Lucia Mongelli

TURIN, PIEDMONT – ITALY.

2009

Lucia Mongelli’s family confined her for nearly 25 years. Her father subdued the female members of the Mongelli family through a “psychological reign of terror,” and orchestrated the captivity by basing his beliefs on an archaic law, to feed his incestuous desires. Michele Mongelli would become known as the “Ogre of Falchera.”

Lead up to Crime

Michele Mongelli, 64, lived in a small apartment in the downtrodden suburb of Falchera, on the outskirts of Turin, Italy. He lived with his family in a housing development area; an area stocked with plain housing blocks, surrounded by parklands lined with Cyprus trees and freeways. Michele and his wife Caterina had ten children, of which Lucia (also known in the press as “Laura”) was the eldest daughter. Michele had been able to afford the apartment after receiving compensation for a car accident.

Michele worked with his eldest son, Giuseppe, 40, as a street vendor, driving around in a beat-up utility vehicle, collecting scrap metal from the streets of Turin to sell at markets. Over the years Michele and Giuseppe had had numerous dealings with police and social workers. Both had been arrested for theft. Social workers often checked on Carmine, the youngest Mongelli son, who was deaf.

Their rough exteriors were nothing compared to the brutality they were hiding within. Michele controlled his family to suit his incestuous nature, passing his abusive traits on to Giuseppe.

Michele had been enacting a medieval right known as droit de seigneur — a law of dubious nature — which allows the “right of the lord” of an estate to claim the virginity of any of his serfs’ unwed daughters. Michele interpreted this to mean he was entitled to have sex with his daughters, telling them this was the usual custom.

“I am going to teach you a game before I touch you, which you will use when you are older,” Michele Mongelli told Lucia, as the abuse started when she was aged nine.

Held Captive

Lucia Mongelli’s family removed her from school around 1988, when she was just 13, leaving her with a limited education. She was often confined to a darkened room with no electricity, received no further education, and had extremely limited contact with the outside world.

In 1994, Lucia escaped and contacted police, lodging a report. Michele pressured Lucia to blame her uncle, who denied the accusations. Her father managed to convince authorities that Lucia was mentally disturbed. All investigations ceased. The family received help from a psychologist, who failed to detect the abuse. It would be another sixteen years before the true issue came to light.

“From when I was aged nine my father forced me to suffer sexual acts, touching my private parts, kissing me on the mouth, and from age sixteen onwards forcing me to have full sexual intercourse with him,” said Lucia.

Michele trained his son how to rape. Lucia was first raped at 16 by her brother Giuseppe, then by her father. Lucia was locked up, and the two family members repeatedly raped her over the following two weeks. She was later taken to hospital where she was forced to undergo an abortion. Michele ordered Lucia to tell doctors that she been “raped by a Moroccan.”

One of Lucia’s sisters would give birth: a child born of her own father.

News of the incest and captivity spread throughout their local community, causing the parish priest to ask Michele Mongelli questions. The priest was told to mind his own business. He did.

Over the years, Lucia was kept as a sex slave. She was allowed out of her room when accompanying her family on trips, where Giuseppe was placed in charge of watching her.

The abuse extended further into the family, with Giuseppe following in his father’s footsteps and raping his own daughters. His four daughters, aged between six and 20, were also forced to watch him in sexual acts. It is also believed Michele Mongelli abused other members of his extended family.

Police would eventually receive a tip that would lead to Lucia’s release.

Release

A small toy horse peered from the shuttered window, looking out to the grassy parkland below, a tragic symbol of what was occurring inside. On the balcony, children’s clothes hung from a line, and bed sheets from the railing.

A large collection of crucifixes, and photographs of St. Padre Pio — known as the priest with the stigmata, canonised in 2006 — hung on the white walls of the apartment. Of all the family photographs, only one image contained Lucia. She looked out from the frame, carrying a forlorn expression and dead eyes, her face bordered by a short haircut.

