More than two years after their 30-year-old daughter Claire died in the southern Campania region - with ten stab wounds to the throat - Pat and Ray Martin have come to the end of road in the Italian justice system.
Their battle to have the investigation into their daughter’s death reopened was recently met with a firm “no” from a judge in Benevento, who despite recognizing “interesting and challenging issues” in their case chose to archive it as a suicide.
Speaking to The Local following the ruling, Pat said she felt the Italian justice system has “let us down in every way”.
“You have to be blind not to see the inconsistencies when you read our objection...we feel it is very corrupt.
“It’s like a horror story and the horror just continues for us,” she said.
The Martins argued that key pieces of evidence, which suggest Claire was murdered on March 1st 2012, in the village of Grottaminarda, were ignored by Italian investigators.
“I’m at a complete loss,” Ray told The Local, rolling out a list of discrepancies in the investigative documents which were not followed-up. They include a spot of male DNA found on the knife and an unidentified man caught on CCTV, while a coroner also changed his mind on the cause of death.
Pat said that when she and Ray arrived in Italy from the UK, a day after Claire had died, there were “only six inches of crime tape left...as if nothing had happened.”
The Martins believe that the police were not thorough enough, a point rejected by Judge Gelsomina Palmieri who said “exhaustive investigations” had been carried out.
“It cannot be seen how, at a distance of more than two years from the event, the elements indicated can lead to different conclusions,” Palmieri wrote in her order to archive the case, seen by The Local.
Claire’s parents disagree, having trawled through pages of evidence including wiretap transcripts and medical reports. They have also looked into police interviews and want to know why one witness said their daughter had cut marks on her wrists; a claim which coroners found to be false.
“We’ve had to read things about our daughter that no parents should ever have to read,” Pat said. “[Based on] the things we’ve read, we can’t understand how they’ve been overlooked.”
‘To hell and back’
With the case now closed in Italy, the family want answers on the way the case was handled following Claire’s death.
They have written an open letter to Michela Palladino, then the local prosecutor dealing with the case, requesting a meeting to find out what led her to close the case as a suicide on June 3rd 2013.
In the letter, Pat and Ray explain that when they met Palladino in March 2012, following Claire’s death, the prosecutor refused to answer their questions as investigations were ongoing. The Martins say they were told by Palladino that she would meet with them once the case was closed.
“The time has come for you to honour that promise and meet with us, and at least try to explain how you decided that Claire had committed suicide,” the family wrote.
“The past two and a half years have been a time of torturous waiting for us,” Pat and Ray said, describing waiting months for the official cause of death, before the lengthy process to have their objections heard in court.
“We just wonder what has happened to justice,” The Martins wrote.
Since presiding over the case in Ariano Irpino, a town close to Grottaminarda, Palladino has moved to work at the Naples North court. When contacted by The Local, staff at the courthouse said the prosecutor was unavailable to speak about the case or respond to the Martins’ letter.
Undeterred, Pat and Ray said they will now take their legal battle to the European Court of Human Rights.
In December the couple met with the UK’s minister for Europe, David Lidington, who they hope will now give them guidance on taking the case to the Strasbourg court.
They have the support of their British MP, Gloria De Piero, who said her constituents “were forced to wait for what seemed like an eternity” for the court decision earlier this year.
“Pat and Ray Martin have been to hell and back over the last few years yet shockingly they still aren’t any closer to finding out what really happened to their daughter Claire,” De Piero said in a statement.
“Pat and Ray are determined to carry on in their fight for justice and they have my backing all of the way.”
Reflecting on the next stage Pat said she remains determined, although “it’s going to be hard”.
As she and Ray wrote in their letter, they cannot leave the records of their daughter’s death to gather dust in the archive of an Italian court: “We have to continue our quest for the truth...we will never give up until we know exactly what happened on that dreadful day.”