notice of it and saw it as misdirection immediately.

On July 8th 1978, he killed another prostitute and hid her body in an abandoned car. Just ten days later, he would kill 14-year-old Maria Catena Alba who had gone missing the previous day. Her nude body was found tied to a tree by her neck. She had been raped and abused before and after her death.

Two more victims were raped and murdered before his arrest in December of 1978. He confessed to two immediately but pleaded not guilty on the others. The writing on the body of his first victim and the pen in the victim’s anus was enough to link him directly with that crime.

On April 3rd 1981, he was sentenced to life in a maximum-security prison for the five murders. He then proclaimed his innocence and in a twist of fate he was released to community care in 1995, which acted as a gateway between prison life and full freedom.

But Minghella was a killer, he had killed before out of sexual perversity and would kill again. There was no doubt of this in the minds of some psychologists who were against his soft-release.

In March of 1997 he killed a 53-year-old prostitute in Turin. It was his new first victim of his second era of freedom. He would kill again in 1997, 1998, and in 1999.

“I hated him a lot, I often dreamed of killing him, pulling a rope around his neck from behind his back.”

Minghella in an interview, speaking about his stepfather.

His last victim was in February 2001, when he killed 27-year-old Florentina Motoc. Her face and head had been bashed in and she had been sexually abused. He attempted to burn her clothing but failed to get rid of all of his DNA. He was subsequently arrested, just six years after his release.

Beyond the DNA, the investigation had used mobile phone tracking technology to place Minghella in the area where Motoc had been discovered. In that six year period, he had killed a suspected ten more women.

After a brief escape in 2003, he was only convicted of four murders but linked with the ten. He was sentenced to life in prison in Pavia, where he is currently incarcerated. It is suspected he had killed at least 15 prostitutes over the course of his life.

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