Carabiniere accused of maltreating US murder witness

Internal investigation launched over leaked photo.

In a bizarre twist to the case of the murder of carabiniere Mario Cerciello Raga, a photo has emerged of one of the two young Americans arrested, sitting blindfolded and manacled during his interrogation.

Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth, known as “Gabe”, the friend of Lee Elder Finnegan who has reportedly already confessed to the murder, was being questioned as an accomplice at the carabinieri station in Via In Selci when the photo was taken, apparently by a carabiniere.

The picture began to circulate on internal police chat lines already on Friday, but was soon leaked to social media. When it was shown to General Giovanni Nistri, commander of the force, he was outraged.

“This is an unacceptable episode and must be treated as such,” stated Nistri, who immediately launched an internal investigation to discover the culprit or culprits – because whoever took the photo is assumed to have connived in the irregular treatment, at least in not denouncing it. “Something like that has never happened before: this is a very particular case,” Nistri added.

Within two hours, reports leading daily Corriere della Sera, the officer responsible was identified and his name given to magistrates. He is understood to risk a charge of personal maltreatment and suspension or dismissal from his duties.

Provincial carabiniere commander Francesco Gargaro told media that the officer responsible had claimed he blindfolded Hjorth to prevent him from seeing reserved documents and computer screens. But Corriere comments that this does not stand up: he could easily have been interrogated in a different room.

Outrage had already been expressed across the media on Friday as initial reports claimed the murder was perpetrated by four North Africans, sparking a wildfire of racist, anti-immigrant comments by private people and politicians up to ministerial level, until the true attackers were identified.