Trial date set for US teens over Italian police murder

An Italian judge has set a date for the fast-tracked trial of two US teenagers charged with killing a police officer during a botched drug deal in Rome.

Trial date set for US teens over Italian police murder
"Always with us": mourners carry a photo of murdered officer Rega at his funeral. Photo: Eliano Imperato/AFP

The trial date, February 26, has been set unusually quickly by the standards of the Italian justice system, after a judge accepted the Rome prosecutor's request for an 'immediate' trial, bypassing the preliminary hearing stage.

The violent killing of officer Mario Cerciello Rega, who was in plain clothes when he was stabbed to death on July 26, sparked a national outcry. 

READ ALSO: Stabbed 11 times with a US Marine knife: Prosecutors reveal how Italian police officer was murdered

On Thursday, Judge Chiara Gallo set a February 26 trial date in the case against Finnegan Elder, 19, and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 18, who are being held in a Rome jail.

Both are facing charges of voluntary manslaughter, resisting arrest, attempted extortion and assault, according to Italian media reports.

Police have said that Elder confessed to stabbing Cerciello Rega, 35, with a combat knife.

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Cerciello Rega and his partner intercepted the teens after an intermediary on a drug deal reported them to the police for stealing his bag after they were sold aspirin instead of cocaine.

Police tracked the teens to their four-star hotel after the attack, where they found a large knife hidden in the false ceiling of their room.

The weapon used in the attack on Cerciello, which has an 18-centimetre blade, was brought over from the US.
“Having a knife is not unusual for a kid of his age in our neighbourhood,” Elder's mother has previously said.
Many questions remain about the events of that night, but on Tuesday Italy's La Repubblica newspaper published leaked, intercepted statements from Elder in prison saying the teens knew that Cerciello Rega and his partner, Andrea Varriale, were police as they had identified themselves as such.



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Two hospitalised as wildfire breaks out near Rome

Thick clouds of smoke were reported over the Italian capital on Monday afternoon as a large wildfire took hold on the north-western edge of the city.

Two hospitalised as wildfire breaks out near Rome

Photos and video taken by Rome residents on Wednesday afternoon show thick clouds of smoke, with the fire visible from the western side of the city’s ring road, or GRA (Grande Raccordo Anulare).

Firefighters are working to contain the blaze, which is reportedly spreading in the area between the major roads Via Aurelia and Via di Casalotti.

A mother and her baby were taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation while 35 others were treated at the scene, according to local news reports.

Several homes and a summer camp have so far been evacuated, according to reports.

Explosions were heard as the fire reached warehouses in an industrial area west of the capital, reports Rai News, thought to be caused as the fire reached dozens of gas cylinders kept at a campervan storage facility.

The fire brigade said in a tweet that several teams were at the scene of the explosions.

Firefighters said the blaze was becoming less intense at around 5pm on Monday, but that it was still spreading due to high winds.

A prolonged heatwave and a severe drought have caused extremely dry conditions across much of Italy, including Lazio, the region around Rome.

READ ALSO: Italian wildfires ‘three times worse’ than average as heatwave continues

This story is being updated…