On May 1971 the alleged kidnapping and murder of a young girl takes place in Genoa (Italy). 50 years later many questions are unanswered.
Milena Sutter is a typical 13 year old girl, daughter of a well-known wax business owner.
It’s 5 pm on Thursday afternoon and she is leaving the Swiss School on Peschiera Street, in Genoa. This is the last time she is seen before she vanishes into thin air.
Her lifeless body is found floating a few hundred meters from the beach of Priaruggia, about 6 km away from the ancient Port of the Liguria capital.
It’s Thursday May 20th, 15 days after she was last seen leaving her school.
Lorenzo Bozano, a 25 year old man from Genoa, is suspected, arrested, and convicted for the kidnapping and murder of Milena.
In 1973 he is acquitted, only to be convicted again of the same crime in 1975.
Bozano makes headlines and becomes part of Italy’s legal history forever known as the “Biondino della Spider Rossa” (“The thin blond man with the red sports car”).
He was not blond, nor skinny.
In 2018 I wrote a university book with the criminologist Laura Baccaro. The Italian title of the book is: “The Biondino della Spider Rossa. Crimine, giustizia e media”.
You can find our book on the Amazon website. There you can purchase the paper book or the ebook.
Dr. Baccaro and I wrote that book after a university research – still in progress – on how the media dealt with the Milena Sutter’s story.
Laura Baccaro also studied the psychological and criminal figure of Lorenzo Bozano, who died June 30th, 2021, exactly fifty years after the criminal case of Milena Sutter.
I investigated every clue of the case. And I discovered a lot of discrepancies.
Crime stories: a strange kidnapping, a suspicious death and a lot of mistery
There’s a story that you need to know. If you are interested in criminal cases and in crime stories.
Or if you think that reality sometimes exceeds a novelist’s fantasy.
What story? This one. North Italy, 1971, May 6th.
The alleged kidnapping of a girl shakes Genoa and Italy in 1971.
It is the case of Milena Sutter, 13 years old: according to the official version, Milena is kidnapped in Genoa shortly after 17 hours on Thursday 6 May.
At that time she left the Swiss School where she attended the eighth grade.
The father of the girl, Arturo, is a rich and well known industrial wax.
The girl’s body – a healthy, strong and sporty young woman who looks like three years older than her age – is found into the sea two weeks later, on Thursday 20 May, around 5 pm.
The legal doctors of the Legal Medicine Institute, professors Aldo Franchini and Giorgio Chiozza, date the death at 18-18.30 on the day of the disappearance.
They attribute the cause of death to choking and probable suffocation.
The expertise is challenged, then as now, by authoritative scholars, as stated in the Italian book “Il Biondino della Spider Rossa. Crime, justice and the media”.
Milena Sutter’skidnapping: the only suspect is Lorenzo Bozano
Since the disappearance of Milena the only suspect is Lorenzo Bozano, 25 years old.
He is of a upper-class family. With the deception he would have convinced Milena Sutter, who would have been in a hurry to go home, to get into his red sports car.
Bozano is arrested for the first time in the night between Saturday and Sunday, May 9, 1971.
It is hoped that he will lead to the place where the girl is a prisoner. After few days he is released.
The young man is finally arrested on the evening of the discovery of the body of Milena, May 20, 1971.
From the beginning he is called “il Biondino della Spider Rossa” (the Blond man of the Red Sports Car). He is not blond nor skinny.
You can see his sports car (and Alfa Romeo “spider”) in the photo above. An old shabby car indeed.
Bozano is acquitted, at the end of the trial of the first degree, by the Court of Assizes of Genoa, in May of 1973, due to insufficient evidence.
He is and immediately released.
Instead he is convicted on appeal in June 1975: Bozano is found guilty of the kidnapping for the purpose of extortion, of the murder and the suppression of Milena’s corpse.
The sentence is confirmed in 1976 by the Supreme national Court.
Before the appeal process comes alive, Bozano takes refuge in France, then moves to Africa and finally returns to France.
