Michele Profeta, known as the serial killer of Padua, was
a decidedly atypical serial killer. He began reaping his victims at an
advanced age – and something rare -, for money. So we are not faced with
a sexual illness, a perversion, or a victim of abuse marked since
infancy. No, nothing of the sort. Michele Profeta is truly a unique case
in the history of crime.
Before reconstructing his atrocious crimes, let us try to delineate who
this anomalous serial killer actually was. Without doubt he was a man
leading a double life, and in the failure of the attempt to find an
established mental profile at least we can say: both of Michele
Profeta’s existences were a serious human failure.
His delirium in believing to be omnipotent led the frustrated
individual, angry with the entire world, to conceive of an idiotic plan
to extort money from the community.
A Life on Loan
Born in Palermo in 1947, little is known of his early childhood, but it
seems that a strong impression was left upon him by his mother, who was
an authoritarian character, separated in age from her children by more
than 40 years. Michele Profeta was her second child.
Profeta’s life was seriously marred by many personal upsets and failures,
family disagreements, health problems. From early youth he was diagnosed
with a congenital heartd eficiency.
In his university years, Profeta developed a compulsive obsession for
gambling. This obsession dogged him for the rest of his life. The
consequences were devastating: a miserable economic condition, debts,
the interruption of his university studies.
His private life suffered devastating repercussions. Profeta already had
a failed marriage with two children behind him, accompanied by a
disastrous professional life: he’d tried many paths, earning only
humiliation and lay-offs.
Yet these particular personal circumstances do not seem
to have pointed Michele Profeta to strive toward new life projects. On
the contrary, this controversial situation fomented the growingly
narcissistic and ambitious personality in him. Full of rage against
society which had, by now, emarginated him.
The Face in the Mirror
The moment of decision came at the beginning of 2001, after being fired
for the umpteenth time and forcing him into the degrading job of
distributing advertisement flyers.
In the same period his already critical marriage entered its final phase:
up to this moment, Profeta had lived a double life - for 15 long years -
keeping his second marriage alive while, at the same time, he was having
an affair with a secretary of the finance agency where he had worked in
The man lived alternately with the two women - each of them unaware of
the other - and still spending most of his time away from home, at the
casino. He had studied statistics at length in the hope of landing an
Just before turning 50, he was transferred to the Veneto region, he
moved to Adriatic coast with his wife and children and to the Mestre
suburb of Venice with his mistress. This complicated ménage à trois
wound up wearing and degrading the individual’s quality of life: the
gambling vice and insecure job situation precluded him from a dignified
lifestyle, there was never enough money.
Here it is necessary to understand the more obscure factors that
suddenly came into play, as usually happens to people who fall prey to
similar crises of delirium... Profeta thus began to work out a criminal
plan that he thought to be perfect. Throughout the duration of the
investigation, the man would never be afraid of being discovered, would
never have any doubt about the success of his diabolical plan.
The Massacre Game
But what did the perfect criminal plan consist of?
Profeta contacted the authorities and asked for 12 billion lire, with
the threat of unleashing a chain of random homicides in an unspecified
The first threatening note, written with a stencil, turned up on January
the 12th, 2001 at a police station in Milan. The number 12 was a
frequently recurring number in the criminal events of Michele Profeta.
The letter seemed to come from a mythomaniac, the police did not believe
in a real and existing threat. But they were wrong.
On January the 28th, 2001, Michele Profeta was in Padua. He took a taxi
at the train station and was taken to Via Marghera. A residential
neighbourhood, quiet, nearly deserted in the evening. Profeta told the
taxi driver to stop a few yards before a bar. Here he pulled a revolver,
pointed it at the man’s head, killing Pier Paolo Lissandron with a
Notwithstanding the fact that this was a crime in coldblood, it was
immediately obvious that this killing was not the work of a “professional”:
due to the imprecision of the shot, the taxi driver did not die on
impact, but about an hour after being taken to the hospital.
The next day another letter arrived in Milan, in which the killer
repeated his demand. 12 billion lire against the life of an unknown
Italian. At this point the police were completely in the dark: there
were no witnesses of the first murder, there were no fingerprints on the
letter, the ballistics tests came up negative: who was this maniac that,
under the effects of evident “delirium omnipotens” went around armed and
ready to kill?
The Second Murder
On February the 10th, 2001, just 12 days after the first
homicide, Profeta fired 3 times into the head of young real estate agent
Walter Boscolo, 37 years old, who was showing him an apartment in the
centre of Padua. Next to Walter Boscolo’s body, the killer left another
note and 2 playingcards, they were the king of diamonds and the king of
The murder of the real estate agent was added to the list of those
considered very similar to the one of the taxi driver Pier Paolo
Lissandron and the dustman Furio Dubrini. This last murder seemed
erroneously to have been performed with the same modus operandi of the
serial killer, but there was no evidence to indicate that the same hand
had shot Dubrini.
Three apparently correlated homicides without an evident motive over a
short span of time. Nonetheless, a few days later, Profeta made a
fundamental mistake. It suddenly lifted the veil of darkness off the
identity of the invisible assassin.
