Archives for posts with tag: Giampaolo Pansa

Licia Pinelli, 20 December 1969

Licia Pinelli, 20 December 1969

Giuseppe Pinelli’s death marked the first deep fracture in a bewildered Italian public opinion. The mountain of charges levelled at Pietro Valpreda and the other anarchists from the Circolo 22 Marzo remained. But Pinelli’s ‘fall’ from the fourth floor at police headquarters  — someone well known and well-respected in leftwing circles in Milan —left many bewildered. The contradictory evidence from the police, the false statements from police chief Marcello Guida and the unlawful detention had not gone unnoticed.

Marcello Giuda (Milan's Police Commissioner)

And when, on 27 December 1969, Licia Pinelli, Giuseppe’s’ widow and mother filed a complaint and sued Guida, some newspapers began back-pedalling over Pinelli’s guilt and suicide. ‘The suit concerns ongoing and aggravated defamation. The complaint relates to breaches of professional confidentiality’.

Police chief Guida allegedly committed both offences immediately after the railwayman’s suicide by issuing statements to the press ‘that he ought not to have done’ and venturing ‘assessments, interpretations and opinions’ which the two Pinelli women regarded as defamatory of the person of their deceased relative” wrote Giampaolo Pansa in La Stampa on 28 December. He went on to say: “The three young criminal lawyers assisting the two women in this matter — Domenico Contestabile, Marcello Gentili and Renato Palmieri — have spoken. The charges brought by the lawyers are based on three points. Namely, that immediately after Pinelli’s death the police chief stated ‘in further press conferences’ that all of the railwayman’s alibis had collapsed.

Marcelo Gentili, a solicitor acting for Licia Pinelli and Pinelli's mother

According to the three lawyers, this involved ‘grave and unfounded’ claims that Guida allegedly repeated several times […] The police chief’s second ‘offence’ — that he was quick to draw a connection between the charges against Pinelli and ‘the alleged suicide’ by telling everyone that Pinelli had killed himself because he was compromised by the police officers’ questioning […] The third ‘charge’ against Guida (and the most serious one in the view of the three lawyers) was that he had named Pinelli as guilty of ‘dynamite attacks’.

Pinelli's funeral, 20 December 1969

Pinelli's funeral, 20 December 1969

In short, many people wondered, if Pinelli were innocent, why did he kill himself? Why did three thousand people walk behind the anarchist’ s coffin on 20 December in spite of the atmosphere of police intimidation? These were questions that ate away at the official ‘truths’ of the police and magistrates. Who had lied about a fellow born in Milan in 1928 in the working class district of Porta Ticinese?

Funeral procession of Giuseppe Pinelli, 20 December 1969

Pinelli's funeral, 20 December 1969

Giuseppe Pinelli

Stockily built, of medium height, black whiskers and goatee, Pinelli left school after elementary level, working first as a waiter and later as a warehouseman. But leaving school early, however, did not mean that he had given up on books: he read them by the hundreds. He was a passionate self-educator. In 1944 he had been a runner for the resistance in Milan, the Brigata Franco where he became involved with a group of anarchist partisans. That meeting left its mark on his life, and his anarchist activism can be traced back to those years.

In 1954 he won a competition and joined the railways as a labourer. The following year, he married and was to father two daughters, Silvia and Claudia.

In 1963 some young people set up the Gioventú libertario (Libertarian Youth) group, which brought a breath of fresh air to the political atmosphere of Milan. Even though he was 35 and the others were little more than 20, Pinelli got on well with them. He became a natural point of contact between newcomers to anarchism and the older militants who had survived fascism.

Then things took a turn for the better. In 1965 he helped found the Circolo Sacco e Vanzetti in the Viale Murillo. Milan’s anarchists hadn’t had their own premises for ten years, but in 1969, the youngsters found premises in the Piazzale Lugano and called it the Circolo Ponte della Ghisolfa, only a few metres away from the bridge of the same name overlooking countless gardens.

The winds of May in France were blowing through Europe at the time. Pinelli lived through the frenzy of those days: students were challenging the authorities and the workers were showing signs of running out of patience with the traditional unions. This atmosphere presented Pinelli with a tremendous opportunity to revive the USI (Unione Sindacale Italiana), the libertarian trade union which, under Armando Borghi’s guidance in the 1920s, included among its membership a young Giuseppe De Vittorio, who was to win fame as the secretary of the CGIL.

