Italian authorities say that on Friday a woman has been discovered after being kept in a locked room in her family’s home for 18 years. Italians are pondering the similarities with the widely publicized abuse cases that have shaken Austria in recent years.
Maria Monaco, 47, has been freed from her squalid living quarters by investigators after they’ve got a tip. Her 80-year-old mother, Anna Rosa Golino, her sister, Michelina Monaco, and a brother, Prisco Monaco, have been arrested and accused of kidnapping.
Prosecutors say Maria Monaco was kept locked up at home because she got pregnant out of wedlock, according to a lawyer representing the other family members.
“She could barely walk, and instead of speaking she emitted a sort of wailing sound”, said Carmine Rosciano, the military police captain who oversaw the operation.
In a telephone interview, Ms Rosciano said Maria was found surrounded by filth and cigarette butts, and was transferred to a psychiatric ward in a Naples hospital.
The three defendants are represented by their lawyer, Gianfranco Carbone, who dismissed the accusations, saying that Maria had severe psychological problems.
“The family was only trying to be discreet”, he said in a telephone interview, adding that she had not been prevented from leaving the family home.
In the media, the case immediately drew parallels with Austria : the kidnapping of Natascha Kampusch, the schoolgirl who spent eight years in a basement cell before escaping from her abductor in August 2006, and Elisabeth Fritzl, who was kept locked up in a cellar for 24 years, bearing seven children by her father. She and her children were freed in April.
‘Ashamed of her’
To Mr Carbone, the comparisons are “decidedly wrong”.
Maria Monaco “has serious psychological problems and refused to undergo any therapy”, or take care of her personal hygiene, he said. “The family was ashamed for her.”
“What’s happened is a drama within a drama”, Carbone said.
Accessible through a locked gate, the room where investigators say Maria spent nearly two decades of her life was on the second floor of a two-story house, in Santa Maria Capua Vetere, a small town near Naples.
Maria had access to a “fetid washroom”, said Rosciano. She added that her family used dog bowls to feed her.
Mr Carbone said Maria’s son, who is 17 and attends high school, lived in the house, but seldom saw his mother, because he understood that she was seriously ill. “The family accepted him”, he said, “that should mean something”.
To see if it might shed some light on the case, investigators are now trying to establish who impregnated Maria Monaco. As the investigation was under way, Antonio Ricci, the prosecutor handling the case, said he could not comment.