Italian in London linked to terror group

The Guardian, May 25 1983

The young Italian who was arrested in Chelsea last January by the anti-terrorist squad, worked with members of a right-wing Italian terrorist group; took part in the murder of two Rome policemen; and committed a series of armed robberies, it was alleged yesterday.

Lawyers acting for the Italian government yesterday began laying evidence against Luciano Petrone, aged 24, at Bow Street magistrates court, London, in an attempt to extradite him.

Mr Petrone is charged with attempting to rob two jewellers in Turin; robbing two banks in Rome; and murdering two policemen who questioned him and his friends while one of them was having sex with a prostitute in a car.

Although none of the offences is political, the court heard statements by two of Mr Petrone’s alleged partners in crime that he was working with members of the NAR, the initials in Italian of a group calling itself the Armed Revolutionary Nucleus.

After fleeing from Italy to Spain, the court heard, Mr Petrone met an English girl with whom he went to London. Rome police discovered his whereabouts and contacted Scotland Yard, who kept him under surveillance at his Chelsea address. As he left a club early one morning, officers approached him.

Mr Lawrence Giovene, for the Italian Government, said: “One officer said: ‘Stop, Armed police.’ Petrone didn’t think much of that. He ran for all he was worth for about 15 yards. An officer tackled him and brought him to the ground, where there was a violent struggle.”

Mr Giovene said Mr Petrone was one of 11 men who had gone to Turin in January 1982 with an arsenal of weapons, including nine handguns, rifles, eight grenades, five bullet-proof vests, and false beards and wigs.

One of the men, Mauro Ansaldi, had later become a police informer and told an Italian magistrate: ” As far as I know, none of them had ever cooperated with NAR before.”

Another, Walter Sordi, who also became an informer, later said he had not taken part in the robbery for fear that other members of the gang would realise they were working with the NAR.

In Turin, the plan to rob the jewellers had failed. But Mr Petrone had gone on to rob two banks in Rome, netting 187 million lire – about £81,000, the court was told.

The two Rome policemen had died in the early hours of June 8 last year when they tried to conduct a routine search of Mr Petrone and his friends. They had drawn guns and disarmed both officers. Then they had realised that the officers would have seen their car number plate, it was alleged.

They had told the officers to lie face down on the ground. Mr Petrone had stood guard over them with a gun while another member of the group, Roberto Nistri, had shot them both in the head, Mr Giovene said.

The hearing continues today.