The first of the united rank and file committees (CUBs), trade union structures that were independent of the three big trade union centrals, the CGIL, the CISL and the UIL, were coming into being. The most pugnacious of these CUBs was the one at ATM, the Milan tram company. It was led by a fifty-year old who had been active in the anarchist movement in the immediate post-war years.

Ponte Della Ghisolfa (anarchist meeting place. Milan)

There was considerable affinity between the tram worker and Pinelli the railway worker. The CUBs found the Ponte della Ghisolfa premises the most appropriate place to meet (until the bombs of 12 December and the hysterical anti-anarchist campaign prompted the CUB members to look for other premises). Pinelli was forever on the lookout for chances for confrontation, reaching out to those who had lost patience with the official unions. Another circle opened in the Via Scaldasole, a favourite meeting place for students galvanised by the events of May ’68 in Paris. The situation was excitable to say the least, but unlike the ‘chaotic’ structures the newspapers wrote about later, the Milan anarchists (and they were not alone) had well-defined small groups of militants who knew one another well.

In Milan the Gioventù Libertaria (Libertarian Youth) changed its name to Bandiera Nera (Black Flag). This group included, in addition to Pinelli, another worker — Cesare Vurchio, born in Canosa di Puglia in 1931. Pinelli worked closely with Vurchio. They were of a similar age and both had families to support. The rest of the members were youngsters, some of them still students.

One of these youths, Amedeo Bertolo, although only 28 years old, already had some experience inasmuch as he had been involved in a spectacular action in 1962 — the abduction of Franco’s vice-consul in Milan, Isu Elias.  It had been the first political kidnapping since the war.

What was the reason for the abduction? Early in September 1962 Jorge Conill Valls, a young Spanish anarchist, had been sentenced to death for anti-Francoist activities by a court martial in Barcelona. Speed was of the essence.

Bertolo — who had met Cunill in person a month earlier, during a ‘mission’ organised by the clandestine Spanish Federación Ibérica de Juventudes Libertarias (FIJL – Iberian Libertarian Youth Federation) — quickly set the abduction in motion on 29 September, together with a half a dozen anarchists and ‘restless’ socialists.

The kidnapping dominated the front pages of the international press for days and triggered a campaign of anti-Francoist solidarity that brought considerable pressure to bear on the Franco regime at several levels — from street demonstrations to the ‘humanitarian’ intervention by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI (1963-1978). Conill’s death sentence was commuted after three days to one of thirty years imprisonment and Isu Elias was immediately released.

His kidnappers were quickly identified and jailed. The last of these, Bertolo, who had fled to France, spontaneously and quixotically surrendered himself at the courthouse just as the trial in Varese opened. The trial itself was covered by much of the Italian press as an indictment of the Spanish fascist government rather than of the actions of the young Italian anti-Francoists.

Three of the accused following the verdict in the Isu Elia kidnapping trial

On 21 November all the accused were found guilty but received nominal sentences. For Bertolo (who, in April 1969, was to be among the founders of the Croce nera anarchica, dissolved after Valpreda’s release in 1973) the sentence was six months imprisonment for the kidnapping and 20 days for unlawfully bearing arms. In their judgement, the judges, presided over by Judge Eugenio Zumin, recognised that the accused had ‘acted on motives of particular moral and social import’ and all were found blameless and released on parole.


The demonisation of Pietro Valpreda

“THE TERROR machine has been blown apart. It is now only a matter of picking up the pieces. The beast responsible for the fourteen lives lost in the Piazza Fontana and perhaps also the death, the suicide in the Via Fatebenefratelli, has been arrested and locked down: his face is here on this newspaper page. We must never forget it. The beast made us cry and brought the taste, the bitterest taste of pain and rage to our hearts of hearts. Now we can begin to breathe again and start to get the measure of the diabolical adventure. The butcher’s name is Pietro Valpreda; he is thirty-seven years old and has never amounted to anything in his whole life.  Apart from one elderly aunt who irons his shirts and brushes down overcoat, he has fallen out with his entire family. She helps him out. He comes from the madcap world of be-bop and rock, a world where the men are men and the girls are too. He has dabbled in outdoor dances and dances on the city centre streets.  Available also for stage work in musical revues, he used to play the boy, one of those with arching pencilled eyebrows, dressed in the most foppish trousers, like some soubrette walking or leaping down from a staircase of glittering neon lights. What a short-lived, unhappy and poorly paid profession. This wretch is also unwell. The circulation in his legs is not as it should be. He has Burger’s disease, a savage ailment that causes a blockage and could bring on an embolism and death. Step by step, Pietro Valpreda is on the road to becoming a monster.”

