NSWhen escorted to prison, Patricia Reggiani was determined to go in style, wearing dark sunglasses and a fur coat. “I told her, ‘Look, you’re going to prison, and that fur coat is very expensive,'” said former police officer Carmine Gallo. “So we left the coat with her mother and she gave her my green jacket, which I promised to return.”
Gallo has never seen his jacket again, but he does not hold a grudge. The police officer who called Reggiani’s luxury home in central Milan at about 5 a.m. was tepid in January 1997 to arrest her on suspicion of masterminding the murder of her ex-husband and fashion house heir Maurizio Gucci. Gucci was shot dead outside his office in Via Palestro nearly two years earlier, aged 46. The case captured Italy, and now the story is being retold in Ridley Scott’s film about the fashion dynasty, the House of Gucci.
Gallo doesn’t know if his character appears in the movie, starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, but his unintended role in finding Gucci’s killers came in handy.
He was on duty as the head of a police unit targeting organized crime when he answered a phone call from a man who said he had information about the murder. “Up until then, I only knew about the Gucci case through the newspapers,” Gallo said. I’m used to dealing with corruption, not murder. It was hard to believe what this person was saying, but I was just curious.”
The detective, named Gabriel, did not return long to Italy from South America and was unemployed and homeless. He was living in a cheap hotel on the outskirts of Milan, where he met Ivano Savioni, a porter who told him of his involvement in Gucci’s murder.
“Gabriel said he could provide more information for the money,” Gallo said. “I said no, we can help you find a job and a home, but only if the information is proven correct.”
He had Gabriel Savioni tell the story again, this time recording the conversation. Savioni said that Pina Orima, an old friend from Naples, approached him, and asked him if he knew of anyone who could kill Gucci. Orima was a fortune-teller for Rijani, then broke up with Gucci, who was living with another woman.
“She told Orima Savioni that Reggiani was sick and tired of being harassed by her ex-husband, who said he wanted the Gucci name removed from her,” Gallo said. “She hated him and wanted to kill him, and if Orima can find someone to kill him, she will pay for it.”
Savioni turns to Benedetto Ciraolo, the owner of a debt-laden pizzeria, and Orazio Cicala. Ciraulo carried out the shooting on the morning of March 27, 1995, also injuring Giuseppe Onorato, the doorman who was scanning leaves away from the entrance to the Gucci office building. Cekala drove the escape car.
None of the four involved in the murder – for which they received 600 million lira, the old Italian currency (£260,600) – had committed a previous crime.
The inspector leading the official investigative team, who had long been pursuing the theory that Gucci might have been the target of an international conspiracy after selling his stake in the company to an Arab Bank, laughed when Gallo gave him his initial information.
But this did not dampen Gallo’s position. “The only thing that struck me when I first read about the murder,” he said, “is that the janitor was hit — if these people had been professionals, they would have killed him too, they wouldn’t have left a witness.”
When the group discovered that the police were moving towards Gucci’s inner circle, they were concerned that Reggiani would confess and conspired to kill her as well. They are recorded hatching their plan to kill Reggiani after Gallo sends an undercover police officer pretending to be the Colombian killer who Gabriel proposed to the group for the job. Everyone except Ceraulo admitted their involvement upon their arrest, and that Reggiani ordered the killing.
The police had to break down the door of Reggiani’s house when they arrested her because she did not hear the doorbell. “She was walking around this huge place, carrying a lamp,” Gallo said. “But she was very calm. She was joking when she told Orima that she wanted Gucci to die. She said: How many wives did they say kill their husbands?
The Italian press dubbed Reggiani the “Black Widow” because the image of a despised woman appeared at her trial. She was convicted along with the others and served a 16-year sentence of 29.
In an interview earlier this year, Reggiani, now 72, spoke openly for the first time about a hitman’s order to kill Gucci, saying that she walked around and asked everyone if they could do it for her, “even the local shopkeeper.” She said she enjoyed her time in prison, where she kept a pet ferret, and helped fellow prisoners with their hair and nails and gardening.
Since her release for good behavior in 2014, she has often been photographed roaming Milan with her pet parrot on her shoulder.
A condition of her short imprisonment was that she had to work, something she refrained from until her lawyer arranged a part-time job at Bozart, a high-end jewelry store.
“It was a blessing and a curse. Some people thought we were bad people to hire a killer,” said Bozart co-owner Maurizio Manca.
Reggiani has spent more than two years at Bozart, where she advises on the company’s jewelry designs and helps coordinate her Instagram account. It was her first real job ever.
“More complicated was the technology – we had to train her to use email and leave sticky notes on the computer with instructions on how to turn it on, open files and print,” Manka said. “There wasn’t much freshness of mind, but she was diligent.”
The parrot was less diligent, as she sometimes brought him to the store. “The parrot was somewhat of a nuisance,” Manca added.
Reggiani often talked about her life with Gucci, their vacation in St. Moritz and their time in New York, where they connected with members of the Kennedy and Trump family.
“The newspapers were always full of what they were up to, they were like the king and queen of Milan’s social scene,” Manca said. “She used to say she was the only one left from Gucci.”
It was the obsessive attachment to Gucci’s name that some believe drove her to arrange the murder of her ex-husband. “I refused to sign the police report in the name of Reggiani,” said Gallo, who still has his old Reggiani passport.
All elements of the story provide perfect fodder for a Hollywood movie, said Jose Ferret, a veteran fashion journalist in Milan. Lady Gaga plays Reggiani.
“I was impressed by how similar they were,” Ferret said. “It was a shock when the murder happened, as something that would happen in America, not here.”
Gallo, who retired from the police force after 40 years, said the perpetrators would never have been found had it not been for a detective who got a job and kept in touch with him for several years. “It’s all thanks to Gabriel the case has been resolved,” he said.