By Silvia Aloisi
ROME – Pope Benedict and Italy’s president condemned on Sunday the murder of an epileptic toddler snatched from his home near Parma a month ago in a case that has shocked the country.
A minute of silence was observed in football
stadiums across the country for 18-month-old Tommaso Onofri, whose body was found late on Saturday after the kidnappers confessed to hitting him in the face with a shovel to stop him crying.
Pictures of curly-haired, wide-eyed Tommaso were splashed on the front pages of all Italian newspapers on Sunday, eclipsing the run up to next week’s general election.
“Since we heard the news last night, I and my wife have been overcome by a chilling horror that takes one’s breath away,” President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi said in a statement.
In his Sunday noon message, the Pope condemned the “barbaric” murder and said he was praying for Tommaso and all victims of violence.
Soccer fans at a Florence stadium held a banner urging the death penalty for the kidnappers. At least one member of the far-right Northern League as well as Alessandra Mussolini, grand-daughter of wartime fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, said the killers should be executed. Italy has no death penalty.
Tommaso, who suffered from epilepsy and needed anti-convulsive medicines, was snatched from his home near the wealthy northern city of Parma on March 2.
His parents, who are not rich, said they were eating dinner when the lights went out. When the father went outside to investigate, he was forced back into the house by two armed men.
They bound and gagged the family and went straight for Tommaso, pulling him out of his high chair.
The Pope, politicians, leading singers and soccer players all appealed for Tommaso’s release. His parents made tearful appearances on television telling the kidnappers how to give him the anti-epileptic drugs he needed twice a day.
After a month-long investigation police on Saturday detained Mario Alessi — a mason who had worked at the Onofri family’s home and had also gone on television to call for his release — together with his partner and another man.
Alessi said Tommaso was killed on the night of his abduction because he was crying. — Reuter