POISON - Episode 2 - The house in via Abba Motto 19
The genesis of the infection occurs on September 27, 1993, with the eviction of the Galliera family in Massa Finalese. For little Dario, 3 years old, a relational and emotional odyssey begins that will hit rock bottom in early 1997, when he accuses his natural brother Igor of sexual abuse.
Intro. Pablo walks into the house in via Abba Motto.
Live: I am traveling on a country road. I'm in Massa Finalese, in the province of Modena. I'm heading for an abandoned three-story yellow building. Now I'm walking around the house. Everything is really destroyed here, there are pieces of glass ... pieces of tiles ...
This is the kitchen. There seems to have been a fire because the walls are blackened.
Here are stairs, look ... There is practically nothing left. There are only dead insects, pieces of chandelier ... It is a truly spooky place.
Now I'm in a room on the first floor. There is a rosary on the ground. In one corner there is a puppet. He is a kind of gorilla with a nerazzurri striped shirt.
A child actually lived in this house. A child who, one day 20 years ago, started seeing monsters.
This staged investigation reconstructs a crime story that occurred twenty years ago in two countries in the province of Modena.
They are Mirandola and Massa Finalese.
It is here that between February 1997 and November 1998, 16 children between the ages of zero and 12 were removed from their families, accused of being part of a sect of pedophiles and satanists, who abused them and tortured them physically and psychologically.
From this story 5 slow and exhausting processes were born, which shook these communities of the Lower Modenese, bringing more than twenty people on the defendants' bench.
Some parents and relatives have suffered harsh sentences. Others have been acquitted. Still others have never seen the end of this story, which has left behind a long trail of deaths.
In the meantime, the children have made a new life in new families, today they are adults, they are between 20 and 30 years old.
None of them wanted to go home anymore.
Those who have never managed to turn the page are their parents, who continue to proclaim themselves innocent and who ask to see their children again.
Now, analyzing the gigantic mass of procedural papers, documents and testimonies twenty years later, something continues to be unclear.
Who are these parents really?
Is it true what their children have told?
Or are we facing an incredible case of collective suggestion?
If so, what could it have originated from? And above all ... why?
Poison is the story of a chain reaction that begins with a trivial eviction.
It is 27 September 1993, on a Monday, when a bailiff knocks on the door of an apartment in the social housing in via Volta, in Massa Finalese, in the province of Modena.
The Galliera family lives there, five members: the father Romano, the mother Adriana and the three children, whom we will call Igor, 18, Barbara, 16 and Dario, who has only three.
It is the child with whom this series began.
It is a very poor and disadvantaged family, which has not paid the rent for a long time and is followed by the social services of the area. But that morning the Municipality doesn't want to hear reasons, and the five are on the street with the little stuff they have, without knowing where to go.
Igor and Barbara are already big, but what worries most of all is Dario, who is still too young to go to sleep in the car with the others.
Therefore, Romano Galliera crosses the street and knocks on the door of a nearby family, who lives in a yellow cottage opposite.
It is a woman's house. Her name is Oddina Paltrinieri, she lives there with her husband and two daughters.
She is a friend who has already helped the Galliera in the past, and now Romano asks her for a favor greater than usual. Take care of Dario for a few days, until he finds new accommodation.
Live Giulia: Romano Galliera shows up here at my house with his youngest son, Dario, who was three years old at the time, and asked me if I could please accommodate them.
To speak is Giulia, the oldest daughter of Oddina. Her mother died in 2014 from a long illness.
Live Giulia: My mother reacted very badly and offended him heavily I remember, because ...
Live Pablo: But what did he say to him?
Live Giulia: Well, he told him that he was an idiot and a good man because it was not possible - despite the help of social services - that he found himself in the middle of a street when he paid a truly negligible rent.
But however frank, Oddina has no heart to leave the child in that situation, so she agrees to take Dario into the house.
She is a well-known woman in the village and very active in society. One of those people who mobilize and roll up their sleeves.
After all, he says, if there is a plate of soup for four, there is also for five.