Epilogue for The King of Diamonds
He was betrayed by a telephone call-card, used to contact
both Boscolo and his own family in Palermo, and traced to one of his
cellular phones; Michele Profeta was arrested on February the 16th, 2001
in Padua, while he was preparing for his third murder: he had a loaded
pistol and the king of clubs with him. His adventure had lasted only
At his house in Mestre, a deck of cards minus the kings and a stencil
were found that had been used to write the messages received by the
authorities and left next to the victims. Interrogated by the
authorities, he alternatedbetween formal confessions and brusque
retractions. In his cell he dedicated himself to a study of the Bible
while awaiting the verdict of the Court which, after he opposed a
psychiatric examination, condemned him to life imprisonment.
The Voices of The Prophet
After the first sentencing, Profeta sent a manuscript to
his lawyer in which he claimed to have killed under orders “...from a
friendly voice, I believed I was in God’s hands but instead I wound up
in the hands of evil”.
Even today it still remains difficult to establish for how much of the
time during his general paranoid delirium Michele Profeta was aware and
coherent, if at all and how much – on the other hand - was the result of
a seriously disturbed personality. The magistrates found dozens of
cellular phones in the serial killer’s house in Padua, which evidently
he was convinced of being able to use to avoid being identified by the
IMEI code which distinguishes each mobile phone.
But to contradict the theory of mental infirmity is the reiterated
refusal on behalf of Profeta to undergopsychiatric examination. Three
years later, when the life sentence went to the appeals court, Profeta
fell victim to a heart attack. It was the 16th of July, 2004.
In the months prior to his decease he had taken up his university
studies again and was preparing for his first exam. The serial killer
Michele Profeta was struck down by a heart attack precisely while he was
taking his first exam. Serving his life sentence at Voghera Penitentiary,
for the occasion he was taken to the lawyer’s hall in the San Vittore
Prison, to take his exam in History of Philosophy. Profeta had assumed a
reverently humble attitude while responding to the questions of the
examination board when he unexpectedly collapsed....
Shrewd criminal or lunatic? It’s difficult to say. One fact causes
surprise: On the 30th June, 2002 Michele Profeta was transferred from
the Due Palazzi prison of Padua to that of Voghera, after being
discovered in a possible escape attempt. The prison guards found a file
hidden in his eyeglasses’ case.
A few months earlier, on April the 12th, 2002, during the psychiatric
exam performed on request of the defence attorney by Prof. Vittorino
Andreoli, Michele Profeta had finally admitted his responsibility for
two of the crimes for the first time. In Andreoli’s opinion the motive
was to be found in “delirium omnipotens” of which the accused was
With his death, Profeta left an incredible list of hypotheses and
questions without answers: What was the meaning of the playing cards?
What were the numerous cell phones found in his Padua apartment to be
used for? Why did he get involved in an escape attempt just when
preliminary hearings were reaching their culmination? Was this not a
revealing gesture? An admission of guilt?
All questions that will remain unanswered.
Sicilian held over playing card killings
By Rory Carroll - Guardian.co.uk
Sunday 18 February 2001
Italian police were last night questioning a
suspected double murderer who threatened to litter the city of Padua
with the corpses of estate agents.
Michele Profeta, 53, a debt collector, was arrested
after allegedly taunting police with a series of clues thought to be
inspired by the novelist Patricia Cornwell. Police traced a series of
calls to Palermo, in Profeta's native Sicily, from public telephone
boxes which used the same phone card to contact the second victim, an
Profeta, who had lived in the northern university
town for years, was arrested on Friday night driving past the spot of
the first killing.
He denied the accusations and had not been charged by
last night. 'He denied even those things which to us seemed evidential,'
said prosecutor Paolo Luca.
Police said they found three pistols in his apartment,
which he shared with a girlfriend, one of which matched the calibre of
the murder weapon.
Stencils of the type used in three anonymous letters
to police and newspapers were discovered. The author threatened a
bloodbath unless 12bn lire (£3.9m) was paid.
A pack of playing cards was also found to be missing
its four kings. Walter Boscolo, an estate agent made to kneel and then
shot in the forehead after being lured to a luxury apartment, was found
on 10 February with the king of hearts and diamonds next to his corpse.
Police suggested Profeta may have been planning
another killing as the king of clubs was in his pocket. The first victim,
taxi driver Pierpaolo Lissandron, was shot in the back of the neck by
his passenger on 29 January. Police believe it was a mistake as the taxi
was stopped outside an estate agent's office. Profeto was arrested in
connection only with the second killing but detectives said a link would
soon be made.
The motive remained a mystery. The debt collector
himself had small debts and was questioned several years ago in Milan
over alleged extortion of a client. He had no prior convictions. Media
reports said he was a former estate agent who had been forced for
unknown reasons to close his office, spawning a grudge.
The killings have been dubbed the number 12 murders
because of the number's apparent significance to the killer. The case
started with a letter to police, posted on 12 January, demanding money
and signed by 'Padua One'.
At his insistence a classified notice was placed by
police in Corriere della Sera : 'For Hire - Specialist metal worker, 12
Twelve days after the first murder he called Boscolo
to arrange an appointment at 12am.
Terror spread through the usually sleepy city when
the same voice, calling himself Pertini or Bellini, rang a string of
other estate agents.