The investigation that followed lifted the lid off a bizarre underworld that few Florentines knew existed in the lovely hills surrounding their city. In Italy, most young people live at home with their parents until they marry, and most marry late. As a result, having sex in parked cars is a national pastime. It has been said that one out of every three Florentines alive today was conceived in a car. On any given weekend night the hills surrounding Florence were filled with young couples parked in shadowy lanes and dirt turnouts, in olive groves and farmers’ fields.
The investigators discovered that dozens of voyeurs prowled the countryside spying on these couples. Locally, these voyeurs were known as Indiani, or Indians, because they crept around in the dark. Some carried sophisticated electronic equipment, including parabolic and suction-cup microphones, tape recorders, and night vision cameras . The Indiani had divided the hills into zones of operation, each managed by a group or “tribe” who controlled the best posts for vicarious sex-watching . Some posts were highly sought after, either because they allowed for very close observation or because they were where the “good cars” were most commonly found. (A “good car” is exactly what you might imagine.) A good car could also be a source of money, and sometimes good cars were bought and sold on the spot, in a kind of depraved bourse, in which one Indiano would retire with a fistful of cash, ceding his post to another to watch the finish. Wealthy Indiani often paid for a guide to take them to the best spots and minimize the risk.
Then there were the intrepid people who preyed on the Indiani themselves, a subculture within a subculture. These men crept into the hills at night not to watch lovers but to spy on Indiani, taking careful note of their cars, license plate numbers, and other telling details— and then they would blackmail the Indiani, threatening to expose their nocturnal activities to their wives, families , and employers. It sometimes happened that an Indiano would have his voyeuristic bliss interrupted by the flash of a nearby camera; the next day he would receive a call: “Remember that flash in the woods last night? The photo came out beautifully, you look simply marvelous , a likeness that even your second cousin would recognize! By the way, the negative is for sale . . .”
One day he learned from a beat cop that investigators had questioned and released an odd character who had been passing himself off as a medical examiner. Spezi found the story charming and pursued it for the paper . The man was “Dr.” Carlo Santangelo, a thirty-six-year-old Florentine, of pleasing appearance, a lover of solitude, separated from his wife, who went about dressed in black wearing eyeglasses with smoked lenses, gripping a doctor’s bag in his left hand.
In the ever-present doctor’s bag were the tools of his profession, a number of perfectly honed and glistening scalpels. Instead of maintaining an established residence, Dr. Santangelo preferred to pass his days in various hotels or residences in small towns near Florence. And when he chose a hotel, he made sure it was near a small cemetery. If there was a room with a view of the tombstones, so much the better.
Dr. Santangelo’s face, eyes covered with thick dark lenses, had become familiar to the staff of OFISA, the most prominent funeral establishment in Florence, where he often passed his hours as if on important business. The doctor with the dark lenses doled out prescriptions, saw patients, and even ran a psychoanalysis business on the side.
The only problem was, Dr. Santangelo wasn’t a medical examiner or pathologist. He wasn’t even a physician, although he seems to have taken it upon himself to operate on live people, at least according to one witness. Santangelo was unmasked when a serious car accident took place on the autostrada south of Florence, and somebody remembered that in a hotel nearby there lived a doctor. Dr. Santangelo was fetched to provide first aid, and all were amazed to hear that he was none other than the medical examiner who had performed the autopsies on the bodies of Susanna Cambi and Stefano Baldi, the Monster’s latest victims. At least that was what several employees of the hotel said they had heard directly from Dr. Santangelo himself, when he had proudly opened his bag and showed them the tools of his profession.
Santangelo’s peculiar claim got back to the carabinieri, and it didn’t take them long to find out that he was no doctor. They learned of his predilection for small cemeteries and pathology rooms, and, even more alarming, his penchant for scalpels. The carabinieri promptly hauled Santangelo in for questioning. The phony medical examiner freely admitted to being a liar and spinner of tall tales, although he wasn’t able to explain his love for cemeteries at night.
He hotly denied as libel, however, the story his girlfriend told of how he had broken off a night of passionate lovemaking by taking a dose of sleeping pills, saying this was the only way he could resist the temptation to leave his bed of love to take a turn around the tombstones.
Police detectives also took the Savonarola theory seriously, and quietly began looking into certain priests known to have odd or unusual habits. Several Florentine prostitutes told police that from time to time they entertained a priest with rather eccentric tastes. He paid them generously, not for normal sex, but for the privilege of shaving off their pubic hair.
The police were interested, reasoning that here was a man who enjoyed working with a razor in that particular area. The girls were able to give the police his name and address. One crisp Sunday morning , a small group of police and carabinieri in plainclothes, led by a pair of magistrates, entered an ancient country church perched among cypresses in the lovely hills southwest of Florence. The committee was received in the sacristy, where the priest was in the act of dressing in his robes, taking up the sacred vestments with which he was about to say Mass. They showed him a warrant and told him the reason for their visit, stating their intention to search the church, grounds, confessionals, altars, reliquaries, and tabernacle.
The priest staggered and almost fell to the floor in a faint. He didn’t try even for a moment to deny his nocturnal avocation as a barber for ladies, but he swore in the strongest terms that he wasn’t the Monster. He said he understood why they had to search the premises, but he begged them to keep the reason for their visit secret and delay the search until after he had said Mass.
All taken from Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi's excellent book, The Monster of Florence. If you're not aware of the case, you should look into it, and definitely read their book if it catches your interest. Not only are the crimes themselves shocking, so is the incompetence and careerism of the Italian police and prosecution.