In the meantime, Dario's parents move to find a new home. But everything is proceeding a bit slowly, also given the economic conditions of the family. Romano Galliera is a 56 year old who lives with odd jobs here and there. He does not have a fixed salary and in town there is no good talk about him.
Live Giulia: A very ignorant person who did not want to work. He was unable to converse normally without screaming or raising his hands. Both with his wife and children.
This is Silvio, Oddina's husband and Giulia's father.
Live Silvio: He had little desire to work, he played cards, he treated his wife a little badly, he never fed his children. He had nothing, if we didn't give him something, he had nothing. Live Giulia: People ridiculed them when they saw them in the square calling them "the ugly family", because they were actually all thin, undernourished and badly dressed and were not as normal as ... as a family.
We managed to track down Barbara, Dario's older sister, who was sixteen at the time. Today he is 40. He has green eyes and a slightly melancholy gaze. We meet in the car, in the parking lot of a shopping center.
Live Barbara: Eh, we didn't live in very conditions ... as they say ... dignified, but that is ... even if we were poor people, but in our small way we were always, always united.
Live Pablo: That is, you were happy that Dario was with Oddina?
Live Barbara: Yes, yes, yes, very happy, then he was very happy, always there that he drew ... then there was her husband Silvio who was ... that is, he spoiled him. He always bought him candy, which he said "I don't want candy anymore" and Dario said "and I do!" (Laughs)
Silvio you should know him.
Today he is 66 years old. He is a big, big man with a dark complexion. His best friend is a tiny, frightened dog, who follows him everywhere. To see them are funny.
Silvio is an Emilian doc. Seemingly grumpy, but hiding a sensitive soul under the skin of cynicism. And he had completely fallen in love with that boy.
Live Silvio: I showed him everything.
Live Pablo: Did you take it around?
Live Silvio: Yes, the zoo, Pistoia, then I took him to see the ships in Livorno, the planes in Pisa, we went to the sea, he was very happy ... When he left he was very sorry.
We are at the end of December 1993.
Dario has been with Oddina's family for three months. His parents Romano and Adriana, thanks to the help of a priest from the area, Don Giorgio, perhaps have finally found a new home in the countryside of Massa and plan to settle down and take it back with them shortly.
In this video shot in kindergarten, Dario is framed among dozens of children disguised as a mushroom. They are waiting for Santa's gifts ...
Live video Santa Claus: Children where are you, that I don't see you?
Live video children: Quiiiii!
Live video Santa Claus: But I don't see you!
And of course there are surprises even when you get home. Giulia, the great daughter of Oddina, gave him a nice red jacket, which he shows everyone.
Live video Giulia: Let me see you get here ... how beautiful you are ... show!
Live video Dario: Am I beautiful?
Live video Giulia: Yes
Live video Oddina: Not so much ... Come here and let's put on the glasses.
That 25 December the Galliera family and that of Oddina and Silvio spend Christmas together. Dario seems happy and carefree.
What still none of them know is that in a few hours everyone's life will change radically.
The next morning is Boxing Day. One of those that Silvio will never forget.
Live Silvio: It was December 26, 93 ...
And someone knocks on the door of the yellow cottage. Giulia goes to open it. There is a woman. She is a social worker from Mirandola.
Live Giulia: The social worker showed up around 9.30-10 ...
Asking Oddina and Silvio to prepare the child's suitcase as soon as possible, because in reality he will not return to live with his parents, Romano and Adriana.
For him, social services have other plans and another arrangement: the Franciscan Cenacle of Reggio Emilia, a reception center for children with family problems.
They are all in shock.
This is Barbara, Dario's sister:
Live Barbara: They said that Oddina could not take care of it, they said that she was unable to keep up with the child, when such a person, like Oddina, we had never found her because she was of a heart not big, but more.
Live Pablo: And how was the baby?
Live Silvio: Mah had a fever but she insisted ...
