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A.K.A.: "Walter" - "The Monster of Liguria"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Compulsive gambler - Revenge - Robberies
Number of victims: 17
Date of murders: 1997 - 1998
Date of arrest: May 6, 1998
Date of birth: July 10, 1951
Victims profile: Giorgo Centanaro, 58 / Maurizio Parenti and his wife Carla Scotto / Bruno Solari and his wife Maria Luigia Pitto / Luciano Marro / Giangiorgio Canu, 52 / Bodejana Almerina / Ljudmila Zubskova / Enzo Gorni / Massimo Gualillo and Candido Ranḍ / Evelyn Esohe Endoghaye, 27 / Elisabetta Zoppetti, 32 / Mema Valbona / Maria Angela Rubino / Giuseppe Mileto, 51 (9 women and 8 men)
Method of murder: Shooting (.38 caliber revolver)
Location: Italy
Status: Sentenced to 13 terms of life imprisonment, with no possibility of release, on April 12, 2000
photo gallery
The "Bilancia case", by Roberta Bruzzone

On April 12, 2000, Donato Bilancia, 49, was sentenced by a Genoa court to 13 life sentences. Bilancia, a compulsive gambler, confessed to slaying 17 people in a six-month killing spree on the Italian Riviera.


Donato "Walter" Bilancia (born July 10, 1951) is a serial killer who murdered 17 people – nine women and eight men – on the Italian Riviera in the seven months from October, 1997 to May, 1998. He was sentenced to 13 terms of life imprisonment, with no possibility of release.


Bilancia was born in Potenza, in southern Italy, in 1951. When he was about five years old, his family moved to northern Italy, first to Piedmont and then to Genoa in the Liguria region.

He was a chronic bedwetter until age 10 or 12, and his mother shamed him by placing his wet mattress on the balcony where it could be seen by the neighbors. When undressing him for bed, his aunt would shame him by pulling down his underwear in front of his cousins to show his underdeveloped penis. At age 14, he decided to start calling himself Walter. He dropped out of high school and worked at jobs such as mechanic, bartender, baker and delivery boy.

Early crimes

While still underage, he was arrested and released for stealing a motor scooter and for stealing a truck loaded with Christmas sweets. In 1974 he was stopped and jailed for having an illegal gun. At some point he was committed to the psychiatric division of the Genoa General Hospital, but escaped. After he was apprehended, he spent 18 months in prison for robbery. He served several prison terms in Italy and France for robbery and armed robbery. In spite of his history of psychiatric problems, up to age 47 he had no record of violence.

The murders

Bilancia was a compulsive gambler who lived alone. His first murder was the October 1997 strangulation of a friend who betrayed him by luring him into a rigged card game, in which he lost £185,000 (about $267,000). The authorities originally thought this death was a heart attack. Bilancia's next two murders were the revenge shooting of the game's operator, and of his wife. He emptied their safe afterward. Bilancia later said these first killings gave him a taste for murder. In all his killings he used or carried a .38 caliber revolver loaded with wad cutter ammunition. He made no attempt to conceal his victims' bodies.

That same month, he followed a jeweler home to rob him, them shot him and his wife to death when the wife began screaming. He emptied their safe of jewelry.

He next robbed and murdered a money changer. Two months later, he killed a night watchman making his rounds, simply because he did not like night watchmen. He killed an Albanian prostitute and a Russian prostitute. A second money changer was killed next, shot multiple times and his safe emptied.

In March 1998, while receiving oral sex at gunpoint from a transsexual prostitute, he shot and killed two night watchmen who interrupted, then shot the prostitute, who survived to help develop a police sketch and later testify against him. He also killed a Nigerian prostitute and a Ukrainian prostitute, and robbed and assaulted an Italian prostitute without killing her.

On April 12, 1998 he boarded the train from Genoa to Venice because he "wanted to kill a woman". Spotting a young woman traveling alone, he followed her to the toilet, unlocked the door with a skeleton key, shot her in the head and stole her train ticket. Six days later, he boarded the train to San Remo and followed another young woman to the toilet. He used his key to enter, then used her jacket as a silencer and shot her behind the ear. Excited by her black underwear, he masturbated and used her clothes to clean up. The murders of two "respectable" women sparked a public outcry and the creation of a police task force.

In his last killing before his arrest, Bilancia murdered a service station attendant after filling up with petrol, then took the day's receipts, about 2 million lira (about $1000).


Based on the description of the black Mercedes one of his prostitute victims was seen entering the night she was killed, police considered Bilancia "suspect number one" and followed him for ten days. They collected his DNA from cigarette butts and a coffee cup, matching it to DNA found at crime scenes. On May 6, 1998 he was arrested at his home in Genoa and his revolver seized. After eight days in police custody he confessed, speaking for two days and drawing 17 diagrams.