This was the opening paragraph of an article published on the front page of the Corriere d’Informazione of Wednesday 17 December 1969, over the by-line of Vittorio Notarnicola. The editor was Giovanni Spadolini who was adding this job to his post as number one at the Corriere della Sera. Two large photos — one of the taxi-driver Cornelio Rolandi and a photo of Pietro Valpreda overshadowed the article. The bold capitalised headline read:  ‘VALPREDA DONE FOR’.

The morning papers that day, formally less sensational, took a clear line, albeit with some circumlocution. They accepted Valpreda’s guilt unreservedly. Corriere della Sera proclaimed: ‘Anarchist Valpreda arrested for collusion in the Milan massacre’. La Stampa opted for: ‘Anarchist arrested for colluding in massacre. Inquiry into suicide at police headquarters in Milan’. Il Giorno went for ‘Charged with massacre’. L’Unità chose: ‘Arrest made for massacre’. Avanti!: ‘Arrested for collusion in massacre’. Il Resto del Carlino declared: ‘An anarchist arrested for massacre’. Il Messaggero went for: ‘Criminals arrested’. Il Tempo: ‘Murderer arrested: anarchist Pietro Valpreda’. Paese Sera opted for: ‘Man identified by cab-driver reported for colluding in the massacre’. Il Popolo: ‘Anarchist arrested over Milan massacre’. Il Mattino plumped for: ‘Terrorist who carried out massacre arrested’. Roma: ‘Arrested: the monster is an anarcho-communist dancer from Canzonissima’.

Television was not far behind. Reporter Bruno Vespa, speaking live from the police headquarters in Rome during the evening show of 16 December, stated: ‘Pietro Valpreda is a culprit, one of those responsible for the massacre in Milan and the attacks in Rome. There had to be no question about that.’

Cornelio Rolandi, taxi driver (State witness against Valpreda

So it looked as if the file could be closed. The police had tracked down those responsible in record time. The sole basis for these accusations was the taxi-driver Cornelio Rolandi’s statement — and it was barely credible.

At 4.00 pm. on 12 December, Rolandi was in his Fiat 600 in the Piazza Beccaria when a customer asked him to take him to the junction at the Via Santa Tecla. When they arrived the fare asked Rolandi to wait while he got out, carrying a black bag. He returned after a few minutes and they drove to the Via Albricci where Rolandi dropped him.

Anyone familiar with Milan city centre will find this strange. The taxi rank in the Piazza Beccaria is 135 metres from the entrance to the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura. It is 117 metres from the Via Santa Tecla to the bank.

In order to spare himself a journey of 135 metres, Valpreda allegedly made a return trip 234 metres, with the added risk of possible recognition by the random taxi driver he asked to make the trip.

This is how Rolandi remembered that afternoon: ‘the guy with the bag boarded my taxi in the Piazza Beccaria; he was clutching a black bag in his hand. I looked at him in the rear-view mirror and spotted right away he had the long sideburns in fashion these days. He asked me to drive him to the Via Albricci via the Via Santa Tecla. The trip was quite a short one, but in the Via Albricci there are lots of airline offices. I thought he might be a passenger off on a flight. I stopped in the Via Santa Tecla, as requested by the fare. I said that the Via Albricci was not far away and that he could walk it, but he told me to wait as he was pressed for time. Off he went with the bag. He returned after a short time, but without the black bag.  I drove him to the Via Albricci where he paid the 600 lire fare and left.’ (Franco Damerini, ‘Intervisto a Milano con il teste-chiave’ in Corriere dell’Informazione, 17 December).