Live Giulia: ... and despite having seen that the boy was ill, he did not change his mind to take him to Reggio Emilia. We dressed him well, loaded in the car and silently we started following the white Panda of the social worker to Reggio Emilia. We struggled to explain this to Dario because we also didn't know what was happening. So we told him we went with him to this place for some time. He had to stay away from us but then he would probably go home. The lies told to children because you also didn't know how to behave. Then we arrived in Reggio Emilia and entered this institute. A nun came to welcome us ...
Live Silvio: But when we got there he saw that there is a cursed nun, who also had a bad face, we gave it to him and took him away, he started to cry, understand?
Live Giulia: So we said goodbye, embraced and ... and left there. My father took it very badly, he loved that baby so much and hoped for a future for him. It got dark, serious and ... it was bad.
Live Silvio: It wasn't a good December 26th ...
It is a wound that almost a quarter of a century later continues to hurt. Silvio can do nothing. His eyes shine every time he talks about Dario.
At just 3 years of age, the child is left alone and without explanation in a center he does not know, 70 kilometers from his home, 1 hour and 11 minutes by road.
Too far for the Galliera family, who are already in a difficult economic situation and do not even have a car.
His father, Romano, does not make a reason for it. He chains himself in front of the Mirandola social services office. He argues, gets angry, threatens. But nothing. For the mother Adriana it is too strong a blow.
Live Barbara: My mom got so depressed that she didn't even eat anymore because when you take away a child, the world falls on you.
The Galliera try in every way to get Dario back, but there is no way. The child remains in the Franciscan Cenacle of Reggio Emilia for a year and a half, when the Social Services move home again. Dario, who is now 5 years old, is entrusted to a family from the province of Mantua, whom we will call the "Tonini". Tonini will take care of him from now on, even if Dario makes returns from his natural family two weekends a month.
In the meantime, the Galliera family lives in the country house which they found thanks to Don Giorgio, the parish priest who has always followed and helped them.
It is in a yellow building in the middle of the countryside. The same house where this episode started, in Via Abba Motto 19, in Massa Finalese.
Now, there is no good blood between the two families. And if you think about it, it's also quite understandable.
Imagine if your child was brought to live by another family against your will, regardless of your faults. If she called another woman mom, and dad another man. A family that can give him things that you cannot ... you would probably live with regret and the sense of guilt of not having done more for him, and perhaps even with a little bit of hatred towards those who tuck him in the evening.
On the other hand, what can a family raising your child think of you? That you are incapable. Irresponsible. That you are not good parents.
And above all how should a small child like Dario feel, who has already changed 3 houses in 5 years, and who finds himself tossed about in a threesome war between Social Services, the natural family and the foster family?
Again Barbara, Dario's natural sister:
Live Barbara: Eh, he felt a little upset, because rightly, that is ... you are with a family, then after you go to your natural family, you are there for those two days, then after 6 in the evening they come to pick you up like this ... I am I remember that he attached himself to the kitchen curtains because he didn't want to leave and we had to - as they say - tug him to make him go with them because they came to get you. He said mom, mom, mom, but why do I have to go with those there? Why can't I stay here?
This situation has been going on for two years, with little Dario continuing to go back and forth between the two families. Then, from February 1997, his returns to the natural family were abruptly stopped. Romano Galliera, his wife Adriana and their children Igor and Barbara, do not understand what happened. Until the morning of May 17, when the carabinieri arrive at their home with an arrest warrant.
Dario accused them of sexual harassment and of having sold it several times to a pedophile tour between Massa Finalese and Mirandola.
If in every epidemic there is a zero patient, Dario is the zero child from whose revelations the contagion starts. To speak, after him, there will be other children from other families in the area, who will start a complex court case, which will last for almost 18 years.
What happened? How did it happen?
If you notice, many historical events, no matter how big, were born from small episodes, perhaps apparently totally insignificant, like a sentence of few words within a banal discussion. It's a bit the concept behind the butterfly effect coined by the father of Chaos Theory Edward Lorenz, when in the 70s, studying the mathematical model of rainfall, he realized that minimal variations in the initial parameters were enough to produce huge changes. It is his famous question: "Can the flutter of a butterfly in Brazil cause a tornado in Texas?".
