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Italian Train Killer a Mystery

April 20, 1998

ROME (AP) _ Police searched Monday for a suspected serial killer who used a passkey to enter train toilets and shoot to death two women, leaving female travelers gripped with fear along the Italian Riviera’s rail lines.

Both victims were in their early 30s, traveling alone and shot in the back of the head while they used train toilets _ and investigators believe their attacker might be the same person who killed six others in the Riviera region earlier this year.

A special squad of psychologists, forensic experts, chemists and police went to work on the case after the second woman was found dead in a train bathroom late Saturday. Top-level investigators from Italy’s two main police forces met Monday to discuss evidence.

RAI state broadcast reported that the killer in the latest slayings was believed to be left-handed and used a piece of the victims’ clothing to muffle the sound of a single shot fired at close range. The same technique was used in the previous six slayings, it said.

Hundreds of people called a special hotline set up by police in the search for clues.

``I’m afraid. What if I need to use the bathroom?″ said Assunta Centi, 41, a traveler in Rome’s main train station.

``What happened to that woman is terrible, and I won’t move from my seat,″ said Fabiana Pangini, a 19-year-old university student who was traveling to Bologna from the Rome station.

The routes on which the slayings occurred pass through many tunnels, which would help drown out the sounds of gunfire or a struggle.

The body of Maria Angela Rubino, 32, was found Saturday by a cleaning crew at the station in Ventimiglia, a Riviera town near the French border. She was shot behind the ear.

A week earlier, the body of another woman, a Milanese nurse returning home from Easter, was found on the floor of a toilet of a train headed from the coastal city of La Spezia to Venice.

In both cases, the assailant used a master key to re-lock the bathroom. After the killings, the attacker apparently put the victims’ handbags on their train seats, Italian news reports said.

The other six Riviera area slayings did not occur on trains. The victims were four prostitutes and two security guards who had come to the aid of another prostitute being threatened by a man with a gun.

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