Apart from the fact that under the fare structures of the time the cost of that short journey, complete with tip, ought to have been no more than half of the 600 lire mentioned by Rolandi, there is evidence that throws doubt on this reconstruction of events. It comes from Liliano Paolucci, director of the Milan school principals’ associations. Paolucci caught taxi 3444 (Rolandi’s taxi) with his daughter Patrizia on the morning of 15 December and observed that the taxi driver was obviously a novice, continually taking the wrong turn. Once his daughter had been dropped off at her school, Rolandi confided in Paolucci who taped his recollections of the conversation on Sunday 21 December in order to have a definite record of this strange encounter:

‘To the best of my recollection, this is the story told to me by the taxi-driver. It was about 4.00 pm. on 12 December. I was in the Piazza Beccaria when I saw a man of around forty years of age entering the Piazza Beccaria from the Galleria del Corso. He came up to me in flawless Italian with no regional accent and: “Banca dell’Agricoltura in the Piazza Fontana.” I replied: ‘But the Banca dell’Agricoltura is only a few steps away — 50 metres away, signore. You’d be better off walking it.“ He said nothing, opened the door and stepped into the taxi. I had a good view of him. He was carrying a briefcase, a fat briefcase that appeared very weighty. Off we drove to the Banca dell’Agricoltura, within five or six minutes. He got out of the taxi, walked briskly into the Bank and came out equally briskly within 40 or 50 seconds, a minute at most. He got back into the taxi and he said: “At this point Paolucci interrupted asked him why the man would be coming from the Galleria del Corso. Rolandi’s response was priceless: “Don’t you know that the Galleria del Corso is a notorious hangout?’ A claim he repeated three times.

Even more mysteriously, though, Rolandi was later to deny that he had ferried Paolucci and that he had spoken with him. Even more strangely, the police and the magistrates never confronted Rolandi with Paolucci to compare their differing versions of events.  That was not the only oddity, as Paolucci himself pointed out to the reporter Enzo Magri who interviewed him for the weekly L’Europeo of 9 March 1972:

‘At 9.15 am on the Monday, I, a citizen, reported a serious matter. […]  I gave chapter and verse in my report. Yet how did the police react? They did not jump on it, never rushed round to see me and never even contacted me by phone. Bear in mind that Cornelio Rolandi had yet to approach the carabinieri in the Via Moscova, where he would report at 1.35 am that day. So this Rolandi could have been a nutcase, but equally he could have been telling the truth. And they say the truth has to be sought out before anybody gets the chance to eradicate it […] I, however — the only person with any knowledge of a disconcerting truth — was called by the telephonist at police headquarters half an hour after my call and told: “I am the police officer who took your call. Are you aware perhaps that you didn’t ask the taxi driver how the man whom he dropped off outside the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura was dressed?”’

Rachele Torri (Valpreda's Great Aunt)

These were not the only contradictions Paolucci mentioned. There was another witness too — a very important one. This witness insisted that Valpreda was in bed sick on 12 December. Who was it?  Valpreda’s great aunt Rachele Torri who lived in the Via Vincenzo Orsini in Milan.

This was how the great aunt remembered that afternoon: ‘Pietro was in bed with a fever. He was about to fetch the overcoat that he would need the following morning if he were to keep his appointment with Judge Amati.  Well, I went instead. It must have been 7.00 – 7.30 pm and I remember that as I was boarding the E bus in the Piazza Giovanni dalle Bandere a lady opened a copy of La Notte and I caught sight of some headline about deaths. I asked her if there had been an accident and she replied that there had been bombings. I got off in the Piazza del Duomo and cut through the Via Dogana to catch the No 13 tram to Pietro’s parents’ place in the Piazza Corvetto. I stopped at the newsagent’s and bought a copy of La Notte. When I arrived at my niece’s flat I told her that Pietro had arrived, ill, which was why I had come to fetch his overcoat.  Pietro’s sister, Nena, urged me to get him to eat something and gave me the overcoat and some shoes. I then went straight home and told Pietro his sister had asked him to eat something. Then I gave him the newspaper.’ (Interview with Rachele Torri in Rivista A— Rivista Anarchica of February 1971).

The next day, 13 December, Valpreda met with his lawyer Mariani and went with him to a meeting with Judge Amati. The judge was not available so they left him a note saying Valpreda would call again on Monday the 15th. He then made his way to the home of his grandparents, Olimpia Torri Lovati and Paolo Lovati in the Viale Molise, where he remained until the morning of 15 December.

His sister, Maddalena and girlfriend, 33-year-old Elena Segre, a translator who lived in an apartment block in the Viale Lucania where Valpreda’s parents lived, called to see him. Segre dropped by to see Valpreda at around 6.00 pm. on Sunday the 14th.

