Michele Profeta


Michele Profeta

A.K.A.: "The serial killer of Padua"

Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Plan to extort money from the community
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: January 29/February 10, 2001
Date of arrest: February 16, 2001
Date of birth: October 3, 1947
Victims profile: Pierpaolo Lissandron / Walter Boscolo
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Padua, Italy
Status: Sentenced to 30 years in prison on 2002. Died in prison on July 16, 2004

Michele Profeta, known as the serial killer of Padua, was a decidedly atypical serial killer. He began reaping his victims at an advanced age – and something rare -, for money. So we are not faced with a sexual illness, a perversion, or a victim of abuse marked since infancy. No, nothing of the sort. Michele Profeta is truly a unique case in the history of crime.

Before reconstructing his atrocious crimes, let us try to delineate who this anomalous serial killer actually was. Without doubt he was a man leading a double life, and in the failure of the attempt to find an established mental profile at least we can say: both of Michele Profeta’s existences were a serious human failure.

His delirium in believing to be omnipotent led the frustrated individual, angry with the entire world, to conceive of an idiotic plan to extort money from the community.

A Life on Loan

Born in Palermo in 1947, little is known of his early childhood, but it seems that a strong impression was left upon him by his mother, who was an authoritarian character, separated in age from her children by more than 40 years. Michele Profeta was her second child.

Profeta’s life was seriously marred by many personal upsets and failures, family disagreements, health problems. From early youth he was diagnosed with a congenital heartd eficiency.

In his university years, Profeta developed a compulsive obsession for gambling. This obsession dogged him for the rest of his life. The consequences were devastating: a miserable economic condition, debts, the interruption of his university studies.

His private life suffered devastating repercussions. Profeta already had a failed marriage with two children behind him, accompanied by a disastrous professional life: he’d tried many paths, earning only humiliation and lay-offs.

Yet these particular personal circumstances do not seem to have pointed Michele Profeta to strive toward new life projects. On the contrary, this controversial situation fomented the growingly narcissistic and ambitious personality in him. Full of rage against society which had, by now, emarginated him.

The Face in the Mirror

The moment of decision came at the beginning of 2001, after being fired for the umpteenth time and forcing him into the degrading job of distributing advertisement flyers.

In the same period his already critical marriage entered its final phase: up to this moment, Profeta had lived a double life - for 15 long years - keeping his second marriage alive while, at the same time, he was having an affair with a secretary of the finance agency where he had worked in Palermo.

The man lived alternately with the two women - each of them unaware of the other - and still spending most of his time away from home, at the casino. He had studied statistics at length in the hope of landing an “easy” win.

Just before turning 50, he was transferred to the Veneto region, he moved to Adriatic coast with his wife and children and to the Mestre suburb of Venice with his mistress. This complicated ménage à trois wound up wearing and degrading the individual’s quality of life: the gambling vice and insecure job situation precluded him from a dignified lifestyle, there was never enough money.

Here it is necessary to understand the more obscure factors that suddenly came into play, as usually happens to people who fall prey to similar crises of delirium... Profeta thus began to work out a criminal plan that he thought to be perfect. Throughout the duration of the investigation, the man would never be afraid of being discovered, would never have any doubt about the success of his diabolical plan.

The Massacre Game

But what did the perfect criminal plan consist of? Profeta contacted the authorities and asked for 12 billion lire, with the threat of unleashing a chain of random homicides in an unspecified Italian city.

The first threatening note, written with a stencil, turned up on January the 12th, 2001 at a police station in Milan. The number 12 was a frequently recurring number in the criminal events of Michele Profeta. The letter seemed to come from a mythomaniac, the police did not believe in a real and existing threat. But they were wrong.

On January the 28th, 2001, Michele Profeta was in Padua. He took a taxi at the train station and was taken to Via Marghera. A residential neighbourhood, quiet, nearly deserted in the evening. Profeta told the taxi driver to stop a few yards before a bar. Here he pulled a revolver, pointed it at the man’s head, killing Pier Paolo Lissandron with a single shot.

Amateur Criminal

Notwithstanding the fact that this was a crime in coldblood, it was immediately obvious that this killing was not the work of a “professional”: due to the imprecision of the shot, the taxi driver did not die on impact, but about an hour after being taken to the hospital.

The next day another letter arrived in Milan, in which the killer repeated his demand. 12 billion lire against the life of an unknown Italian. At this point the police were completely in the dark: there were no witnesses of the first murder, there were no fingerprints on the letter, the ballistics tests came up negative: who was this maniac that, under the effects of evident “delirium omnipotens” went around armed and ready to kill?

The Second Murder

On February the 10th, 2001, just 12 days after the first homicide, Profeta fired 3 times into the head of young real estate agent Walter Boscolo, 37 years old, who was showing him an apartment in the centre of Padua. Next to Walter Boscolo’s body, the killer left another note and 2 playingcards, they were the king of diamonds and the king of hearts.

The murder of the real estate agent was added to the list of those considered very similar to the one of the taxi driver Pier Paolo Lissandron and the dustman Furio Dubrini. This last murder seemed erroneously to have been performed with the same modus operandi of the serial killer, but there was no evidence to indicate that the same hand had shot Dubrini.

Three apparently correlated homicides without an evident motive over a short span of time. Nonetheless, a few days later, Profeta made a fundamental mistake. It suddenly lifted the veil of darkness off the identity of the invisible assassin.

