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Jeweller who shot dead two robbers given ‘shameful’ 17-year prison sentence

Mario Roggero chased the robbers into the street and shot two of them dead
Mario Roggero chased the robbers into the street and shot two of them dead

An Italian jeweller who shot dead two robbers after they raided his shop has been sentenced to 17 years in prison, sparking an intense debate on what constitutes legitimate defence.

The sentence was three years longer than the jail term requested by prosecutors.

Politicians on the Right leaped to the defence of  Mario Roggero, saying the jeweller was only trying to defend himself and his family and criticising the sentence as overly harsh.

His shop, in the town of Grinzane Cavour in the northern Piedmont region, was held up by three robbers in April 2021. They tied up his daughter, threatened his wife and pointed a pistol in his face.

“They were counting: five, four, three… I thought I was going to die,” Roggero told the Italian press.

The robbers threatened Mario Roggero and his family with death, and tied up his daughter
The robbers threatened Mario Roggero and his family with death, and tied up his daughter

After stuffing jewellery and watches into sacks, the group fled the premises. CCTV footage showed Roggero following them into the street, raising his arm and shooting dead Giuseppe Mazzarino, 58, and Andrea Spinelli, 44.

He shot and wounded a third criminal, Alessandro Modica, 35, who staggered away with a bullet in his leg and was arrested hours later.

Prosecutors told the court in the northern town of Asti that the shootings amounted to “an execution”. But Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister and leader of the Right-wing League party, expressed “full solidarity” with Roggero.

“After a life of hard work and sacrifices, he was just defending his life and his business,” said Mr Salvini. “The real criminals are the ones who deserve prison, not people like Mario.”

Lucio Malan, of the Brothers of Italy party led by Giorgia Meloni, the prime minister, said: “If you carried out a survey, 95 per cent of people would be against this sentence.”

During the trial, Roggero said he had chased the robbers out of his shop because he had lost sight of his wife and feared they may have kidnapped her.

He also told the court that he had been robbed and beaten up in 2015 and had suffered trauma from that experience that had conditioned his response to the second raid.

“In his mind, there was a reactivation of what had happened six years before,” a psychiatrist told the trial.

But the judges rejected those arguments and said his actions did not amount to legitimate self-defence.

In addition to the 17-year prison sentence, Roggero was ordered to pay €280,000 in compensation to the families of the two men he shot dead. Shortly after the sentence was delivered, he denounced it as “a victory for criminality and delinquency”.

Many people in Roggero’s home town have said they support him. “The sentence is shameful,” said Gigi Cravanzola, a butcher who has a shop a few doors down. “If those two criminals had not ventured out that evening, then none of this would have happened.”

Roggero is expected to appeal against the conviction.