In an interview with Giampaolo Pansa in La Stampa on 18 February 1970, Segre stated: ‘Pietro was here at his grandparents’ place. I rang the bell and they let me in. He was on the settee pushed against the wall over to the left, wearing blue pyjamas and he got up to meet me…’ Pansa interrupted to remind her that her evidence had already been taken by Ernesto Cudillo, the examining magistrate, and by Vittorio Occorsio, the public prosecutor and that therefore if she told lies they could arrest her.

Segre replied: ‘Listen, the guy was there on the Sunday! What can I do about it if I saw him there? He greeted me. We hadn’t seen each other for a long time. He sat on the sofa bed as did he and I was sitting on my right, facing his two grandparents. We chatted […]’

So Valpreda had an alibi for the days from 12 to 15 December — alibis that showed he could not have been in the Piazza Fontana and contradicted his incredible taxi trip.

Croce Nera Anarchica (Anarchist Black Cross) posters

Croce Nera Anarchica (Anarchist Black Cross) posters

By that time it was hard to argue Valpreda was guilty. But the police and magistrates had certainly not acknowledged defeat. And so, a little over a month later in early February 1970, they brought out a few Roman witnesses to testify that Valpreda had been in Rome on 13 and 14 December. If Valpreda’s relations were telling lies about those two dates, then they had lied about 12 December too and so the taxi driver Rolandi’s testimony would stand.

Who were these witnesses? Ermanna Ughetto, stage name Ermanna River, Enrico Natali, Gianni Sampieri, Armando Gaggegi and his wife and Benito Bianchi — all avant-garde theatre folk who appeared regularly at the Ambra-Jovinelli theatre in Rome.

But when Valpreda was brought face to face with these witnesses on 6 March, there were clearly two conflicting versions of events. The Roman witnesses claimed to have met in Rome Valpreda on 13 or 14 December. Valpreda argued that the meeting they referred to had taken place about ten days earlier — shortly after Valpreda had been released from the Regina Coeli prison on 25 November.

Valpreda and Gargamelli (1970 - during their trial for the 19 November 1969 affray)

In fact, Valpreda had been arrested on 19 November following a fracas with fascists in the Trastevere district.  But there was another detail. During a medical inspection prior to his entering prison, Valpreda had bruising around his left eye, bruising that had cleared up by the time he was arrested on 15 December. Some of the witnesses remembered the bruising when they claimed they had met Valpreda after the Piazza Fontana massacre. This was another contradiction that does not appear to have raised doubts in the minds of Cudillo and Occorsio, who indicted Valpreda’s relatives for perjury.  Inexplicably, though, no action was taken against Segre who made the same claims.

To add to the charge sheet, on 7 February Benyamin Safari from Milan police headquarters stated that the bag containing the unexploded bomb in the Banca Commerciale Italiana contained a piece of stained glass similar to that used by Valpreda in the manufacture of his liberty lamps. An unforgivable oversight by the anarchist bomber.

According to the police, the discovery of this incredible evidence dated back to 2.00 pm. on 14 December 1969, but nobody spotted the coloured glass until February. Valpreda’s defence counsel, Guido Calvi, was easily able to cast doubt on this “heaven-sent” discovery.

Valpreda's parents with Guido Calvi (right), Valpreda's barrister

As the judges saw it, Valpreda arrived in Milan in his Fiat 500 on 12 December. At 4.00 pm. he took a taxi to plant his bomb in the Piazza Fontana. On the morning of 13 December he accompanied his lawyer Mariani to see Judge Amati. He failed to find him and left a note to say that he would return on 15 December. Then he left for Rome in his beaten-up Fiat 500.

That evening he bumped into the dancer Ughetto and went to dinner with her. On Sunday 14 December he was back in the bar near the Ambra-Jovinelli theatre where he was seen by others who would be able to give the lie to his alibi. He was still in Rome as of 9.00 pm. By 8.00 am the following day he was back in Milan with his lawyer.

Technically, using a different car perhaps, this was feasible. But it defies belief that Valpreda would have put together a false alibi that could so readily be rebutted by so many people. Just as it defies understanding why Valpreda’s relatives and his girlfriend Segre, with whom he had not spoken at the moment of his arrest, were able to confirm what Valpreda had said. Cudillo and Occorsio had a different version of the truth — Valpreda was guilty. Not only was he a liar, but his parents were also lying. Especially when Rolandi was telling the truth and was in for the 50 million lire reward from the Interior ministry. Cudillo and Occorsio made sure this truth was written into the record in an interrogation ‘for future use’; perhaps they foresaw Rolandi’s death on 16 July 1971.


