One of the most horrific unsolved crimes had Italians glued to their television sets during the sultry summer of 1990.
On the evening of August 7, in the offices of a youth hostel association (AIAG) at number 2, Via Poma, Rome, the body of 20-year-old Simonetta Cesaroni lay lifeless. The pretty brunette had been stabbed 29 times, possibly with a letter-opener.
Paola Cesaroni, worried that her sister was late coming home, called her fiancé Antonello, and together with Simonetta’s boss Salvatore Volponi, arrived at the scene at about 8:30 pm.
Simonetta was found half naked but the medical examiner ruled out sexual assault.
The autopsy results were ready the following day: Simonetta’s death had occurred between 6:00 and 6:30 pm. The victim had sustained six stab wounds and extensive bruising to the face, as well as a stab wound from one side of the neck to the other, eight in the chest and 14 in the pubic area.
Suspicions immediately fell on the caretaker of the building, Pietrino Vanacore. Only a few traces of blood were found in the room where the murder was committed. The investigating team surmised that the culprit would have had time to clean up and remove any visible evidence.
On August 10, Vanacore was apprehended because of a suspicious blood stain on his trousers, but the Review Commission released him on the grounds that the blood did not belong to Simonetta.
On April 26, 1991, the examining magistrate agreed to the public prosecutor’s request to release Vanacore and archive his file along with those of two of his relatives and another three individuals who frequented the offices in Via Poma.
A year later, Federico Valle was under investigation thanks to a witness, Austrian-born Roland Voller, who claimed to know who had killed Simonetta and why. Valle was the grandson of architect Cesare Valle who lived in the same building and had apparently spent the evening in question with Vanacore.
However, on June 16, 1993, both Valle and Vanacore were cleared of all charges including that of aiding and abetting. This was confirmed by the Court of Cassation on June 17, 1994, and Voller was exposed as a fraudster.
Ten years passed without any developments in the investigation until 2004 when the case was handed to another public attorney who decided to submit Simonetta’s items of clothing to further forensic analysis.
But things took a turn when on September 6, 2007, Raniero Busco, Simonetta’s boyfriend at the time, became a person of interest. His DNA was found on the victim’s undergarments and Busco was charged with first-degree murder.
Almost two years later, Busco was remanded to appear before a court on February 3, 2010.
Another setback occurred when caretaker Pietrino Vanacore’s body was found afloat at the seaside town of Torre Ovo in Apulia - three days before he was due to testify.
The verdict was suicide.
On January 26, 2011, Busco was convicted and sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment.
Ten months down the track, an appeals process began. The evidence was reviewed and Raniero Busco was found not guilty. He was acquitted of the murder of Simonetta Cesaroni and the decision was upheld by the Court of Cassation on February 26, 2014.
The crime remains unsolved.