Well. Apparently yes.
Also because, after months of research on this tornado that struck twenty years ago in the heart of Emilia, we managed to trace the beating of the wings that generated it.
Follow me. We remember the characters, right?
Dario Galliera, son of Romano and his wife Adriana, temporarily entrusted to the care of neighbors Oddina and Silvio, and then to the Franciscan Cenacle, is finally assigned to the Tonini family, husband, wife and two children. Ok?
A few months before the arrest of the Galliera, the Tonini family - Dario's carers - had enrolled the child in their country's elementary school. For the first few months, everything seems to be going well and Dario returned from his natural family two weekends a month.
But one day the teacher, during an interview, had pointed out to Mrs. Tonini that the boy had told her something a little strange: while returning to the natural family, the older brother Igor made "jokes under the covers ”To his sister Barbara.
We managed to find the teacher, who twenty years later still remembers perfectly that episode and those words.
Live Pablo: So, that is, it had come out during a conversation ...?
Live Master: During a conversation, during a conversation, while I was correcting some things for him, that he had the notebook there.
Live Pablo: He came up with this sentence.
Live Master: Yes.
Live Pablo: Okay
Ms. Tonini was therefore worried and immediately informed Mirandola's Social Services psychologist who had been following Dario for some time. Her name is Valeria Donati. It is a name that you will have to keep in mind, because you will hear it mentioned very often during this series.
The foster mother was immediately heard from the police. I have your report here.
The woman had said that at that time Dario seemed very distressed, when he returned from the weekends to the natural family. He stuttered, did not eat, looked out the window without saying anything, and had dropped in academic performance.
“It was me at some point,” said Tonini, “to ask him if those things done to Barbara had also been afflicted on him by Igor. Dario said yes. "
Dario's foster mom had insisted a lot with the baby to be told everything and after a few months, the baby had finally opened. He had told her that Igor was abusing him.
And a few days later he had told her that Father Romano also did the same things to him, and that he had told him not to say anything to anyone, otherwise it would have hurt him even more.
"The stories are finished at that moment," said Tonini in the minutes, "and Dario has started to feel a little better."
The boy had been brought to a forensic doctor to look for signs of abuse. There were none. The outcome was negative.
Then he had been subjected to a psychological diagnostic examination, in which it had emerged that he had not understood what had happened - it is normal, he was only 6 years old - but according to the Social Services psychologist Valeria Donati, his stories were full of anguish and fear of death.
However, Dario had not only referred to his father Romano and brother Igor, but also to his mother Adriana. The only one left out of his accusations was his sister Barbara. Rather.
In the report that the Social Services had made to the court he seemed worried about his sister, and asked the psychologist to help her too, because Igor made her "jokes that hurt her". Did it really happen? I asked Barbara about it.
Live Barbara: So, meanwhile, my brother has never hurt me, absolutely. If there was a moment maybe he could have seen that my brother took me against the breast because we were playing, but it never happened that he abused me, absolutely not.
Live Pablo: Dario at some point is just starting to accuse your brother, right? To talk about seeing him naked, "he made me touch", "he asked me to touch", even to the point of talking about real abuses that then at a certain point also involved your dad and your mom ...
Live Barbara: Someone will have done something to him, but not us. That is, we of his natural family do not.
But after the arrest Igor, cornered by the investigators, tells a different version from that of Barbara. Here is what it says on the record:
"Actually some of the things reported by Dario about me are partly true ... It's that Dario and I touched each other, but it was Dario himself who asked me."
Then he continues:
“It is true that in the bed I reached out to my sister Barbara, but I immediately stopped doing it, because my mother scolded me. As for my father's possible abuse of Dario, I have no direct knowledge of it. I only remember the following episode: one night, when I had been sleeping for some time, and Dario was in the bedroom with my parents, I heard Dario himself complaining, and prayed to my father to "leave him to sleep".
Looks like someone in this family is lying. Who? Barbara? Or his brother Igor?