Death of Pinelli by Flavio Costantini

HAD THE interrogation reached a crucial point or was it proceeding according to the usual routine? Was he excited or relaxed? Had the suspect’s alibi fallen apart or did it still stand? Was the atmosphere in the room calm or violent? Was the window shut, partly open or wide open? These are questions that cannot be answered with certainty because the witnesses contradicted themselves time and time again. Contradicting each other and themselves. The final hours of Giuseppe Pinelli’s life are locked in the accounts of his police interrogators, whom a large segment of public opinion holds responsible for his death.

The truth was laid to rest with Pinelli in Musocco cemetery in Milan and later, in 1981, in Carrara cemetery.

That night Inspector Luigi Calabresi, officers Vito Panessa, Giuseppe Caracuta, Carlo Mainardi and Pietro Mucilli and carabinieri lieutenant Savino Lograno were interrogating Pinelli on the fourth floor at police headquarters. Then the anarchist railwayman flew through the window.

At midnight on 15 December, L’Unità reporter Aldo Palumbo left the pressroom at headquarters for a cigarette.  He was standing in the courtyard when he heard a thud, followed by a further two thuds. Something had bounced off the cornice of a number of storeys. Palumbo raced over to find a body sprawled in the flowerbed. He raced off to fetch the police and his colleagues. Was this at midnight or several minutes before midnight? Or were we already into 16 December? Another unresolved question.

Milan Police Headquarters (re-enactment of circumstances of Pinelli's murder)

The exact time of Pinelli’s fall was to become another teaser in this tortuous tale. Was the request from headquarters for an ambulance made before Pinelli ”fell”, or afterwards? That is a mystery. One that Gerardo D’Ambrosio attempted to clear up with his celebrated finding of “active misfortune” that left everyone in the clear while fully rehabilitating Pinelli. D’Ambrosio wrote:

“Pinelli lit up a cigarette offered to him by Mainardi. The air in the room was unbearably stale, so he opened the balcony window and went over to the rail for a breath of fresh air. He suddenly suffered a dizzy spell, made a clumsy attempt to save himself, and his body tumbled over the rail into the void.”

Milan Police Headquarters (re-enactment)

There you have it all.

Gerardo D'Ambro, Examining Magistrate (right) in Police HQ courtyard

D’Ambrosio gave no consideration to the huge contradictions in the police statements. According to them, Pinelli threw himself from the window exclaiming: “This is the end for anarchy!” The police rushed to stop him. Panessa claimed he managed to grab Pinelli and was left holding one shoe. But the reporters near the corpse saw a shoe on each foot. Also, Pinelli’s hands and arms were uninjured. Had he fallen, he would have raised them instinctively to shield his head.  There was no sign of the injuries (bleeding from the nose and mouth) normally encountered in such cases. None of these contradictions were of any relevance to Judge D’Ambrosio.

Milan Police Headquarter — scene of the crime

D’Ambrosio merely uttered a few critical words regarding the conduct of the interrogators.

To recap: Pinelli was arrested at the Circolo Scaldasole with Sergio Ardau at 7.00 pm. on 12 December and followed them, voluntarily, to police headquarters on his motorbike. His first interrogation did not take place until midnight. They asked him about that “nutcase Valpreda”.

Ardau was transferred on Saturday, 13 December, to San Vittore prison, while Pinelli remained in Special Branch custody.

On the morning of 14 December a police officer telephoned Pinelli’s wife to say: “Madame should let the railways know her husband is unwell and will not be reporting for work.” His tone was friendly: no need to complicate matters with his employers. At 9.30 a.m. on Monday 15 December the anarchist was visited by his mother, Rosa Malacarne, who found him calm, smiling and relaxed. At around 2.30 pm. his wife, Licia, had a telephone call from the political squad: “Madame should ring the railways and tell them her husband has been arrested pending inquiries. Do you understand? You should say he is under arrest.” No more fair play: Pinelli ought to know his job was at risk.

At 10.00 pm., there was another call, this time from Calabresi himself: “Madame should look for her husband’s pass-book.” (The railway worker’s log, recording his travels. Ten minutes later, Licia Pinelli telephoned police headquarters back to say she had found the passbook and at 11.00 pm., an officer arrived to pick it up. Calabresi had another card to play. He resurrected the possibility that he might be implicated in the train bombings on the night of 8-9 August (as Allegra had tried to do some time before).

