- ROME -- Police in Varese,
west of Milan, last week added one more name to the list of young people
they believe were murdered by a group of heavy metal enthusiasts who took
the ultra-violent lyrics of their musical heroes too literally.
- Andrea Ballarin, 22, from the small town of Busto Arsizio,
whose death in 1999 was recorded as suicide after he was found hanged in
his old school, became the fourth person police believe fell victim to
the brutal antics of a group of local losers, routinely described in the
Italian media as devil worshippers.
- And there may be more horrors in store. Since the confession
last month of a young heavy metal musician called Mario Maccione, which
led to the discovery of the remains of two bodies in a wood north-west
of Busto Arsizio, investigators have been combing the records of deaths
in the area for others which may be linked to the group. On Thursday a
further corpse was exhumed, this time in Milan, on the orders of the investigators.
- Besides the four deaths now linked to the "satanists'',
at least five more are under scrutiny. Yet the authorities are still struggling
to understand the nature of what they have discovered. Are they up against
a cabal of fully fledged devil worshippers, committing human sacrifices,
celebrating black masses and burying their victims by the light of the
full moon? Or was this a gang of rebellious, small-town adolescents, dabbling
in soft drugs and loud, nasty music, who, disastrously, took the "satanic"
lyrics too literally and got sucked into committing violent crimes?
- A photograph of a number of the gang published this week,
including Nicola Sapone, the plumber who is said to be the group's leader,
and two of the victims, inclines one to the latter view. All nine people
in the photo are dressed in black; several wear the satanic regalia of
which much has been made, including upside-down crosses and five-pointed
stars. But they look like hormone-tormented young posers anywhere in the
world, a headache for parents and teachers but unlikely, one would reckon
from their bumptious grins, to begin slaughtering each other.
- Yet within months of this picture being taken, two of
the group were dead: Chiara Marino, the petite girl peeking over the shoulder
of Mario Maccione, the one who took his story to the police; and her boyfriend
Fabio Tollis, the smirking youth sporting a Slayer "Hell Awakes''
T-shirt. Marino and Tollis were last seen alive in January 1998, and their
fate remained a mystery until Maccione began talking. He told police that
Sapone and others had driven with the two to the woods then stabbed them
to death and buried them.
- Last month Maccione led police to the spot and the corpses
were found and exhumed. The third confirmed murder linked to the group
is that of Mariangela Pezzotta, girlfriend of Andria Volpe, another of
the leaders, who was stabbed to death earlier this year.
- But then there are all the other deaths that police think
may be connected: Ballarin, found hanged at his old school; and two young
cemetery workers, one of whom doused himself in petrol and set himself
on fire, the other of whom hanged himself. And this week yet another possibly
connected case surfaced - a youth in Busto Arsizio, who was found hanged
in woods behind his home. In his room was a solid collection of "death
rock'' albums including Hell Awaits. "Kill and kill again,'' read
the lyrics, "hungry for your blood, searching for innocent victims,
satisfy my needs ...''
- Can such callow nonsense really have impelled these young
people to kill over and over again? And if not, what could be the explanation?
- © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd