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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2008, 16:00 GMT
'Neighbour rage' case grips Italy
By Mark Duff
BBC News, Milan

The case has gripped Italians for the past year, and the wait is now over as the trial of a middle-aged couple accused of killing four of their neighbours in a row over noise gets under way.

Apartment gutted by fire where four bodies were found
The apartment in Erba was set on fire after the murders

The sheer brutality of what became known as the "Massacre of Erba" transfixed Italy.

Late on the night of 11 December 2006, four people - including a two-year-old boy and his mother - were stabbed and bludgeoned to death at a flat in the town of Erba, not far from Lake Como.

The killers tried to cover their tracks by setting fire to the apartment.

Within a month, though, the police had arrested a middle-aged husband and wife from a neighbouring flat. The two made a confession - which they later retracted.

Prosecutors say the couple were driven to murder by the barrage of noise they'd faced from their neighbours' flat at all hours of the day and night.

If they are right, the killings would be one of the most extreme examples of what's been dubbed "neighbour rage".

Every year some 850,000 arguments between neighbours end up in Italian courts.

The vast majority of them are petty and consist of arguments over maintenance bills or noise between neighbours in the often cramped, poorly-designed apartment blocks built during Italy's post-war economic miracle.

Such was the appetite for a seat at the trial that people queued from crack of dawn to secure a place - and some tickets are reported to have changed hands for hundreds of euros.


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