Pinelli’s last interrogation took place in Calabresi’s room. The inspector himself claimed he left the office before midnight — before Pinelli went through the window — to bring his superiors up to date with how the interrogation was progressing.

Shortly after 1.00 a.m. on 16 December, a couple of reporters went to Pinelli’s home to tell his wife that her husband had had fallen from a window at Milan police headquarters. She immediately telephoned Calabresi: “Why didn’t you tell me?” To which the inspector replied: “We hadn’t time. We have a lot of other things to be doing…”

Investigators examine the crime scene

Pinelli, in the meantime, had been taken to the Fatebenefratelli hospital where three reporters Camilla Cederna, Corrado Stajano and Giampaolo Pansa turned up. Cederna managed to interview Nazzareno Fiorenzano, the duty doctor, who said: “There is no discernible cardiac activity, no pulse, horrific abdominal injuries, a series of gashes on the head. We have tried everything, but nothing can be done. He won’t last long.”

It was 7 April 1970, four months later before Fiorenzano was questioned by the deputy prosecutor, Giuseppe Caizzi. It was this man, Caizzi, who was to wind up the investigation into Pinelli’s death on 21 May 1970.

And the outcome? No culpability. Pinelli had died as the result of “a wholly accidental circumstance.”

The file was passed to the chief examining magistrate Antonio Amati who closed the file on 3 July. On 17 July, in a courtroom all but closed for the holiday period, Caizzi applied to have another file closed: the application by Pinelli’s wife and mother to bring a case against police chief Marcello Guida.

On what basis? We have to return to the night of 15-16 December and to the office of police chief Guida (who had been Mussolini’s governor on Ventotene prison island in 1942). With Guida are Allegra, Calabresi and Lograno. It is the early hours of 16 December as the press are ushered in to hear Guida declare apropos of Pinelli’s death: “He was strongly implicated in abetting the massacre … he was an individualist anarchist … his alibi had fallen through … what else can I say? … he saw that he was done for … an act of despair … in short, a sort of self-incrimination.”

These are the contemporaneous notes Cederna wrote in her note-book.

Camilla Cederna, journalist (L'Espresso), author of the 'Open letter to Inspector Luigi Calabresi'. She was also wrote the book 'Pinelli: una finistra sulla strage' ('Pinelli: a window on the massacre')

Then it was Allegra’s turn. His view of Pinelli had changed recently, because some reports had shown the anarchist in a new light. In his view he was possibly implicated in the Piazza Fontana bombing. This was noted by L’Unità reporter Renata Bottarelli.

Bottarelli also noted Calabresi’s contribution to the press conference: “First he told us that at the time of the fall he was elsewhere; he had momentarily gone to Allegra’s office to brief him on the crucial progress that, he reckoned, had been made during the comparison of evidence. He had in fact cited his dealings with a third person whom he obviously was not in a position to name, leaving him with the impression that knew a lot more than in fact they did. He observed that Pinelli seemed startled and, disturbed by this, ordered the interview be suspended while he briefed Allegra on this turn of events. It was not, in any case, a proper interrogation.”

Chief Inspector Dr Luigi Calabresi

Calabresi later gave a different version of events. But, on the morning of 16 December Guida issued a statement that was, to say the least, bewildering:

“I swear to you that we didn’t kill him! The poor wretch acted in accordance with his own ideas. When he realised that the State, which he fought against, was closing in on him, he did as I would have done — were I an anarchist”.

Remember, though, that Pinelli’s alibi had not in fact fallen through: under questioning, Mario Pozzi had confirmed that Pinelli had played cards with him on the afternoon of 12 December, and a grinning Pinelli had thanked him for it.

Nearly a month later, on 8 January 1970, Calabresi told reporters: “We were caught off guard by his action, not least because we did not think that his position was serious. As far as were concerned, Pinelli was still a decent guy and would probably have been going home the next day […] I can say that we did not regard him as a key witness, but merely as someone to be heard.”

Someone to be heard, yet someone who was being held illegally. His police detention should have expired on the evening of 14 December and the magistrate charged with the investigation, deputy prosecutor Ugo Paolillo, knew nothing about the arrest. Just as he was also in the dark about Valpreda’s having been moved to Rome. In fact, Paolillo had already had the investigation taken out of his hands. From now on everything would be decided at police headquarters in Milan and in the Rome courts.