Italian police have launched an investigation into a picture showing a US student suspected of killing an officer, in a blindfold and handcuffs soon after the arrest.
Two American teenagers were arrested on Saturday in Rome accused of the stabbing murder of Italian military police officer Mario Cerciello Rega in a drug deal gone awry.
Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, and Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, are both from San Francisco and had been holidaying in the Italian capital.
The pair are due in court on Monday to face charges of murder and extortion.
Investigators said they stole the backpack of a man who helped them buy ‘fake’ cocaine and demanded 1,000 euros and a gram of the real drug for its return.
The intermediary told police of the theft and two plainclothes officers went to the rendezvous, where Mr Rega was stabbed 11 times in a brawl.
According to a statement by the Carabinieri, the Americans confessed to the crime after police found a knife hidden in the ceiling of their hotel room.
Both men are being held in Rome’s Regina Coeli prison, where nearly 1000 inmates are crammed into an ageing convent intended for 650.
Mr Natale-Hjorth and Mr Elder attended Tamalpais High School together in Mill Valley, California, one of the five richest post-codes in the United States.
In California, the Elder family posted a handwritten note on their door asking for privacy and released a statement expressing condolences to Rega’s grieving family.
"We are shocked and dismayed at the events that have been reported, but have very little independent information about these events. We have not been able to have any communication with our son," read the statement.
According to Italian media reports citing police, Mr Elder confessed to the killing but said he did not realize that Rega was a police officer because the officers involved were both in plainclothes and he did not understand Italian.
The picture of Mr Natale-Hjorth with head bowed and eyes covered by a blue blindfold at a police station started circulating on the Internet on Saturday and was published by several Italian newspapers on Sunday.
Francesco Codini, Mr Elder’s lawyer, said his client exercised his right not to respond to questions during a Saturday court hearing, in which he was ordered to remain in jail.
‘The investigation is ongoing and our work has only just begun,’’ Mr Codini told the Telegraph.