Italy says fugitive serial killer's past was known

Associated Press
An undated photo showing Bartolomeo Gagliano, a convicted serial killer who was allowed to leave a Genoa prison on a two-day, good-behavior pass to see his elderly mother but failed to return. Police Italy has launched a manhunt for Gagliano, who is reportedly armed and "dangerous." Authorities said while Gagliano was allowed out Tuesday to visit his mother in Savona he forced a baker at gunpoint to start driving him away. He then forced the driver out of the car and drove off. There are fears he might have driven across the nearby border into France. Gagliano was convicted of fatally stoning one prostitute and wounding another in 1981, and after escaping from a criminal asylum, killing two others in 1989. He has escaped six times in all. (AP Photo/Tano Pecoraro)

ROME (AP) — Italian prison officials knew about a serial killer's lengthy criminal record but still let him go visit his elderly mother on a two-day pass, Italy's justice minister said Friday. The killer has since fled and his whereabouts are unknown.

Yet Justice Minister Annamaria Cancellieri still defended the practice of granting such good-behavior passes in general as necessary to begin reintegrating inmates due for release back into society.

Cancellieri briefed Parliament on Friday as the manhunt continued for Bartolomeo Gagliano, who was let out of prison in Genoa on a two-day pass for good behavior earlier this week. The serial killer carjacked a baker at gunpoint in Savona and later drove off in his car.

Gagliano's release has sparked an outcry in Italy and raised questions about new proposals approved by the government this week to ease prison overcrowding, including having drug addicts serve time in treatment centers and making greater use of electronic monitoring bracelets.

The justice minister's comments directly contradict statements by the director of Genoa's Marassi prison, Salvatore Mazzeo, who has said that the prison officials didn't know of Gagliano's lengthy rap sheet, which started in 1981 and includes multiple homicide convictions, kidnapping, sexual violence and other crimes that he served time for in psychiatric hospitals. As far as the prison was concerned, the director said, Gagliano was merely serving time for a 2006 robbery conviction and was to be released in 2015.

Cancellieri reported that Gagliano began receiving day passes a few months ago, based on his pending release, good behavior and psychiatric evaluations that found him to be lucid, calm and collaborative.

She didn't weigh in on whether Gagliano should have been allowed out given his violent past, but said that such passes are needed to reintegrate inmates. She insisted it was generally safe, citing a 1 percent no-return rate over the past few years.

The Senate president, Piero Grasso, has warned that the escape might interfere with the recent prison proposals, which were undertaken after the European Court of Human Rights in January ruled that Italy's prison conditions violated the rights of inmates. The court ordered Italy to remedy the situation within the year.