Here he is arrested in 1979 and months later taken to Switzerland.
Extradited to Italy, he is today serving a life sentence in Porto Azzurro, on the Island of Elba (in Tuscany).
Lorenzo Bozano obtaines the day release in 1994, but he looses it in 1997.
In June 1997, in Livorno, he searches, pretending to be a policeman, a 17-year-old girl who is with of her young brother.
Bozano justifies his gesture by claiming to have heard from some boys that the young woman was in possession of drugs.
The search is instead considered by the judges as sexual harassment. He is convicted and looses again his freedom.
Since 2004 Bozano has received a 45-day permit award per year.
Since June 2017 he has been volunteering half a day on Elba Island, outside the prison, on weekdays.
In February 2019 he obtained the day release again to serve as a volunteer in an association.
In October 2020, when there is his 75th birthday, Lorenzo Bozano gets parole.
So far he has served over 43 years in prison.
On June 30, 2021, Lorenzo Bozano dies suddenly while he is swimming in the sea
of the island of Elba, in Tuscany.
Lorenzo Bozano: “I am innocent”
Lorenzo Bozano continued to profess to be innocent and unrelated to the (alleged) kidnapping and (alleged) murder of Milena Sutter.
He distanced himself from his youthful behavior.
In the book “Il Biondino della Spider Rossa”, Lorenzo Bozano expresses his official apologies to the family of Milena Sutter for some behaviors held during the investigation and during the judicial process (in 1973).
Crime Stories: the research about Milena Sutter’s case
Laura Baccaro and I still have many hypotheses to formulate about what really happened to Milena Sutter.
Our research came about by chance. I must admit that as a professional journalist I have never been interested in crime news.
During my 43 year career as a journalist, I have read articles about important Italian criminal cases – such as Wilma Montesi’s (in some ways similar, 1953, Rome) – but I had never written anything in that field.
Since the beginning of my career as a journalist, in 1978, I have dealt with foreign affairs, my passion at that time. So, crime stories have never had of my interest.
Why did I decide to study the Milena Sutter and Lorenzo Bozano’s case?
One spring morning, in 2010, a graduating student of mine – Laura Leonesio – asked me for a thesis.
Since 2003 I have been teaching Intercultural Journalism and Multimedia at the University of Verona.
Since 1998 I have done a lot of research and written three academic texts about media’s reporting on immigrants, and cultural diversity.
You can find three of my books in the Harvard, Princeton and Yale’s libraries.
In 2010 Laura Leonesio, a student passionate about crimes, asked me for a degree thesis with a crime report at the center. I refused: crime news just wasn’t in my study interests.
The student insisted. And I promised to think about it.
Thinking about what topic to propose to the student, something reminded me the case of the “blond thin man with the red sports car”. Indeed, he was neither blond nor skinny, so that thing intrigued me.
The city of Genoa and the Sutter’s criminal case
The city of Genoa has been in my heart for many years because I spent some summers there during the high school.
In the 70’s, Genova was an important city in the North if Italy, with large factories and old tradition of trade. With Milan and Turin, Genova belonged to the so called “industrial triangle”.
It had more than 800.000 inhabitants. Now that city has 575.000 inhabitants, because of the decline of the economy and the decrease of the number of births.
I still remember when I was 14 years old and, in my house in Valpolicella (Verona) I was reading the “Bozano memorial” on the Italian magazine “Gente”, which my mother Maria used to buy.
That tangle of memories and that story linked to Genoa has remained well impressed in my heart and my mind.
Lorenzo Bozano was looked as “blond and thin” (“biondino”, in Italian) by journalists and magistrates.
He was brown and robust, and it’s curious to see that nobody noticed that discrepancy in his look.
The case of the “blond man with the red sports car”, who was not blond nor thin, came in my mind suddenly.
So I decided to proposing to Laura Leonesio the thesis on how the Genoa’s newspapers had treated the figure of Lorenzo Bozano.
The question was simple: “They saw him as a person? Or as a character?”.