On April 12, 2000, after an 11-month trial, Bilancia was sentenced to 13 terms of life imprisonment plus an additional 20 years imprisonment for the attempted murder of the transsexual prostitute. The judge ordered that he never be released.


No motive found as Italy's worst serial killer gets life

By Rory Carroll -

April 14, 2000

A compulsive gambler who hated to be alone has been given 13 life sentences for murdering 17 people in a six-month rampage that terrorised the Italian riviera.

Donato Bilancia, 49, shrugged and sucked on a cigarette after a court in Genoa ordered that he never be freed for a blood lust that consumed friends and strangers and baffled psychologists.

His victims included four prostitutes, a newly-wed couple, two jewellers, two security guards and two women attacked in the toilets of moving trains. Bilancia strangled or shot them in a rage after he felt "swept by a fire" and a "bite in the head".

The court rejected a plea of diminished responsibility and pronounced its verdict after deliberating for five hours, ending an 11-month trial and satisfying the victims' relatives, who wanted him transferred to a harsher prison. An appeal has been allowed.

Bilancia confessed to the murders but could not give a motive. He did not attend court and watched the proceedings on closed circuit television in his cell at Chiavari prison.

The hunt for the so-called monster of the riviera gripped Italy after police suspected that one man was responsible for the corpses they began discovering in October 1997.

Thousands of police were drafted into north-west Italy and female travellers were told to be wary as the death toll mounted.

Bilancia, a dapper dresser nicknamed Angel Voice because of his rasp, was not suspected by friends or relatives, who knew him as courteous and unflappable.

He was a fixture at Genoa's backstreet gambling dens and Foce, its prostitute's quarter, and was a successful burglar. But he had no record of violence until 1997, when he was allegedly cheated at cards by two friends, Maurizio Parenti and Giorgio Centenaro.

He bought a .38 calibre revolver and ambushed Centenaro but the shock caused his friend to have a heart attack. Police assumed natural causes had killed him.

Bilancia broke into Parenti's home and shot him and his wife. He then tried to rob a jewellery shop, and shot two of the staff when they screamed.

At this point he acquired a taste for killing, psychologists said. His motive was uncertain. Prostitutes he visited alleged that he had a tiny penis and was impotent.

Bilancia, who lived alone, borrowed a friend's car and murdered four prostitutes - "one for each nationality that worked the streets".

His lawyer, Umberto Garaventa, said: "For me that man is crazy."

It was suggested that he was unhinged by the suicide of his brother, who jumped under a train with his infant son.

On the Milan-Venice and Milan-Genoa intercity trains, after losing hundreds of pounds at roulette, he followed a nurse and cleaner into toilets, unlocked the door with a pass key, threw a jacket over their heads and shot them. He could not bear to look at his victims' eyes, he said.

It was the murder of two "respectable" women that sparked the outcry and the creation of a police task force.

The squad tailed their suspect around Genoa's bars and streets, collecting his cigarette butts for DNA sampling. They swooped on May 6 1998 as he emerged from a routine hospital appointment.

Eight days later he confessed and spoke almost without pause for two days, mechanically cataloguing 17 killings with diagrams. The worst serial killer in Italian history asked if doctors could explain to him why he did it.


Police hunt Italian Riviera killer

Sunday, April 19, 1998

Italian police are looking for a suspected serial killer whose latest victim, a 32-year-old woman, has been found shot dead, locked in the toilet of a local train at Ventimiglia on the Italian Riviera. David Willey has the story from Rome.

Italian television and press are reporting panic among regular travellers on the railway line, which runs along the steeply mountainous Mediterranean coast between the French frontier and the Italian port city of Genoa.

A 32-year-old woman was found dead locked in the toilet of an almost empty local train when it arrived at the town of Ventimiglia on the French border last night.

This is the second such killing in recent days. Two Italian women have now been shot in the head at close range and locked in the toilet of a Riviera train within the space of a week.

Police say they believe they are dealing with a serial killer. They believe the same person may also be responsible for four other murders this year of foreign prostitutes along the Italian Riviera.

The prostitutes, from Albania, the Ukraine and Nigeria, were also shot in the head with a pistol of the same calibre used to kill the two women found in the train toilets.

A special serial killer detection squad has been set up by the Italian police.

Its commanding officer, a former chief of liaison in Washington between the Italian police and the American FBI, was responsible for helping to bring to justice one of the most notorious Italian serial killers of recent years.

This was a man found guilty of taking part in a series of murders of courting couples, mostly foreigners, near Florence over a period of twenty years. He died recently of natural causes.



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