A milan court yesterday sentenced Patrizia Reggiani Gucci to 29 years imprisonment, finding her guilty of plotting the March 1995 murder of her divorced husband, Maurizio Gucci, one of the heirs to the legendary Florentine fashion dynasty.
Announcing his verdict at the end of a six-month trial, court president Mr Renato Samek Ludovici also issued heavy sentences to the other defendants in the trial.
Benedetto Ceraulo, the professional hit-man alleged to have shot Maurizio Gucci as he entered his Milan offices on the morning of March 27th, 1995, received a life sentence, a term that normally runs to 30 years.
Gucci's clairvoyant friend, Pina Auriemma, was sentenced to 25 years for allegedly having organised the killing for a fee of around £250,000. Hotel night porter Ivano Savioni, a friend of Ms Auriemma, and the man alleged to have hired both the driver and the killer, received a 26-year sentence. Getaway driver Orazio Cicala was sentenced to 29 years.
Throughout this bizarre case, Patrizia Gucci made no secret of the fact that she had wanted her ex-husband dead, even telling the court that she had inquired of friends as to the cost of a hitman. Despite this admission, however, Gucci denied the charges of having organised the murder, claiming that she had been "framed" by Pina Auriemma.
During the trial, lawyers acting for Mrs Gucci pleaded mental instability, arguing that she was incapable of plotting the murder, partly because of a brain tumour operation carried out in 1992.
Court-appointed experts, however, had ruled that she was fit enough to stand trial, despite her apparent use of heavy medication and a tendency to deep depression. Looking pale, tense and worried, Gucci was in court yesterday to hear the judge's verdict.
Of the other four defendants, only hit-man Ceraulo denied the charges, while Auriemma, Ivano Savioni and Orazio Cicala all admitted involvement, adding furthermore that the killing had been ordered by Gucci.
Her motives for the killing are said to have been linked to manic jealousy and concern about the inheritance due her two daughters, 22-year-old Alessandra and 17-year-old Allegra.
When she married Maurizio Gucci in 1972, it had seemed like a perfect romance, scripted for glossy gossip magazines. She was the millionaire heiress to the Reggiani road haulage business, while he was the heir to a legendary fashion house.
They had had to overcome the resistance of Maurizio's father, Rodolfo, before they could marry in a glitzy, no-expense-spared wedding that was to set the standard for their jet-setting 10 years of apparently happy married life.
After the couple divorced in 1984, Mrs Gucci spent much of the next decade making no secret of her loathing for her ex-husband, telling friends she was writing an autobiography that would certainly not reflect well on the Gucci family.
She described her reported $1 million dollar divorce settlement as little more than "a plate of lentils". Mrs Gucci appears to have become especially worried in 1993, the year Maurizio Gucci ended the family connection with Gucci by selling out to an Anglo-Arab company, InvestCorp, for a reported $190 million.
This was a period when she continued to use her ex-husband's surname, while insisting on referring to him as "my husband" and making little secret of her antipathy to his partner and intended wife, Ms Paola Franchi, someone she always called "that woman".
On the January morning last year when Gucci was arrested in her central Milan apartment, she greeted police with the remark: "You've come because of my husband's death," still not acknowledging the end of the marriage.