Police bugged the home phones and cars of Michele and Giuseppe Mongelli, after an unknown informant alerted them to the incest. The phone taps were installed incorrectly; accidently picking up audio from inside the apartment while the phone was not in use. Police recorded Giuseppe making inappropriate sexual advances to his eight-year-old daughter.

The tape captured the young girl saying, “Dad, get your hands off me. You are a bastard, stop it.”

Giuseppe Mongelli was arrested on the February 23, 2009.

Lucia initially told police Giuseppe had raped her, but the investigation soon turned to her father, who they believed was the mastermind behind the plan.

Michele’s voice was also recorded on tape saying, “Come on, you are mine. Get up.” The sounds of sex followed.

Before police could take Michele into custody, he drove Lucia to an abandoned cottage near a local cemetery, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him one final time.

Police arrested Michele on March 28, 2009, freeing Lucia from her father’s abusive clutches after 25 years. She was now 34 years old.

Trial

The lawyer defending Michele Mongelli since his arrest stated his client was impotent because of diabetes, therefore he was unable to rape. His family also reiterated this, claiming he could not commit such crimes because of injuries sustained in a car accident.

Michele and Giuseppe were accused of rape, sexual assault, and obscene acts in public. Prosecutors said the two men ruled the family with a “psychological reign of terror.”

“My husband goes around to metal markets,” Caterina Mongelli told police. “He was also a cat burglar, breaking into houses at night to support our family, but he has never done any of these disgusting things.”

Upon his arrest, police took Michele to hospital due to illness and his diabetes. Pietro Forno, Italy’s top investigator into child sexual offences, led the state’s prosecution. “I’ve dealt with many incest cases but this is the worst I have ever seen,” he said.

The court found Lucia had been used for her father’s satisfaction. She had been constantly detained and monitored, to prevent her from having contact with people who may recognise the abuse.

On May 23, 2010, Michele was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, and Giuseppe was sentenced to nine years.

The family united against Lucia and brought civil proceedings against her. The family described Lucia as a “black sheep.”

“That woman has a natural tendency to lie. She reported having been sexually abused, but in reality it was not so. She also says she was locked up in the house for twenty-five years, but enjoyed the freedom and could come and go from our home at any time.”

In court psychiatrist Giorgio D’Allio testified, “[Lucia was] the victim of psychological slavery.”

Aftermath

The family appeared across several Italian news outlets, after the media was invited to the Mongelli home, where they declared the innocence of their family members. Lucia’s siblings defended their father and still respected him as an authoritative figure.

Michele’s other son, Carmine, appeared in a newspaper after the arrests. He sported a fresh tattoo of his father’s face, surrounded by crudely drawn stars and a wreath bearing the name “Michele.” He stated, “I have always kept my father in my heart and here on my arm.”

Caterina Mongelli denied the allegations presented against her husband. “None of this is true. It’s all lies. My husband is in jail for something he didn’t do. He only kept her inside because he was worried about her. Any father would do the same.”

Lucia, and Giuseppe’s four daughters, were placed under psychological care in a shelter. Lucia received treatment for a personality disorder brought on by the stress of her ordeal.

On November 18, 2010, Michele made an application to have his sentence commuted to home-detention. Mongelli argued that his health was “incompatible with the prison regime.” The judge approved the application and he was released from prison. An appeal to the Supreme Court in June 2012 saw a warrant issued to have Michele returned to prison.

Thomas Fischer

BARMBEK, HAMBURG – GERMANY.

2011

On a summer evening in 2011 Thomas Fischer realised a plan that was years in the making. His apartment housed explosives and a homemade torture chamber, and combined with his sadistic wish, Fischer was about to unleash a wave of terror. As his plans were about to come to fruition, a simple knock on the door would change everything.

Lead up to Crime

When neighbours enquired about Thomas Fischer, 30, installing a security camera above his front door and lacing the outside of the windows with heavy barbed wire, threaded through large eye screws, he told them it was to deter burglars, claiming his flat had been broken into on three occasions. Neighbours were getting their first glimpse into the world of a sadist on the edge.

