Page last updated at 10:07 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 11:07 UK

Man beats girl into coma in Rome

Piazza Venezia in Rome
Police kept a watch on the scene following the attack

A four-year-old French girl is in a critical condition after her father was found beating her head against a monument in Rome, officials say.

The man was restrained by passers-by and a traffic officer, but not before he had smashed his daughter's head so badly that she slipped into a coma.

A police spokesman said the man, in his late 30s, was arrested.

Witnesses said blood still stained the Vittoriano monument in Piazza Venezia on Sunday, a day after the attack.

Late on Sunday the girl's mother arrived at the hospital where her daughter underwent an emergency operation, Italian media report. The mother was on holiday in Turkey at the time, and did not know her partner had taken their daughter from Paris to Italy in her absence, police said.

"Her condition is stable but very critical," said Daniela Perrotta, from the Bambino Gesu hospital's anaesthesia department, after the girl was admitted shortly before midnight on Saturday.

Traffic officer Anna Esposito said she had been alerted by a Canadian tourist that the man was behaving strangely towards his daughter.

"He was holding the girl by her arm and then started striking her against the stone," she said.

"He was like a furious beast."

After he was separated from the girl, he tried to smash his own head against the monument.

Police said the man was in possession of medication indicating he was undergoing psychiatric treatment.

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