Francesco Virdis and hatred for the family: he killed mother and brothers with gas

from Federico Ferrero

On the evening of the massacre he had returned home after a few hours but he had heard groans and had gone out again to play pinball in a club and create an alibi.

In the mid-fifties Francesco Virdis lived, so to speak, in Turin, in a small apartment in Via Piossasco. His father, Battista, had left Nuoro for the east coast of the United States and had gone well. At a late age, after sixty, when he returned home he had thought of starting a family so as not to waste the nest egg he had accumulated and chose to stay at home, marrying a daughter of his sister, Maria, who was almost forty years younger than him . They gave birth to four children.

When Battista Virdis died in prison, in the months of the armistice, no saint had left this world. His criminal record spoke of theft of livestock, usury, other offenses against property. He too had managed, on his return to Italy, to disperse the money accumulated abroad and his death, which took place in jail, had definitively put the family in crisis. His son Francesco seemed inclined to his own rejection of the rules: at fourteen it was the same mother who denounced him and to have him convicted for the theft of a bicycle. Francesco was already working because the studio was not contemplated, in that family in which little or nothing went the right way: being widowed, her mother had tried to rebuild a family nucleus with a man from Alexandria but the story had not followed. She was a meek and good-willed woman, bent on toil and worry. Francesco, on the other hand, was a rebellious young man, aggressive, impulsive, full of anger.

On the evening of November 12, 1957, Francesco Virdis, just of age, returned home when his mother, elder sister Giuseppina and elder brother Giovanni were already asleep. Only Angela, her younger sister, ill with polio and hospitalized at Cottolengo, was missing from the house. Francesco had long harbored a grudge against his mother, because not only had he not protected him in his raids but it was precisely with his decisive contribution, as a parent who painfully chooses to have his son recognized his responsibilities, that the carabinieri had accompanied him to Ferrante Aporti after the last crime, a robbery for which he had served three years. Wearing gloves, he unplugged the gas hose in the kitchen. Then he left the apartment and began loitering all night in the bars of the city.

At dawn the next day, Virdis showed up in the emergency room of the Martini hospital. In a panic, or so it seemed, he asked to send an ambulance to number 24 of his street of residence, without offering any other explanation. At home, however, no doctors were needed: they were all dead and only by a miracle the building had not blown up. The investigations, entrusted to the police, lasted very little: he was the only survivor capable of committing a massacre in the family. Confess. He said he hated everyone, especially his mother who he now considered his enemy, the brothers who always leave me alone. At the trial, desolating details emerged: her mother struggled with a thousand jobs, cleaning and hairdressing, in order to guarantee her children a decent existence and, nevertheless, she kept a smile for everyone.

Francesco, from an early age, had revealed himself to be violent and reluctant to any commitment. Several times she had beaten his mother because she could not give him the money he demanded. On the evening of the massacre he had returned, after a few hours, to the house but he had heard moans. With the bedroom door wide open so that the gas could spread better, he went back to playing pinball in a club to create an alibi. Coming home a second time, he had placed the hand of his brother, now dead, on the gas pipe in the hope that his footprints could direct the investigation towards the thesis of the family suicide.

First degree and appeal decided for life imprisonment but the Supreme Court annulled the sentence because, in its opinion, the elements of a possible mental illness had not been sufficiently evaluated. Also to be found in the upheaval of the horrors of war, he told himself. Two renowned experts established that Francis was a psychopath but a so-called moral madman, an antisocial, cruel boy, detached from family and humankind with hedonistic and selfish traits. But that this disturbance could in no way tarnish his ability to discern right from wrong. Also in the bis appeal process two irreconcilable reconstructions of the facts clashed: for the defense, Virdis was nothing more than a victim of his family and of a horrible social context. For the president who questioned him – at the time the old penal code was in force, in which the figure of the trial judge was deployed and less third than today – the boy, to whom he addressed directly, was a piece of flesh with bones and without soul n feeling. Without pain or remorse. Never seen an individual like her.

It was pointed out to him that, a few days before this surely premeditated carnage, his mother had succeeded in granting his greatest wish, a brand new moped. Today psychopathy, even in criminal proceedings, receives a different treatment and a lucid behavior is not enough, as they say, to cancel the possibility of considering an individual who is not entirely capable. Instead the defendant regained his life imprisonment and the sentence became final in 1966. Francesco Virdis resigned himself to detention. He took his diploma as a surveyor and enrolled in university, worked to send his sister Angela some contributions. About twenty years after his final sentence, news of his imminent degree in sociology arrived. It transpired from prison that his intention was to understand the causes of human behavior. Perhaps, even some of him.

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September 19, 2022 (change September 19, 2022 | 21:23)

Francesco Virdis and hatred for the family: he killed mother and brothers with gas