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6:00pm UK, Thursday February 16, 2012
A Polish man has been found guilty of murdering an elderly Italian couple in a “brutal and savage” attack after they caught him burgling their home.
Giuseppe Massaro, 80, and his wife Caterina, 77, suffered “dreadful” injuries after they were hit over the head with a hammer and stabbed by Ireneusz Bartnowski, 22.
Bartnowski was sentenced to life behind bars, and ordered to serve a minimum term of 34 years.
The couples’ bodies were discovered by granddaughter Lindsey Booth on Good Friday in April last year at Woden Road, Wolverhampton.
Ireneusz Bartnowski was told by the judge that he lacked “all humanity”
Ms Booth, 24, called the emergency services as soon as she set foot in their house, then found their bodies in their bedroom.
“I was walking up the stairs and I literally just pushed the door and I saw my granddad first then I walked round and I saw my nan,” she said.
“I thought ‘Oh gosh, maybe they are still all right and I can do something,’ and I touched them and they were cold. That is just something that you know a granddaughter should never have to do.”
The jury was told that the Massaros, who were “security conscious” because they had been burgled before, were found side by side in their bedroom, with a quilt partially covering Giuseppe Massaro’s body.
Mr Massaro had suffered “multiple injuries” to his head, neck and abdomen.
One stab wound had a depth of 14cm. He was hit at least three times with a hammer which led to a brain haemorrhage, and there was evidence he had been punched and kicked by Bartnowski.
Mrs Massaro suffered a similar ordeal and died of blood loss. The prosecution told Wolverhampton Crown Court that “one of the victims must have seen the other attacked”, and must have known “the same would happen to them”.
After murdering them, Bartnowski stole the Massaros’ car, money and two televisions, which were later sold for £200.
CCTV showed Bartnowski taking the televisions away in the couple’s Peugeot and returning to the victims’ home twice “to look for things to steal” after their deaths.
Bartnowski denied murdering the couple, who had lived in the same house since moving from Italy in 1960.
He admitted breaking in, but claimed it was his Polish friend Wojciech Ostolski, 32, who killed them.
Ostolski, who never faced a murder charge, was acquitted of handling stolen property from the Massaros’ home.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard Bartnowski, who had arrived in the UK just eight days before murdering the couple, was living next door to them with his sister and would have been able to “watch them” and “learn about their routine”.
Bartnowski, who had a previous conviction for burglary in Poland, told the court through an interpreter that he had started taking crack cocaine days before the double murder.
His blood was found on both murder weapons, his fingerprints were discovered on documents in the couple’s house and his DNA was found in the pocket of Guiseppe Massaro.
Rosa Carella, 29, also granddaughter to the victims, said she was “disgusted” by the murders.
She said of Bartnowski: “There is not a word to describe him in any dictionary. He is a vile, disgusting man basically and I hope he gets what he deserves.”
Superintendent Keith Wilson, senior investigating officer in the case, said: “Throughout all the police interviews he said ‘No comment’, except in July when he requested the interview with us.
“He has shown no remorse whatsoever and I think he is a cowardly individual who has committed an evil, evil attack.”