Unemployed, Fischer earned money selling Nazi uniforms online. He also scoured markets and online sale sites, collecting weapons, including; a gun, a grenade, and medical equipment to use for torture.

Fischer, a gangly man with an un-styled wispy beard and thin pointed features, was described as a cold sadist who never smiled. He would regularly visit homeless people, buying them coffee and ogling women. He was a self-confessed virgin, who froze in fear if approached by a woman.

Thomas Fischer was cautious not to say anything about himself. He wore military jackets, and those who knew him could see he was mentally unstable. Often he would ask associates where he could buy items such as guns or dental equipment.

Fischer once presented a friend with a box containing a rabbit. “Please kill it for me,” Fischer instructed. “I want to eat.”

Inside Thomas Fischer’s ground floor apartment the kitchen was stocked with more than a ton-and-a-half of non-perishable food items, enough for the captor and victim to hold out for months. The premises contained a total of 113 fire extinguishers. Eight extinguishers had been converted into fertiliser bombs, constructed from plans sourced off the internet. The bombs were rigged throughout the two-room apartment, designed to detonate when he had completed his plan, or if he was captured.

The small room, with white concrete walls and florescent light, was decorated only with what Fischer needed to fulfil his fantasies. The small flat was not so much a residence, but rather an aboveground bunker to see out the End of Days.

A yellow phone box weighing more than 250 kilograms stood inside the room. Fischer had modified the phone box, insulating it with soundproofing, securing an outside lock, and rigging it with explosives. He had constructed his own DIY cell and torture chamber, waiting for someone to inhabit it. The large windows of the phone booth faced out to a desk, where multiple computers were hooked up. He could watch his victim, even while he was online, as though she was an exotic fish in an aquarium. On the back of the phone box was an old sticker that read, “SOS.”

It is unclear where the phone box was purchased, but many are available on the German version of eBay for a few hundred euros.

Held Captive

On August 19, 2011, Fischer set his plan into action.

Fischer selected his victim, a 26-year-old Israeli born woman studying in Germany. Fischer was an acquaintance of the woman, having been introduced to her through mutual friends the previous May. He became obsessed with the woman and stalked her, becoming increasingly consumed by the idea of “owning” her.

Fischer lived a life of social isolation, though he desired to have a family despite never having a relationship with a woman. His obsession with starting a family became sinister and overwhelming. He fell in love with his victim and on hearing that she was returning to Israel soon he enacted his plan.

On this Friday evening in summer, at approximately 7:45 p.m., Fischer knocked on the student’s door. When she answered, he kidnapped her at gunpoint. He constrained her wrists in handcuffs and took her back to his apartment in the Barmbek district of Hamburg. Other reports claimed she was seized off the street.

As Fischer directed the terrified student through his flat, she was confronted with gynaecological instruments lying on benches. He had purchased a mannequin to practice on, training how to use needles and scalpels. Also in the apartment were a number of pregnancy tests and a blow up doll.

Part of Fischer’s plan was to contain the woman in his flat and impregnate her. He had collected fertility drugs, and planned to use the gynaecological equipment to help her get pregnant and deliver the baby.

Fate would intervene with a knock on the door. Fischer answered.

Escape

The captivity lasted only two hours. Fischer forgot to lock the door of his beloved phone box torture chamber when he answered the apartment door. Still in handcuffs, the terrified woman escaped from the phone box at around 9:45 p.m.

Fischer had constructed heavy wooden barricades to place over the windows, held in place with large wooden beams. The same beams were also designed to hold the front door in place. Fischer never had time to install the last segments of his trap.

The woman plunged through the window, lacerating her skin as she passed through the thick mesh of criss-cross barbed wire. She fell to the bushes below and ran up the street screaming for help. Fischer pursued his victim, but she managed to out run him and took cover at a friend’s house. Neighbours witnessed the event and alerted authorities.

Fischer returned to his flat and waited for the police to arrive. When they discovered him he was carrying a 9-millimetre handgun, a grenade, and refused to speak.

