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CRIME

Italian man cleared of stealing aubergine, nine years on

An Italian man has finally been acquitted of stealing an aubergine nine years after first being charged, ending a legal wrangle over a piece of fruit worth pennies that cost taxpayers thousands.

Italian man cleared of stealing aubergine, nine years on
After a long legal battle, an Italian man has been acquitted of stealing an aubergine. Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP

The man, then aged 49, had the incriminating aubergine in his bucket when police caught him trying to escape through a privately owned field near Lecce, in the southern region of Puglia, in 2009.

While being taken away, he pleaded with the police that he had tried to steal the nightshade because he was unemployed and desperate to feed his child.

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However, the courts initially showed no mercy, sentencing him to five months in prison and ordering him to pay a €500 fine. That punishment was reduced on appeal to two months' jail and €120.

The man's legal counsel was still not satisfied and took the case to the Court of Cassation in Rome, Italy's highest appeals court, where the defendant was acquitted nearly a decade after he was first arrested.

The Court of Cassation criticized the lower courts in Lecce for not taking into account the extreme weakness of the prosecution's case given the man's financial situation.

La Repubblica newspaper quoted the ruling as saying that the man “was definitely acting to satisfy the hunger of his family… there are grounds for justification [of the theft]”.

The court also lamented the amount of public money spent on the case, with €7,000-8,000 going towards legal fees as the man was too poor to pay for his own defence, La Repubblica reported.

CRIME

 Italian police arrest mafia member after three women killed in Rome

Italian police on Saturday arrested a mafia member suspected of killing two alleged Chinese prostitutes and a Colombian sex worker in Rome, local media reported.

 Italian police arrest mafia member after three women killed in Rome

The bodies of the two Chinese women were discovered in a residential building in the upmarket Prati district on Thursday morning, while the body of the South American was found in an apartment in the same neighbourhood an hour later.

All three victims were stabbed, according to Italian media reports.

According to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, footage from surveillance cameras allowed police to identify 51-year-old Giandavide De Pau, who had been prosecuted in the past for drug trafficking and sexual assault.

The suspect is reportedly a member of a mafia clan headed by Michele Senese, who is currently serving a life sentence. De Pau is believed to have been one of Senese’s closest collaborators, acting as his personal driver and handyman.

In 2008 and 2011, the suspect had also spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

It is unknown whether the suspected killer was carrying out a mafia hit or acting alone, possibly under the influence of drugs, which were found at the home of some family members where he is believed to have sought refuge after the police manhunt got underway, Corriere della Sera reported.

Several newspapers had warned of a possible “serial killer” in the Italian capital.

The body of one of the Chinese victims was spotted by a neighbour where it lay, naked on a landing. The woman, believed to be in her 40s, had suffered head and stomach injuries, the newspaper said.

When police entered her apartment, they found the body of the second Chinese woman.

Nobody in the building appeared to have heard the murders take place, according to residents.

“Everybody knew there was a house of ill repute here, I’d see people arriving at 2:00 am, 3:00 am,” a woman who lived in the building told reporters.

The body of the Colombian, who was 65, was found by a friend, Corriere della Sera said.

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