A judge in Italy on Monday ordered an Italian man to remain in prison while the investigation continues into the death of a Nigerian street vendor whose brutal beating at the hands of the suspect shocked many in Italy and prompted strong condemnation from the Nigerian government.
Police took Filippo Claudio Giuseppe Ferlazzo, 32, into custody on July 29, minutes after the salesman was beaten and left for dead in a busy shopping street in the seaside town of Civitanova Marche as onlookers watched, including at least two who filmed the attack.
An autopsy this week will determine the exact cause of death of Alika Ogorchukwu, 39. Videos circulating showed the suspect on top of Ogorchukwu, beating him with his bare hands after first hitting him with the victim’s own crutch.
Judge Claudio Bonifazi presided over a hearing for Ferlazzo in a prison near the Adriatic coastal city of Ancona.
Ferlazzo “gave his version of the facts and said he was sorry,” defense attorney Roberta Bizzarri told reporters. She added that Ferlazzo, who is white, said “there was no racial element” involved.
Pressed whether Ferlazzo said he was sorry for the victim’s family, the lawyer replied “yes, to the family.”
Ferlazzo could be charged with murder and robbery because Ogorchukwu’s cell phone was taken.
“Ferlazzo’s ‘apologies’ are not enough, now only justice is needed and not vendetta,” Orgochukwu’s family said in a statement issued through their lawyer. “It’s hard to understand what happened.”
The family’s lawyer, Francesco Mantella, added in a phone call that the widow, Charity Oriachi, wants to see the suspect “face to face” to try to understand why he killed her husband.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government demanded Italy urgently “bring the perpetrator of the heinous act” to justice.
A statement from the Nigerian Foreign Ministry released on Sunday said the government “strongly condemns the heinous killing of a Nigerian” and urges all Nigerians “to exercise restraint while the law takes its course.” The country’s embassy in Rome has been instructed to “work quickly, together with the relevant Italian authorities, to ensure that justice is served, to prevent a repetition of the unfortunate incident.”
Some members of the Nigerian immigrant community in the Marche region which includes the area where Orgochukwu lived and worked protested the killing on Saturday. Another protest is expected later this week.
Police investigator Matteo Luconi has told journalists that the suspects attacked the vendor following Ogorchukwu’s “insistent” requests to him and his female companion for pocket money.
The slain man’s lawyer said he was attacked after complimenting the woman’s beauty. The companion, identified only as Elena D., was quoted by the Corriere della Sera daily as saying that Orgochukwu had touched her arm but it did not particularly bother her. The woman said she was in a clothing store when the attack happened shortly after.
The attack comes during the campaign for the September 25 election in Italy. The anti-migrant leader of the League party, Matteo Salvini, has made immigration and protecting citizens from violent crime top issues.
Orgochukwu used a crutch after being hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Mantella had been engaged to obtain accident compensation to help the family, including an 8-year-old son, who, the lawyer said, has not yet been told what happened to his father.
Chinedu Asadu contributed from Nigeria.