Federico Leonelli, 35, was shot outside a gated house in Rome on Sunday morning, after allegedly beheading 38-year-old Oksana Martseniuk.
Homeowner Giovanni Ciallella has now said that his guest Leonelli was obsessed with “the military world” and wanted to fight in Gaza alongside the Israeli army.
“He told me that he had met a rabbi in Rome and was ready to join the Israeli army against Hamas and terrorists armed with missiles,” Ciallella told La Repubblica.
Leonelli had been an atheist when the pair worked together in the IT sector a decade ago, although had recently discovered his Jewish heritage and immersed himself in religious texts.
“He started to study the Torah, the Talmud and once he stopped to speak about the Old Testament with me.
“Then he searched on the internet and saw dozens and dozens of videos. At night he watched films by rabbis at full volume which informed him of what was happening in the Gaza strip,” Ciallella said.
Leonelli had twice been denied a visa to travel to Israel and wanted to take the issue up with the consulate in Rome, to “sign up at any cost”, his host added.
The alleged killer had moved into the home in Rome’s Eur neighbourhood in June and was due to stay until early September. Leonelli had been living in the Portuguese island of Madeira but had recently moved back to Rome.
He had suffered a “huge breakdown” following the death of his girlfriend, Ciallella said, and moved in with his mother. She, however, had a stroke and Leonelli’s sister had taken over the house, allegedly forcing him to move to his father’s home and later a student house.
Leonelli’s former colleague had agreed to take him in over the summer months, housing him in a building separate to the main house, although became aware of his increasingly strange behaviour.
“One day I saw him training in the garden and doing strange somersaults…he had a knife in his hand. When he saw that I was watching him, he hid himself as if he was a thief,” Ciallella said.
In two months Leonelli never left the house and would pass almost all of his time in his room, “surrounded by energy drinks”.
Despite early reports that Martseniuk was murdered after she rejected Leonelli’s advances, Ciallella ruled this out and said he rarely entered the main house where the maid slept.
He did, however, say that he had been contacted by Martseniuk the night before she was murdered, with a text message that read: “I’m scared of Federico.” Ciallella said he only saw the message on Sunday morning, when she was killed, and thought phone calls he received later that day from friends about the crime were “a joke”.
Ciallella went into shock on having the news confirmed and was at first unsure who the victim was. “The police called me and told me that the victim had black hair. I thought that it could be his sister, seeing that he had a grudge against her. But it was Oksana. She was blonde, the poor woman, but her hair was soaked in blood,” he told La Repubblica.