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UnaBomber, an italian mystery January 17, 2009

Posted by dorigo in news.
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The italian UnaBomber will probably remain one of the unsolved mysteries of the italian criminal history. Today, after years of investigations, the only suspect, Elvo Zornitta (right), walks out of the case and back to his life, after the investigators have asked his acquittal, for lack of proofs to his charge.

North-eastern Italy has been plagued, in the last decade, by a string of senseless, random attacks targeting women and children. Somebody soon dubbed “UnaBomber” by the press left exploding toys in places where they could be found and accidentally set off. Other explosive devices were inserted in toothpaste tubes or other goods on the shelves of grocery stores. Some of the victims lost fingers, eyes, remained invalid after the explosions. Despite a huge investigative effort, only a suspect was identified. And it looked like it could be him. It really did.

Elvo Zornitta had the competence and the tools, and his psychological profile did match at least in part with what one could expect from a UnaBomber. He liked explosives; he had a garage-lab where he could assemble the mini-bombs which were inserted in the decoys. In it, investigators found empty containers of those mini-toys that Kinder, the chocolate maker, inserts inside chocolate eggs – the same kind of containers that exploded a few years ago in one of the attacks.

And in the garage, a pair of scissors was found, which was compatible with the cuts on tin sheet which had wrapped one of the exploded devices. That appeared the biggest indicium, and investigators attached great significance to the match observed between the pattern of the blades and the pattern on the tin sheet. But that, in fact, turned out to be the ticket to freedom for Zornitta, since his lawyers demonstrated that the scientific unit of the investigators in Venice had tampered with the evidence, to make it more striking. Ezio Zernar, a ballistic technician, is now under investigation for that episode.

It now looks like nobody will ever know whether Elvo is really innocent. However, he has withstood a few doomed years of investigations and the hatred of everybody around him -people are quick to administer a verdict of guilt in cases of this kind- before being acquitted, and I like to think that he is, in fact, innocent. Good luck, mr. Zornitta.


1. carlbrannen - January 18, 2009

I’ve read this twice but I don’t see the motivation. I guess with a world with several billion people in it, there will be someone with every possible hobby out there.

The small town where we’re setting up an ethanol plant has been plagued by bomb deaths, with two in killed in separate incidents just 10 hours apart this past summer. My guess was that one of these was a suicide and the other was an accident. From my conversations with the locals, I learned that in rural America, pipe bombs are considered a more or less acceptable hobby. Around 10,000 bombs are set off in the US illegally each year, mostly in rural areas. These are not just fireworks but are typically metal cased. The casing fragments are heavy and fly off at great speeds. They can kill at amazingly long distances.

Pipe bombs are the most dangerous form of homemade device. They kill the user with probability on order 1% per application. When I was a student, I worked at a place that tested weapons. We had one fatality in 30 years of operation. I worked there maybe 10 years later but the mysterious cause was still widely discussed.

Total US domestic use of explosives is a few million tons per year and most years no one is killed setting it off. But amateurs kill themselves with great regularity.

2. ins#1 - January 18, 2009

as long as age kills people, just like a disease, in the end everybody get what they deserve.

dorigo - January 18, 2009

You know ins, that sometimes is my stand too. We have all been sentenced to death in advance of our sins.

3. Luboš Motl - January 18, 2009

The mystery of the Italian unabomber is nothing compared to the mystery of the U.S. unabomber.

To see the depth of the mystery about his identity and lessons, try to solve the quiz:


Did Al Gore or unabomber say it?

4. Guess Who - January 19, 2009

Isn’t it established beyond reasonable doubt that the US Unabomber is a mathematically talented guy who resigned as assistant professor to concentrate on his campaign against leftists?

5. dorigo - January 19, 2009

Yes GW, that is true. Lubos, I think, wants just to make fun of Al Gore.

Carl, what you say tells me that the bombs in Italy might be the result of a deranged military working in one of the Nato bases in north-western Italy. That, I think, is something into which investigators might have had trouble looking.


6. Luboš Motl - January 19, 2009

Dear Guess Who, sure, it has been established. But if you classify Unabomber as a right-winger, then I must surely be God (the most right-wing creature that ever existed).

What is right-wing e.g. about his “revolution against technology”? Maybe it’s right-wing under some projection but for me, Unabomber is the same – and equally dangerous – loon as the environmentalists.

7. carlbrannen - January 20, 2009

The fascinating US unabomber was not left wing or right wing. To understand his point of view, you have to read his manifesto.

He was/is very much against modern society and technology and felt that people would only be happy if they took care of themselves in a manner that might be a bit reminiscent of Sarah Palin. But his big complaint was industry and he mailed his bombs with the intention of causing injuries in industry, which is kind of a Luddite mentality that is more left wing than right.

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