An Italian man who chopped up his lover’s body after murdering her has avoided a life sentence, with a court ruling that the young woman was “uninhibited” and had “used” him.
Davide Fontana, 44, a bank employee, hit 26-year-old Carol Maltesi in the head with a hammer 13 times and slit her throat with a knife.
He then cut her body into pieces and tried to burn them before hiding them in a freezer instead. He finally stuffed them into black plastic bags which he threw into a gully in the countryside.
The remains were not found until three months later, after which Fontana was accused of murder and sent to trial.
He was sentenced last month to 30 years in prison and judges explained their ruling on the case on Thursday, in a move that provoked an immediate outcry in Italy, with critics highlighting it as an example of victim blaming.
Prosecutors had sought a life sentence.
The couple had been in a romantic relationship but it turned sour when Maltesi announced that she wanted to leave the small town she was living in and move to Verona to be reunited with her six-year-old son, who lived there with her former partner.
She had worked as a shop assistant but had started to dabble in the world of erotica, performing in sex shows and working as an escort.
On the day she was murdered, in January last year, she and Fontana were making a pornographic video in her apartment.
A court in Busto Arzese, near Milan, convicted Fontana of murder but ruled that it was not premeditated, nor did it involve excessive “cruelty”, despite the horrific way in which he killed his girlfriend.
The judges described Maltesi as “young and uninhibited”, saying that Fontana had felt “used” by her as she tried to further her personal and professional prospects.
He had reportedly been deeply in love with her and was devastated when she announced that she was leaving him.
He had felt “a growing sense of frustration, knowing that she had used him”, the judges wrote in the explanation of the sentence they handed down.
Fontana had been driven to murder by “the realisation that he had lost the woman he loved”.
But the judges’ explanation was called into question by many, including Italian media outlets and the victim’s relatives, who described the sentencing decision as shocking.
“Can the character of a victim be an attenuating circumstance in a murder?” the daily newspaper La Stampa asked in a page one story on Friday.
Relatives of Maltesi said the sentence left them “shocked and incredulous”.
“The judges’ words harm the dignity of the victim,” family members told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Annamaria Rago, the lawyer representing the family, said the judges had allowed their ruling to be swayed by Maltesi’s involvement in the sex industry.
“If Carol had continued to work as a shop assistant… Fontana would have been most likely condemned to life in prison,” she said.
The court’s sentencing was also condemned by several female members of parliament.
‘Not my problem’
But the senior judge in the case, Giuseppe Fazio, said he would have handed down the same sentence “even if she had been a nun”.
“If people don’t understand the motivation behind the sentence, then that’s certainly not my problem,” he told Corriere della Sera.
The Italian justice system’s attitude towards women came under intense scrutiny earlier this week when a court in Rome acquitted a 66-year-old school caretaker of groping a teenage schoolgirl on the basis that it “only lasted a handful of seconds”.
The 17-year-old girl was walking up a flight of stairs between classes when the janitor, Antonio Avola, put his hand inside the waistband of her trousers and into her knickers.
He was charged with sexual assault and sent to trial. Prosecutors had called for a sentence of three and a half years in prison.
But the court ruled that his groping had “only lasted between five and 10 seconds” and that his hand had not “lingered” down her underwear for very long, deciding to acquit him of the charge.
The verdict triggered an online protest with thousands of social media users posting videos of themselves touching intimate body parts with the hashtags #10seconds and #quickgrope.