Moreover, there was another strange aspect in that criminal case. The “Sutter Case” was considered the “Bozano Case”, by the Genoa newspapers.
This led to not studying the victim as it had to be studied.
Journalists didn’t search the truth about Milena Sutter’s disappearance. They tried to understand whether Bozano was innocent or guilty, before the trial had to begin.
According to David Canter, father of Investigative Psychology the victim reflects the profile of the offender.
I interviewed professor Canter in December 2011 at the University of Huddersfield. He explained that many times people, and investigators too, are interested in the “motive” of a criminal case.
It would be better interested in what really happened to the victim and their profile.
So we need to study the victim. We need to analyze it from the victimology point of view.
If we did not do that, we risk to not understanding what really happened in a criminal case.
For these reasons, after ten years of studying Milena Sutter’s case, I can say that the Police investigator Angelo Costa – the chief of the investigations – did not fully understand that criminal case.
Too many mistakes in the investigation
Mister Costa had an interesting intuition, not believing in any way to the kidnapping’s version of the case.
I fear, however, that the head of the Gena Mobile Squad was dazzled by that intuition.
That’s why, in my opinion, it was not possible to understand that case in its complexity.
The “guilty party” has always been a majority in Genoa. Most of the citizens thought that Lorenzo Bozano was guilty.
That situation explains why the Genoa newspapers were undoubtedly against Bozano.
For his part, Lorenzo Bozano did nothing – overwhelmed by a lot of accusations – to free himself from the criminal figure represented by the media.
I must say that I have never believed that Lorenzo Bozano is innocent.
Indeed, I can say that the “naive reader Maurizio Corte” tends to think he is guilty.
The scholar Maurizio Corte, however, must admit that there is not legal evidence of the Bozano’s involvement in the Sutter’s case.
A true crime story with many doubts
The are many doubts and some critical points in that criminal story:
- the forensic medicine report on the causes of the death of Milena Sutter has no scientific basis;
- there are at least two tracks which has never taken into consideration during the investigation;
- a third track has never had investigated;
- Milena Sutter’s best friend, Isabelle, first was treated very badly during police interrogations, then she was not listened at the trial.
Primacy of the Science and the right to accurate investigations
What remains of Milena Sutter’s case, 50 years later?
I have learnt some lessons by that criminal case. As a father, as a journalist and as a researcher.
The first lesson is the dutiful primacy of Science, in this case of Forensic Medicine, on the positions of “judicial policy” that can be useful.
After 49 years we know that the forensic report of professors Franchini and Chiozza on the time and causes of the death of Milena Sutter is not founded.
It is not founded on the forensic medicine level. It is not founded on the level of logic and argumentation.
Furthermore, as Professor Daniele Rodriguez (teacher of Forensic Medicine at the University of Padua) shows in my book on the case, the judges of the first and second instance trials added arbitrary and erroneous interpretations to them.
The second lesson, from the case of Milena Sutter and Lorenzo Bozano, is that the suspect has the right to a careful investigation in all directions.
Investigators can’t stop at the first one suspect that best fits with the clues. Are they interested in their reputation as policemen? Then they must investigate in every direction.
In Bozano’s case, there are clues that are partly unfounded, partly unreliable. And I’m afraid other ones was even invented.
The third and disturbing teaching is the “demolition of the person-Lorenzo Bozano”.
A prosecutor cannot do it. An investigating judge cannot do this. A Court of Assize cannot do that.
A murderer must be judged on the basis of evidence beyond any reasonable doubt.
In the case of the (alleged) kidnapping and (alleged) murder of Milena Sutter, doubts have flourished.
In fact, the deeper you go into the Sutter-Bozano case, the more those doubts thrive. They boom 50 years later as they flourished in 1971.
When Bozano died, on June 30, 1971, some papers called him “The Milena Sutter’s killer”. They were wrong, because she was not killed, so Bozano can’t be “a killer”.
That’s demonstrates us that there are a lot to study about that crime story we can call “the Milena Sutter and Lorenzo Bozano affair”.