Police discovered homemade explosive materials in the basement and the area was evacuated. Video would later emerge of Fischer carrying dozens of fire extinguishers down to the basement, some of which were then turned into fertiliser bombs.

Trial

“My son was an honest boy; there has never been trouble with the police,” said Thomas’s father, Hans Fischer.

Police were already aware of Fischer — in 2009 he was investigated five times for stalking, though no charges were laid. He had previous failed attempts at meeting women, which also escalated to stalking. In 2003 he stalked German actress Eva Habermann, writing her letters and setting up a camp in her garden. Other previous charges against Fischer included assault and fraud.

Thomas Fischer’s charges for his current crime included: taking a hostage, depriving a person of freedom, and explosives violations.

In April 2012, the charges against Fischer were dropped because he suffered from a severe psychiatric disorder, resulting in him not being responsible for his actions, and therefore unable to enter a plea. His defence lawyer agreed with the prosecution that Fischer needed help provided by the state. Thomas Fischer was sentenced to an indefinite term in a secure psychiatric hospital.

Aftermath

“My life was in danger but despite everything, I managed to escape,” the victim told an Israeli newspaper, a few days after her ordeal. “Everything is behind me now. I am staying at the home of the Israeli family in Hamburg where I originally intended to be while taking a course. I will be back in Israel in a few days.

“A lot of the things that were published in the media were exaggerated. They made him out to be a sadist who wanted to attack me — that’s not true. The same is true for the gynaecological devices found in his apartment. It was total embellishment.”

German police confirmed gynaecological equipment was found in the apartment, though it was not reported that any had been used on the victim.

After her ordeal the victim returned to live in Israel. Fischer offered an apology to her and hoped that she would heal as a result of the trial.

Fusako Sano

KASHIWAZAKI, NIIGATA PREFECTURE – JAPAN.

2000

Almost a decade after going missing, Fusako Sano approached police officers who had been called to a hospital. She identified herself and explained she had not stepped outside since Nobuyuki Satō kidnapped her in 1990. The case would become known throughout Japan as “The Niigata Girl Confinement Incident.”

Lead Up to Crime

In 1990, nine-year-old schoolgirl Fusako Sano was attending school in Sanjo, Japan. Sanjo is located 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of Tokyo, and originally formed from a collection of villages. At the time it had a population of around 85,000. It has a river port, a long history of producing metal tools, and is prone to flooding in torrential rains. The Sano family owned rice paddies that they worked.

Nobuyuki Satō lived in the seaside city of Kashiwazaki on Japan’s northwestern seaboard, southwest of Sanjo. Satō was an unemployed, 28-year-old male, who lived with his mother, occupying the upstairs floor of her house. Satō’s father died in 1989, and afterwards his neighbours noticed that his behaviour became increasingly erratic. His violent outbursts resulted in him breaking the windows and doors of his mother’s home. His aggression also turned towards his mother, who neighbours claimed once had a black eye. In the same year, Satō came to the attention of police after he attempted to kidnap a young girl. He was unsuccessful and while on probation he made his second attempt.

On November 13, 1990, Fusako Sano was in the fourth grade, when she watched an afternoon game of baseball at her school with two friends. After the game finished she walked home alone.

Satō drove the 57 kilometre (35 mile) journey from Kashiwazaki to neighbouring Sanjo, where he kidnapped Fusako Sano at knifepoint, forcing her into the trunk of his car, before returning home. A large police search was soon underway, but police were unable to find the missing schoolgirl.

Held Captive

Satō took Fusako from his car and moved her upstairs, where he held her captive in his bedroom for almost a decade. Satō had banned his mother from his bedroom during his teens, restricting her to the downstairs storey of the house. Satō suffered from mental illness and kidnapped Fusako because he desperately wanted someone to talk to and keep him company.

Fusako was bound for several months and had adhesive tape placed over her mouth. Satō ordered her to videotape horse races on the television, and if she made a mistake he would punish her by using a stun gun. Other punishments included being punched and threatened with a knife.

