Giuseppe Pelosi

Ital­ian hus­tler who was con­victed of mur­der­ing Pa­solini in a case which is still shrouded in mys­tery

The Daily Telegraph - - Obituaries -

GIUSEPPE PELOSI, who has died in Rome aged 59, was the only per­son con­victed of the mur­der in 1975 of the film di­rec­tor Pier Paolo Pa­solini; few peo­ple now be­lieve that the of­fi­cial ver­dict ar­rived at the truth over the maestro’s killing, about which there have been nu­mer­ous the­o­ries.

At about 10.30pm on Novem­ber 1 1975, a Satur­day night, Pa­solini drew up in his Alfa Romeo sports car out­side the Gam­bri­nus bar by Rome’s main sta­tion, Ter­mini. The writer and di­rec­tor, then 53, was per­haps at the peak of his fame as the tur­bu­lent priest of Ital­ian cin­ema.

In films such as The Gospel Ac­cord­ing to Matthew (1964), he had de­nounced many of the or­tho­dox­ies of life in an in­creas­ingly con­sumerist Italy. The film that he had just fin­ished mak­ing, Salò, an al­le­gory of fas­cism, would come to be re­garded as among the most shock­ing in the medium, fea­tur­ing as it did re­pug­nant scenes of sex­ual degra­da­tion.

Pa­solini was ho­mo­sex­ual and asked the teenage rent boys in the door­way of the bar if any of them fan­cied a ride in his car. His of­fer was ac­cepted by the 17-year-old “Pino” Pelosi. They drove to a trat­to­ria where Pa­solini bought the boy a meal. At 11.30 they headed for the row­ing lake at the port of Os­tia, where the di­rec­tor had pre­vi­ously shot footage.

Two hours later, a po­lice pa­trol stopped Pelosi, who was driv­ing the Alfa the wrong way up the coast road at 100mph. He said that he had stolen the ve­hi­cle, but the next morn­ing Pa­solini’s corpse was found. The writer had been sav­agely beaten and crushed by be­ing run over with his car. A ring that Pelosi said he had lost was found un­der the body.

While on re­mand, Pelosi al­legedly con­fessed to his cell­mate that he had killed Pa­solini. He sub­se­quently told po­lice that Pa­solini had tried to sex­u­ally as­sault him with a stick (as hap­pens in Salò). He had beaten the di­rec­tor with it be­fore driv­ing off in the dark in a panic. When he ap­peared in court with bulging bruises on his face, the press dubbed Pelosi “Pino the Frog” and glee­fully por­trayed Pa­solini’s death as a mi­na­tory fa­ble of a sor­did un­der­world.

Although the trial judge (the brother of the prime min­is­ter Aldo Moro) con­cluded, on foren­sic ad­vice, that oth­ers had also been present at the killing, Pelosi was con­victed of it and given a term of nine-and-a-half years.

He was re­leased in 1983. At once he re­turned to his ca­reer of crime, be­ing caught bur­gling a flat and then steal­ing a post of­fice van, although the charges were dropped. The next year, how­ever, he was found guilty of plan­ning to hi­jack an­other car­ry­ing a bil­lion lire. In all, he was to spend 22 years – more than half of his adult life – in prison. His last con­vic­tion, for a drugs bust, was in 2005.

That year, Pelosi be­gan to change his story. He ap­peared on Ital­ian state tele­vi­sion to say that he not been di­rectly in­volved in Pa­solini’s death, which he had wit­nessed be­ing com­mit­ted by three un­known men with Si­cil­ian ac­cents. There had long been doubt about his con­vic­tion – the po­lice had not kept the crime scene clean and Pelosi had lit­tle blood on his clothes when ar­rested. How­ever, the au­thor­i­ties de­cided not to re­open the case when it was learnt that Pelosi had been paid for the in­ter­view.

None the less, many con­cluded that the Si­cil­ian as­sas­sins in­cluded the two Borsellino brothers, drug deal­ers and far-right ac­tivists, who had died of Aids in 1991. Their names had been linked to the mur­der in 1975 by the jour­nal­ist Ori­ana Fal­laci, af­ter they had boasted of their in­volve­ment to an un­der­cover po­lice­man, but they claimed later to have been ly­ing.

In a mem­oir pub­lished in 2011, Pelosi then stated that, whereas he had hitherto in­sisted that he had never met Pa­solini be­fore the fate­ful night and had no idea who his client was, he had in fact be­gun see­ing him reg­u­larly in the sum­mer. He claimed that he had no­ticed the Borselli­nos fol­low­ing the car on a mo­tor­cy­cle, but had not been able to say so be­fore be­cause of threats against his fam­ily.

He also said that he had only pleaded guilty on the ad­vice of his lawyer who had told him he would be out in a month. Pelosi later spoke to the di­rec­tor Abel Fer­rara, who in 2014 re­leased a doc­u­men­tary about Pa­solini’s death, star­ring Willem Dafoe. Fer­rara noted that Pelosi changed his story every time more money changed hands.

Mil­lions of words have been writ­ten about the case, with three main the­o­ries emerg­ing. The first has it that the Borselli­nos killed Pa­solini, hav­ing per­haps lured him to the lake with the prom­ise of re­turn­ing reels of Salò that had been stolen from the set, per­haps by Pelosi.

Their mo­ti­va­tion may have been ha­tred of Pa­solini’s pol­i­tics, as well as his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. Al­ter­na­tively, they might have been be­ing used by shad­owy forces of the Right who, in a decade of much po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence, were en­gaged in a covert bat­tle with the Left. More specif­i­cally, it is claimed that Pa­solini was plan­ning to ex­pose in­dus­trial cor­rup­tion at the heart of the state in his next book.

More ba­nally, Pa­solini may have been the vic­tim of a shake­down by Pelosi and his friends at the bar which had sim­ply gone wrong. The ring which had been found be­longed to “Johnny the Gypsy” – Giuseppe Mar­tini – a long-stand­ing friend of Pelosi’s and later his cell­mate.

When a judge re­con­sid­ered the case in 2015, she ruled that at least five peo­ple had been in­volved in Pa­solini’s mur­der (although, in com­mon with most other the­o­ries, she did not con­sider how two hours had elapsed be­tween the al­leged as­sault and the of­fi­cial time of Pelosi’s ar­rest). Even so, the case was defini­tively closed that year and the truth is un­likely ever to be known.

Giuseppe Pelosi was born in Guido­nia, north-east of Rome and close to Tivoli, on June 28 1958. Later the fam­ily moved to a hous­ing es­tate in Tiburtina, a work­ing-class dis­trict of the cap­i­tal. His fa­ther had a job de­liv­er­ing parcels, and his sis­ter in a butcher’s, but the fam­ily’s means were al­ways strait­ened.

Pino left school at 12 and, though worked at his un­cle’s bak­ery, he was soon bet­ter known to the po­lice as a petty thief and pros­ti­tute. His nick­name was Pelosino (beard­less), pun­ning on his sur­name which means hairy, but de­spite his youth by the time he met Pa­solini he had al­ready had three spells in borstal, the last for car theft.

In re­cent years he had worked as a street cleaner, gar­dener and in a co­op­er­a­tive with other for­mer pris­on­ers. Lat­terly he had run a café in Tes­tac­cio, at the foot of the Aven­tine Hill, though he had been suf­fer­ing from lung can­cer for some time.

He mar­ried his much younger girl­friend three weeks be­fore his death.

Pelosi, right, dur­ing his mur­der trial in 1976; and, far right, the film di­rec­tor Pier Paolo Pa­solini who, shortly be­fore his death, had just fin­ished mak­ing a shock­ing film about fas­cism

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