FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) - Italian police have arrested a Senegalese illegal immigrant who prosecutors believe killed Ashley Olsen, a U.S. woman who was found dead in her apartment in Florence last weekend.
“We have collected very serious evidence of his guilt,” Florence chief prosecutor Giuseppe Creazzo told reporters at a news conference on Thursday after the man was arrested and questioned in the early hours of the morning.
Creazzo said the man, named as Diaw Cheik Tidianee, had met the 35-year-old Olsen in a local nightclub and that the two had consensual sex in her home under the influence of alcohol, and possibly drugs, before he killed her.
She was strangled in the early hours of Friday, Creazzo said, but the autopsy revealed that she had two fractures to her skull — injuries that would also have proved fatal.
The case has attracted huge international media attention and investigators were keen to avoid any repeat of the drawn-out saga that followed the 2007 killing of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, not far from Florence.
Kercher’s American flatmate Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend spent almost four years in prison for the crime before finally being acquitted last year by Italy’s highest appeals court.
During a long interrogation that ended at 4.00 a.m. local time, Tidianee had “substantially admitted” the prosecutors’ reconstruction of events, Creazzo said.
Tidianee and his lawyers have not made any public comment but Italian media said he told police he had not meant to kill Olsen, but that she had fallen during a row.
Creazzo did not give Tidianee’s age but said he was born in 1988 and had arrived in Italy illegally a few months ago to join his brother who has been living in the country for some time.
The case may fuel tensions over illegal immigration which have already led to a sharp rise in support for the anti-immigrant Northern League party.
The only person finally found guilty of the Kercher murder was a drifter from the Ivory Coast, Rudy Guede, who was found to have sexually assaulted his victim before killing her.
Witnesses and video surveillance cameras confirmed that Tidianee and Olsen had left the Montecarla nightclub and entered her house together, Creazzo said, adding that Tidianee had taken Olsen’s phone and put his own SIM card inside it.
The “decisive evidence” had come from Tidianee’s DNA which was present on a condom and a cigarette butt found in the house and which matched DNA found under Olsen’s finger nails.
Tidianee is currently in a Florence prison and faces a charge of murder, aggravated by cruelty. “There was no sign of any erotic game,” Creazzo said.
Olsen came from Florida and had been living in the central Italian art city of Florence for the past three years. Friends said she had moved to Italy to join her father Walter Olsen, who teaches in the city.
Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Catherine Evans