Satō cut Fusako’s hair short and made her wear his clothes. Fusako spent most of her time listening to the radio, and during the final year of captivity she was allowed to watch television. Satō provided her with three meals a day, cooked by his mother, or instant food. The door had no lock, but Fusako was banned from touching it. If she attempted to flee, Satō threatened to abandon her alone in the mountains.

If Satō’s mother attempted to venture upstairs he would turn violent. His violence escalated and his behaviour became more erratic, causing his mother to make a series of calls to the social workers at the Niigata Health Centre. When workers attended the house they found the girl and ask the police for help. The police refused to assist and told the social workers to sort out the problem themselves.

As Satō’s unpredictable behaviour increased, he went with Fusako to the hospital. When he started acting violently towards staff, the police were called. A thin, jaundice girl, barely able to walk, approached police and told them her name was Fusako Sano and that she had been abducted.

“For nine years, I did not take a step out of the house. Today I went outside for the first time,” Fusako told police.

When high-ranking police officials were notified of the discovery of the missing girl they had little interest in the matter, deciding instead to play mah-jong.

Rescue

Fusako was rescued on January 28, 2000. She was now 19 years old, and had been held captive for a total of nine years, two months and 15 days. She was weak and dehydrated. She also suffered serious injuries, including: atrophied leg muscles, where legs are weakened through lack of use; sustained learning difficulties; and would go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of her lack of socialisation, and despite her age, she still behaved like a child.

Nobuyuki Satō’s mother, now 73, claimed she was unaware that Fusako was living upstairs.

“I was too scared to escape and eventually lost the energy to escape,” Fusako reported to police.

Fusako Sano was reunited with her parents who had always remained hopeful of seeing their daughter again.

The news quickly sent shockwaves across Japan, dominating the media. The police were called incompetent, and questions were asked as to why police in neighbouring cities had not worked together on the case. Japan also questioned its sense of community and why neighbours had not noticed anything.

Satō was now 37. He was taken for psychiatric evaluation on January 28, 2000, and formally arrested on February 11 once discharged from hospital. He was diagnosed with several personality disorders, but was still competent to be responsible for his actions, so he was deemed fit to undergo questioning.

Police would claim they had discovered Fusako, but would later have to admit they lied and initially refused to help social workers. The public response to the case would question why the police had not investigated Satō earlier based on his earlier abduction attempt, as he was on probation for a similar crime. Shortly after, several high-ranking police officials resigned, including the Niigata Prefectural Police Chief Koji Kobayashi.

Trial

Nobuyuki Satō pleaded guilty before the Niigata District Court in May 2000 to abducting a minor and unlawful confinement resulting in injury.

Public sentiment weighed heavily on the sentence, and the maximum term of 10-years for abduction and confinement was considered too light. Charges of stealing four camisoles worth 2,400 yen, which he gave to Fusako as gifts, were also included in Satō’s sentencing, increasing the prison term to 14 years. He was sentenced on January 22, 2002.

Fusako’s father was upset by the courts inability to enforce a harsher sentence. He released a statement at the conclusion of the trial:

“As parents, we are mortified by the existing situation . . . and cannot help feeling indignation about such a situation. Almost three years have passed since our daughter was released from the long confinement of nine years, two months and fifteen days. However, today’s ruling fails to take account of the weight of the time passed for us and our daughter.”

Aftermath

During his imprisonment, Nobuyuki Satō made a statement to a Japanese journalist: “The feelings of the weak are not worth considering. What else can they do but yield to the strong?”

Satō has spent 250 days in solitary confinement over 10 years and makes continued complaints about the violation of his human rights.

Fusako Sano made some recovery, but her life has been difficult since her captivity. Reflecting on her past brings back painful memories. She has received on-going medical help and counselling. Fusako’s legs regained their strength, and she enjoys long walks and photography. She works with her family on their rice paddies.

Her father died in 2007 after drowning in a favourite pond he would visit on walks with Fusako. She was with her father when he drowned.

Nobuyuki Satō will be eligible for release in 2016.

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