“Il Monstro” or “The Monster of Florence” killed and mutilated eight couples in the Italian countryside between 1968 and 1985. Although the crimes took place sporadically over 17 years, there were many distinctive elements, enough to provide a profile of the serial killer who was never caught.
It is one of the most perplexing and fascinating crime sprees in the annals of unsolved murders. “Il Monstro” or “The Monster of Florence” killed and mutilated eight couples in the Italian countryside between 1968 and 1985. Despite numerous arrests and convictions, the true killer or killers remain undiscovered. Various books, films and investigators have theorized on the perpetrator of these brutal crimes, but with no physical evidence being left at the murder scenes, there is little to link the crimes to a perpetrator. However, while the perpetrator/s has never been apprehended, a psychological profile of “The Monster of Florence” can be assembled, providing insight into this killer and his motivations.
Il Monstro: Serial Killer
While some serial killers are opportunistic and disorganized, with his methodical approach and obvious foresight, Il Monstro was clearly an organized killer of high intelligence. The time, dates and location of his crimes indicate that his attacks were planned and well-researched. Furthermore, although the crimes took place sporadically over many years, there were many distinctive elements, the primary one being that all of the victims were couples, except for one suspected case of mistaken identity when two men were killed. In most of the cases, both victims were shot and killed, with special attention being paid to the female. In particular, there was a disturbing sexual element to the crimes, with the female victims being mutilated postmortem. As with many serial killers, this displays an obvious and deep-seated hatred of women, which is reinforced further by one particularly disturbing act within the crimes: the removal of female sexual organs.
The perpetrators method of surprising his victims and shooting them at point blank range exhibits a possible case of significant low self-esteem. The killer did not want to interact or be witnessed by those he intended to kill. It seems that Il Monstro wanted to dispatch his intended targets as quickly as possible, before moving on to the mutilation of the women. When there were difficulties in the execution of an attack, with victims attempting escape or in the case of mistaken identity, he abandoned his usual killing rituals and fled. This suggests that the risks involved circumvented his desire to kill and maim. Other serial killers often trap and torture those that they target, while Il Monstro appeared to want his victims dead as quickly as possible.
The lack of evidence at the crime scene, except for the distinctive bullets used to slay his victims and which could be traced back to the same missing gun, exhibit a particularly chilling attention to detail. Indeed, there is a strong possibility that the perpetrator had an understanding of police procedures and detective activity. As Il Monstro’s knowledge allowed him to resist capture, his killings grew more elaborate with time. While his precision over leaving no traces of evidence continued over the course of his slayings, the treatment of the bodies became more gruesome. His earliest victims were shot and left practically untouched, but it was not long before mutilation of the corpses began, followed by the removal of female body parts, frenzied stabbings, and the body’s being placed in specific positions after death.
The Crime Scenes
The locations for most of the killings were chillingly similar. All took place in or around Florence, indicating that the killer had a good knowledge of the area and therefore might have lived or worked locally. The perpetrator tended to choose rural areas away from busy roads and possible witnesses. These areas, as well as providing the vantage point to the romantic couples the killer appeared to target, provided the privacy that allowed the killer to commit his horrific crimes undisturbed. The killings occurred between 10 p.m. and midnight on overcast, moonless nights, usually on a Saturday evening. This provided the ideal cover for the killer.
The victims selected by Il Monstro also displayed similar characteristics. Couples involved in romantic liaisons were always targeted. With some serial killers, age and appearance can be an important factor, but this didn’t seem to be a concern for Il Monstro; although all couples were relatively young, ages ranged from 18 to 36. Curiously, however, all of the victims had spent the previous evening dancing at nightclubs. The only exception to these behaviors appeared to be the case of two male German campers who were killed. It is believed that this was a case of mistaken identity, as one of the men had long blonde hair.
Ballistic tests indicate the crimes were committed with the same .22 caliber Beretta automatic pistol using unusual copper-jacketed Winchester bullets and a single edged blade. Forensic tests also indicate that rubber surgical gloves were used during the crimes to prevent detection. The gun was used to slay both victims, with evidence suggesting the male victim was targeted first, with the blade used postmortem on the female victims only. This blade was to play a more important part in the crimes as they progressed, with the corpses being slashed, stabbed and body parts amputated. The stabbings and mutilations within these crimes reveal the ritualistic nature of the killer. In particular, the progression in the treatment of the corpses exhibits a development in the motivations of the killer – as his body count increased his actions became more elaborate, possibly due to a growing confidence or an increasing anger or vehemence in his actions.
The collated patterns of behavior adopted by Il Monstro provide a “signature” that can be attached to his criminal profile. This signature can be used to reject copycat crimes, while also providing insight into the perpetrator’s drives and motivations. So, what does Il Monstro’s signature tell us about why he killed?
Without the perpetrator caught and behind bars, it is inevitably difficult to establish why Il Monstro chose to kill. However, the particular elements within each crime can provide some insight into motivations. For example, Il Monstro always selected couples for the subject of attack. This might represent his inability to form a relationship himself. In other words, it is possible that the killer felt a need to eradicate something he could not accommodate in his own life.
While both men and women were targeted, his obvious anger towards women is apparent due to the treatment of the female corpses. The attention paid to the female victims indicates that they represent more importance to the killer. The mutilation and removal of genitalia displays a vehement hatred towards women and the fact that these missing organs were never subsequently discovered suggests they could have been kept as trophies by the killer. This is indicative of a possible sexual element within the crimes, in particular an element of sexual inadequacy or rejection.
Criminal Profile: Who is Il Monstro?
Italian authorities, and the media, have also toyed with the theory that there was not just one killer committing these crimes, but a group of killers, possibly connected to a satanic sect or religious cult. Some investigators surmise that the removed female body parts could have been used in religious ceremonies. If this group killing theory can be rejected and the crimes attached to just one individual, then what kind of man is responsible for these horrific murders?
The methodical nature of the killings, which were not spontaneous acts of passion but well thought out pre-meditated actions, point to a highly intelligent and organized individual. While he may not be a native of Florence, he certainly knew the area well. With a focus on the female victims, his hatred of women is obvious, while using firearms to quickly disable the targets suggests a man with a drive to kill but who also lacks the self-esteem to interact or tackle his victims. When the killer did face difficulties during a particular crime, such as the attempted escape of a victim, he abandoned his usual ritualistic activities, suggesting his survival instinct was stronger than his motivation to mutilate.
The complete lack of evidence at any of the crime scenes suggests someone with a good working knowledge of criminal investigation techniques. The use of gloves and a single-blade knife, plus the discovery of one of the killer’s signature bullets outside a Florence hospital, could also suggest a medical connection. With no crimes since 1985, it seems Il Monstro’s killing spree has ended. However, with no viable suspect behind bars and an increased interest in the case in recent years, fascination with the case shows no signs of abating.