It was around 3:30 pm, in Rio Morto in the district of Cannaregio, when passersby heard a woman crying and screaming. None of them stopped, thinking it was just lovers arguing, with the exception of one man, the police officer in plain clothes Elio Berdozzo, who immediately walked towards the source of the screams. After having reached the place from which the screams were coming, he first noticed a couple laying on the snow-covered ground, snow which had fallen exceptionally much on Venice that day. Once closer, however, he discovered that, in reality, the man was holding down the woman by her arms, and as she was fighting helpless, he was furiously biting her neck, licking her blood which had already stained the stones as well as the snow surrounding them. The officer, after recovering from such a sight, violently pulled the man away by his hair and started a brutal fight with the offender. The passing people, supposing it was a fight lead by jealousy, kept on walking their way and didn’t care much about what was happening. The criminal almost chocked Elio, but he managed to punch him violently, forcing him to escape. He fled under the close “sotoportego“, and towards “calle de l’aseo” where he tried to block and bite the neck of another woman that was on his path.
This time, seeing Elio running after the assaulter, some Venetians joined in the chase and got hold of the attacker; once captured, the man suddenly turned silent and calm, almost in a catatonic state, and the only word he would sometimes pronounce was “Maria”.
After being brought to the police station, where his identity was checked, the man who appeared to be a 31-year-old painter, was sent to the hospital for psychiatric examination. The results showed that the attacker was sane, but in a confused state of mind, leading him to be incriminated for attempted murder.
During the trial, the painter’s best friend explained that the defendant had had a strong crush on a woman named Maria and, unable to tell her his feeling, had secluded himself from others.
When questioned about his day, he said remembering going to the train station with the intention of killing himself, and next thing waking up in an alley blocked by a group of people. His version of the facts changed many times. One day he declared that he was talking to the men because they reminded him of Maria, before turning into monsters that an inner voice was telling him to kill. On other occasions, he asked the judge to please let him leave the trial as he had an appointment in San Marco to attend, to meet… the Devil.
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