A mysterious ailment which experts believe to be caused by microbes, but which superstitious observers blame on a \”curse\”, has caused appeals in the case of the 1995 Milan murder of the fashion heir Maurizio Gucci to grind to a halt.
The ailment, described as a \”virus\” which affects anyone who comes into contact with the court papers, appears as a rash on the skin, irritates the throat and causes nausea.
In Milan, where the murder by a hitman occurred, it has been referred to as the \”return of the curse of Gucci\”, the fashion dynasty that enjoyed fabulous success – with an equal measure of family feuding and betrayals.
Patrizia Reggiani Gucci, called Gucci\’s \”black widow\”, who was sentenced to 26 years in jail for ordering the murder of her ex-husband, is now seeking to be released from Milan\’s San Vittore prison on grounds of ill health to serve the rest of her sentence at home.
Her former husband, who divorced her a few months earlier and took up with another woman, was shot dead as he entered his Milan office building in March 1995. The hitman followed Gucci into the building, called his name and shot him when he turned around.
News in brief 10 Nov 2000
Italy\’s black widow refuses day release over work 19 Oct 2011
The killing was witnessed by the building\’s porter who was also shot and wounded in the leg by the hitman.
Patrizia Gucci\’s case, and those of civil plaintiffs who are expected to launch related civil actions against her – including the porter and the Italian state – has been unexpectedly stalled by the mysterious ailment.
Court employees concerned are refusing to have anything to do with the documents of the case which, when lined up in the files in which they are bound and sealed, stretch for yards. Experts say that the skin rashes are the result of microbes that infested the papers, probably when they were stored in the vaults of the Supreme Court building in Rome after Patrizia Gucci\’s sentence was reduced on appeal from 29 to 26 years.
Whenever court clerks handled the files, they broke out in an extensive rash. The files have been disinfected twice but to no effect. The possibility of sending in people wearing protective clothing to treat the files was too complicated to organise for Italy\’s lumbering judicial bureaucracy.
Suggestions that the physical and mental health of Patrizia Gucci had deteriorated dangerously in prison have for long been the subject of local reports. Eighteen months ago, wardens stopped her trying to hang herself in Milan\’s Opera jail.
She was first arrested in January 1997 along with her Neapolitan fortune-teller, Giuseppina Auriemma. The fortune-teller had met the Guccis when they were living together in Naples and became the manageress of several Gucci shops. The strong involvement of superstition in the trial has fuelled speculation that the files have been \”cursed\”.
Called the \”black widow\” by the Italian press, Patrizia Gucci has always maintained that she is innocent. Although she admitted to having paid the group who killed her husband, she claimed that she had been blackmailed.
She said the gang had put her often-voiced desire to see her husband dead into practice without her consent, and had then demanded money from her to keep quiet.