His parents Romano and Adriana, both in prison, deny everything. But now doubt has crept into the country and among the people close to the Galliera. Like Giulia, the daughter of Silvio and Oddina.
Live Giulia: I didn't know what to think anymore because I had already imprinted my idea on them that at that point had collapsed ... I doubted that Dario was really abused by the family ...
Who on this story had always had several doubts was a certain Don Ettore Rovatti, a priest from Finale Emilia who over the years has kept in his personal archive all the documents concerning the story we are telling you.
I am talking about years of judicial investigations, expert reports, interrogations, defensive harangue, sentences of condemnation and acquittal. The case had become an obsession for him, also because he knew many of the defendants and had convinced himself that there was nothing true in this story, and that the children had invented all the accusations against their family members.
Don Ettore died in 2015. But thanks to Antonella, one of his parishioners, we managed to have access to his archive.
Live Pablo: We are with Antonella and we are now about to enter ... a convent?
Live Antonella: No, no, it's the rectory.
Pablo: Ok ... looking for Don Ettore's archive.
Live Antonella: Exactly.
Let's go in
Live Antonella: Here we are, hi, I am Antonella, he is Pablo ...
Live Pablo: Good morning ...
Live Antonella: We have permission from Don Daniele to recover documents here and in Don Ettore's archive.
Live Priest: Okay
Live Antonella and Pablo: Thanks.
We reach a small room on the second floor. There is an old wooden bed and a large built-in wardrobe
Live Pablo: ... we open the windows a bit because there is no light ...
Antonella opens the closet doors ...
Live Antonella: So ... I move this ... Here are the folders ...
Live Pablo: Urca… is all this stuff?
Live Antonella: There is ...
In front of us there are thousands of pages contained in large dusty folders, kept in Don Ettore's closet. There are so many documents, that the wooden shelves have embarked under their weight.
Live Antonella: So, this is the first appeal sentence in Bologna plus the newspapers ... All criminal proceedings against the Galliera ... Here you see here are all well organized, photos, testimonials ...
Live Pablo: How do you think mom and dad have been since they drove you away? Is it true that slowly afterwards did you remember that your uncles also beat you? Which crosses were you tied to? Do you cry or laugh at night?
Live Antonella: This is a document where she says: "Given for certain that the episodes of pedophilia and violence against children have really happened ... there have been objective findings that do not allow misunderstandings."
Let's start photocopying. It will take quite a while.
Now, let's go back again in the spring of 1997. Dario, after the accusations to his family, reveals new details to the foster mother, who worried reports in the minutes: "In the past few days she has started to get worse in her mood, and to my question if there is was still something to tell, she told me about some lady Rosa. "
Here in this story a new character enters the scene.
La Rosa mentioned by Dario is a friend of his father who lives in a country house outside Massa Finalese. Romano often takes him to her, and Dario is forced to satisfy his sadomasochistic perversions. In fact, he says that this woman forces him to beat her with a stick, a poker and leather objects. And that in the house with her, while the abuses are taking place, there is also a man who takes Polaroids.
When they are done, Rosa gives her father Romano some money as payment for the service.
There is a problem though. The child is too young to remember their surnames or exactly where they live, and therefore the PM shows him some photographs, among which Dario recognizes that of a convict: his name is Alfredo, known in Massa Finalese as Alfredone, a great friend of Romano Galliera. And like Romano Galliera, it is not well seen by the inhabitants of the country.
Live Giulia: He also played cards, he was, say, Galliera's friend, in the sense that together they went to organize little petty thefts to make the day and I know that he was in prison several times during his life and my father knew him because in the village everyone knew him and certainly didn't talk about him well because he wasn't a good boy ...
Live Silvio: Eh ... a bad person
Live Pablo: Why?
Live Silvio: He was a small criminal. As a child of five or six years or seven he peeled live cats. Then when he grew up he started ... he also beat his father ... his mother because he didn't give him money ... he was in jail ... he did many things ...
And guess what his partner's name is? Rose. They live in a house in the countryside, just outside Massa Finalese and actually a Polaroid is found in their home, without batteries. But no child pornography photos. Rosa and Alfredo deny any kind of accusation against them.