Epilogue for The King of Diamonds

He was betrayed by a telephone call-card, used to contact both Boscolo and his own family in Palermo, and traced to one of his cellular phones; Michele Profeta was arrested on February the 16th, 2001 in Padua, while he was preparing for his third murder: he had a loaded pistol and the king of clubs with him. His adventure had lasted only twenty days.

At his house in Mestre, a deck of cards minus the kings and a stencil were found that had been used to write the messages received by the authorities and left next to the victims. Interrogated by the authorities, he alternatedbetween formal confessions and brusque retractions. In his cell he dedicated himself to a study of the Bible while awaiting the verdict of the Court which, after he opposed a psychiatric examination, condemned him to life imprisonment.

The Voices of The Prophet

After the first sentencing, Profeta sent a manuscript to his lawyer in which he claimed to have killed under orders “...from a friendly voice, I believed I was in God’s hands but instead I wound up in the hands of evil”.

Even today it still remains difficult to establish for how much of the time during his general paranoid delirium Michele Profeta was aware and coherent, if at all and how much – on the other hand - was the result of a seriously disturbed personality. The magistrates found dozens of cellular phones in the serial killer’s house in Padua, which evidently he was convinced of being able to use to avoid being identified by the IMEI code which distinguishes each mobile phone.

But to contradict the theory of mental infirmity is the reiterated refusal on behalf of Profeta to undergopsychiatric examination. Three years later, when the life sentence went to the appeals court, Profeta fell victim to a heart attack. It was the 16th of July, 2004.

In the months prior to his decease he had taken up his university studies again and was preparing for his first exam. The serial killer Michele Profeta was struck down by a heart attack precisely while he was taking his first exam. Serving his life sentence at Voghera Penitentiary, for the occasion he was taken to the lawyer’s hall in the San Vittore Prison, to take his exam in History of Philosophy. Profeta had assumed a reverently humble attitude while responding to the questions of the examination board when he unexpectedly collapsed....

Shrewd criminal or lunatic? It’s difficult to say. One fact causes surprise: On the 30th June, 2002 Michele Profeta was transferred from the Due Palazzi prison of Padua to that of Voghera, after being discovered in a possible escape attempt. The prison guards found a file hidden in his eyeglasses’ case.

A few months earlier, on April the 12th, 2002, during the psychiatric exam performed on request of the defence attorney by Prof. Vittorino Andreoli, Michele Profeta had finally admitted his responsibility for two of the crimes for the first time. In Andreoli’s opinion the motive was to be found in “delirium omnipotens” of which the accused was afflicted.

With his death, Profeta left an incredible list of hypotheses and questions without answers: What was the meaning of the playing cards? What were the numerous cell phones found in his Padua apartment to be used for? Why did he get involved in an escape attempt just when preliminary hearings were reaching their culmination? Was this not a revealing gesture? An admission of guilt?

All questions that will remain unanswered.

Sicilian held over playing card killings

Sunday 18 February 2001

Italian police were last night questioning a suspected double murderer who threatened to litter the city of Padua with the corpses of estate agents.

Michele Profeta, 53, a debt collector, was arrested after allegedly taunting police with a series of clues thought to be inspired by the novelist Patricia Cornwell. Police traced a series of calls to Palermo, in Profeta's native Sicily, from public telephone boxes which used the same phone card to contact the second victim, an estate agent.

Profeta, who had lived in the northern university town for years, was arrested on Friday night driving past the spot of the first killing.

He denied the accusations and had not been charged by last night. 'He denied even those things which to us seemed evidential,' said prosecutor Paolo Luca.

Police said they found three pistols in his apartment, which he shared with a girlfriend, one of which matched the calibre of the murder weapon.

Stencils of the type used in three anonymous letters to police and newspapers were discovered. The author threatened a bloodbath unless 12bn lire (£3.9m) was paid.

A pack of playing cards was also found to be missing its four kings. Walter Boscolo, an estate agent made to kneel and then shot in the forehead after being lured to a luxury apartment, was found on 10 February with the king of hearts and diamonds next to his corpse.

Police suggested Profeta may have been planning another killing as the king of clubs was in his pocket. The first victim, taxi driver Pierpaolo Lissandron, was shot in the back of the neck by his passenger on 29 January. Police believe it was a mistake as the taxi was stopped outside an estate agent's office. Profeto was arrested in connection only with the second killing but detectives said a link would soon be made.

The motive remained a mystery. The debt collector himself had small debts and was questioned several years ago in Milan over alleged extortion of a client. He had no prior convictions. Media reports said he was a former estate agent who had been forced for unknown reasons to close his office, spawning a grudge.

The killings have been dubbed the number 12 murders because of the number's apparent significance to the killer. The case started with a letter to police, posted on 12 January, demanding money and signed by 'Padua One'.

At his insistence a classified notice was placed by police in Corriere della Sera : 'For Hire - Specialist metal worker, 12 years' experience.'

Twelve days after the first murder he called Boscolo to arrange an appointment at 12am.

Terror spread through the usually sleepy city when the same voice, calling himself Pertini or Bellini, rang a string of other estate agents.

Michele Profeta

Michele Profeta

Michele Profeta

Michele Profeta

Crime scene

Crime scene