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Tuesday, November 3, 1998 Published at 18:09 GMT

World: Europe

Gucci's ex convicted of his murder

Patrizia Reggiani Gucci is led into court to hear the verdict

The ex-wife of the murdered Italian fashion magnate, Maurizio Gucci, has been convicted of plotting to kill him.

Patrizia Reggiani Gucci was sentenced to 29 years in jail.

She had denied charges of having him shot dead on the steps of his Milan office three years ago. She admitted she wanted him dead, but said she never went through with the plan.

[ image: Pizzeria owner Benedetto Ceraulo was convicted of pulling the trigger]
Pizzeria owner Benedetto Ceraulo was convicted of pulling the trigger
As the trial ended she made a final plea for mercy before a crowded courtroom, saying she was involved in his murder against her will.

"I have been naive to the point of stupidity," she said.

Prosecutors said the 46-year-old Maurizio Gucci was gunned down outside his office in Milan by a hitman, Benedetto Ceraulo, who had been hired by an intermediary on behalf of Reggiani.

Ceraulo, a debt-ridden pizzeria owner, was convicted of carrying out the killing and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Psychic adviser

BBC Southern Europe Correspondent Orla Guerin: A twisted tale with all the elements of a soap opera
Also sentenced were go-between Ivano Savioni, getaway driver Orazio Cicala and Reggiani's longtime psychic adviser, Pina Auriemma, who was sentenced to 25 years.

Reggiani had told the court she had been blackmailed by Auriemma, who she said organised the killing and demanded cash. She said she handed over 500 million lire ($300,000).

She said Auriemma had used her to satisfy an obsessive hunger for money and power.

[ image: Reggiani's former psychic adviser was also covicted of involvement]
Reggiani's former psychic adviser was also covicted of involvement
"Never let even a friendly wolf into the chicken coop. Sooner or later it will get hungry," she told the court.

The Italian media had dubbed her "the black widow" during the five-month trial.

The BBC Rome Correspondent, Orla Guerin, says the Italian public was held spellbound by details of savage feuds within the famous fashion dynasty which emerged during the trial.

The Gucci family was one of Italy's richest and most well known families.

Maurizio Gucci was the grandson of Guccio Gucci, founder of the fashion company known for its leather goods and double 'G' logo.

The prosecution portrayed Reggiani as a vindictive woman outraged by her ex-husband's poor business sense and his failure to properly invest $120m he had earned from the sale of the Gucci fashion empire in 1993.

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