Silvio, Oddina's husband, the neighbor who had hosted Dario, however, had some doubts. He has a very clear memory of Romano Galliera, who during one of Dario's returns, told him:
Live Silvio: 'come on we're going to take pictures from the Rose ... three, four times that the boy came here, understand? The following Sunday, around 3 o'clock, so, they went to take pictures there, from 'sta Rosa. Because there are big dogs, let's go take pictures ... What the hell ... what are you going to do there? What is it you need to photograph? There is nothing. Here at three kilometers there is a house in the middle of the valley, there is not even a tree ...
And then, yes ... many things were said ... Galliera was subdued by 'Fredo', because what he said Galliera had to do.
The country murmurs. Mirandola police investigate.
The Modena prosecutor's office begins to follow the path of a traffic in child pornography. And he is about to discover that what initially appeared to be the crimes committed within a poor poor family, now seem to be the modus operandi of a vast and unscrupulous organization.
I have returned several times to the house in Via Abba Motto, the abandoned building where the Galliera family once lived. That same house where Dario said he was abused.
Her parents, Romano and Adriana, died after years in prison. Her sister Barbara says she has never seen or heard anything. Dario is the only one who knows the secret of that house. Today he should be 27, but his traces have been completely lost.
Where did it go? Who knows what remains of that secret after all these years.
There is only one other person who knows him and is always his brother. Igor.
I tried to contact him several times together with Alessia, the co-author of Veleno. He always told us no. He only wants to forget this story.
Then one day, finally, he decided to tell us what happened.
Live Igor: Nothing ever happened between me and my brother. And I confirm it. I tickled my sister. Then if he imagined stuff maybe seen ... maybe on TV ... because we watched a lot of TV. Maybe you happen to have seen a particular scene and maybe it is stored in the head, maybe that thing there was born from that, but I with my sister never.When they arrested me I read on the sheet where they take your fingerprints because, and I read that word there ... but I of that word there, the word "pedophilia", I didn't know what the meaning was. They told me when I was in there. The lawyer said "you're guilty to me." And I justly kept saying, “But I didn't rape anyone, I didn't touch anyone. I kept saying it repeatedly. And I was crying, I remember.
Live Pablo: And the investigators who questioned you what they told you?
Live Igor: So ... that gave me like ten years, seven years ... but in that moment I got scared and pulled out the first bullshit that came to my mind ... I blamed myself for something I don't have never done. I was afraid and I wanted to do little jail. At 22 you are still a kid. I didn't understand what prison was, I didn't understand what years were, I didn't understand anything at that age.
Live Pablo: Yes but, and what are you doing, though? Do you self-accuse yourself of abusing your brother? If one is innocent he says it to the end ...
Live Igor: It wasn't the best choice, but not to stay inside was a choice for me. Dario and I also had a good relationship because he was quite with me. We didn't do anything.
Live Pablo: Have you ever touched your brother in the private parts?
Live Igor: To wash it ... If one washes it rightly it is normal that ... that is, you have to wash a child, right?
Live Pablo: Igor, however, forgive me. A six-year-old boy said that you abused him. Why would he do that, let me understand?
Live Igor: I don't know. I would never have done certain things in front of him. And even I'm so shy that I don't even undress in front of a friend of mine in shame.
Live Pablo: Is it possible that someone else in your family did those things to him? For example your parents?
Live Igor: I don't think so. Because my father and mother weren't the types to do certain things. Because otherwise they would have done them to me since I was a child. Instead, nothing ever happened.
Live Pablo: How do you explain, however, that a child not even 7 years old knows such precise details about sex?
Live Igor: Well, my dad had some pornographic magazines. I tell you, when I was 7 years old, I started reading them. And ... I couldn't understand immediately, but you know, slowly looking at the figures, look at a figure today, look at a figure tomorrow, something you learn a little in your head. It may be that he has seen a few newspapers ... but there is not only a hand of a newspaper. There is someone's paw there.
But it's not me ...