NICE, France (Reuters) - An Italian serial killer known as the “St Valentine’s Beast” who fled to France after being allowed out of prison to visit his mother was sentenced to jail by a French court on Monday.
Already serving a sentence in Italy for extortion, Bartolomeo Gagliano, went on the run last Tuesday after being granted a good behavior pass. He hijacked a car and forced the driver to take him to Genoa, 170 km (105 miles) from France.
French police arrested the 55-year-old in Menton, just over the border.
A court in Nice handed Gagliano a 10-month prison sentence for carrying a gun and false identity papers. He will be transferred to an appeal court in Aix-en-Provence on Thursday which will rule on a demand to extradite him back to Italy to serve the rest of a 2006 extortion sentence.
He has already served out sentences for three murders committed in the 1980s.
Declared mentally ill by Italian courts, Gagliano earned his nickname in February 1989 when he killed his third victim on Valentine’s Day after breaking out of a psychiatric ward.
In 1983, he escaped from a separate institution where he had been confined for murdering a woman and then held a family hostage and was recaptured only after a shoot-out with police.
Italian Justice Minister Annamaria Cancellieri was summoned to explain in parliament why Gagliano was let out on leave despite previous escapes that ended in violence. Cancellieri promised a “fact-finding” inquiry into the affair.
Gagliano, his features gaunt and struggling to speak coherently, told the Nice court he could not remember the events of the past week and repeatedly expressed his desire to see his mother in Italy, a Reuters reporter at the proceedings said.
Reporting by Matthias Galante; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Pravin Char