The Greek tragedy of Medea and those crimes against nature

Rome, June 14, 2022 – Elena Del Pozzothe missing child in Catania and found dead this morning, it is neither the first, nor unfortunately it will be the last child killed by her mother. A tragedy, that of Mascalucia, which is by no means an isolated event. In twenty years over 480 children were killed by their parents, six out of ten from the mother. What can be the causes of such a heinous act? And what can and should society do to tackle this – it seems – more widespread problem than we thought?

Elena Del Pozzo's paternal grandfather behind the coffin of her granddaughter (Ansa)
Elena Del Pozzo’s paternal grandfather behind the coffin of her granddaughter (Ansa)

Elena Del Pozzo, the tragic truth about the little girl from Catania. The story of the last hours

From the Cogne crime to Elena Del Pozzo

Over the past twenty years, numerous reports of mothers (and fathers) who have killed their children have attracted extraordinary media attention, only to be forgotten within a couple of days. One of the most famous cases is that ofmurder of Cogne. January 30, 2002 Annamaria Franzoni he called 118 saying that his three-year-old son, Samuel, vomited blood. The initial hypotheses of an aneurysm or a fall trauma were denied, and the rescuers found that the wounds on the son’s body were the result of a violent act. The autopsy established as the cause of death at least seventeen blows with a blunt instrument: Samuel was beaten to death, and according to the court by his mother, Franzoni was sentenced, but she has always denied infanticide.

In May 2002 to Valfurva, Loretta Zen killed the little girl Victory, 8 months, after putting it in the washing machine drum and activating the wash. It was his father, once he returned home with his other 11-year-old daughter, to find out.

In August 2011 to Feniglia (Grosseto) Laura Pettenello killed Federico, aged 16 months, throwing it into the sea during a pedal boat trip. Initially it was thought of an accident and only later in her PC did the investigators discover that the woman had continually typed the words ‘infanticide’ or ‘how to kill a child’.

In the 2014at the Carabinieri station in Santa Croce Camerina It shows up Veronica Panarello to report the disappearance of the child, Loris Andrea Stival. The woman says she accompanied her son to school that morning, but no one has ever seen him enter. In the evening the child’s body is found in a gully on the outskirts of the city. After a series of false accusations against her father-in-law, Panarella – who actually strangled her son with plastic ties – was sentenced to life in prison. Some time later you admitted the crime. In 2014, 39 offspring were registered – one every 10 days.

In the 2018 to Aosta a 48-year-old nurse, Marisa Charrèrehe killed the children Nissen And Vivien with a lethal injection of potassium, then she committed suicide. The substance is used in the United States for executions. The bodies were found by the father.

The possible causes

And these are only a few cases of the hundreds of sons that have been consumed. According to the latest report EURES of 2019, most of them take place by the hand of the motherand among the victims (both mothers and fathers) male children prevail. What can go into a parent’s head to make him commit such a cruel and “unnatural” act? Between motives there may be psychiatric pathologies, Medea syndromemistreatment, abuse and relationship problems.

The tragedy of Medea

In Greek tragedy Medea she is a woman who is left by her husband and kills her children in revenge. Her intent is to deprive him of an offspring. The aforementioned syndrome takes its name from this ancient story: it occurs when a parent (not just mothers) after a separation or divorce tries to destroy the relationship between the other parent and the children, sometimes even coming to the act extreme to kill them.

The expert

The story of little Elena found dead and killed by her mother, she proposes the drama to us again the need to rethink the commitment of everyone, institutions and civil society, alongside minors and their families, who are often fragile and in difficulty. The discomfort that leads to violence is not intercepted because there are few ‘sentries’ in the territories who should protect especially the little ones. I think of social workers chronically understaffed and poorly distributed“This is what he declares Lucia Ercolicoordinator ofObservatory on the rights of vulnerable minors. “Now is the time for pain, but also for awareness – he adds – that there is an urgent need for a change of pace at the national level on the protection of minors. We cannot always shed crocodile tears. In the PNRR we would like to see resources to multiply the ‘antennas’ on the territories to protect the little ones and to intercept the ever increasing family discomfort “, concludes Ercoli.

The psychiatrist’s analysis

“A filicide is the most dramatic short circuit of what can happen in the mind of a human being, especially a female human being, a mother. And it is always good to say that usually these events they never happen by chancenever from one minute to the next, never without any previous indication. They sound like a warning to society. To go and see the elements that indicated such severe suffering and discomfort, elements that certainly existed and certainly have not been grasped, it will be necessary to dig into the history of the recent pastas well as of this woman’s distant past. “It is the analysis of Massimo Di Giannantoniopresident of the Italian Society of Psychiatry (Sip), talking about the killing of little Elena. The expert tries to explain to Adnkronos Health what can happen in a mom’s mind who arrives to perform an unimaginable gesture: “The founding relationship of existence is the relationship between mother and child. When this relationship fails, it becomes destructive, dramatic and reaches the point of filiation, it is as if the revolution, the tragedy, is accomplished, the construction of the most serious nonsense of the human being. To better understand the reasons for a tragedy of this dimension, we must resort to two categories: that of psychopathology and that of the event that triggers psychopathology “. And therefore “in the story of this woman” it will be reconstructed “what they are stages of neurodevelopmentwhat are the trauma sufferedsuch as environmental complications, family, social, economic that have determined such a serious condition of dis-control of impulses and inability to hold the relationship with reality and therefore with the fruit of her own womb, what kind of psychopathology in the evolutionary history this woman has undergone. And then what is the trigger, the final dramatic element that unhinged the controls, annulled rationality and led to this extreme gesture. This is the work of the psychopathologist, of the technician of the psychic suffering of man “, explains the expert. But Di Giannantonio also focuses attention on another painful element of this story.

What strikes the psychiatrist is the fact that “this person made up excuses, falsely accused three characters, he thought of concealing the evidence and diverting the course of the investigation. “To understand why” we must enter the delusional world of guilt, of trying to remove pain and the dramatic perception of enormity from oneself of the gesture made, which however, in the face of disputes from the world of reality – the interrogation of the investigators, the elements of filmed traces, testimonies of people, contradictions in the statements – made the confession immediate. It is as if – analyzes Di Giannantonio – the weight of guilt and the unsustainable weight of the dramatic gesture made have led to a confession that becomes a request for punishment and condemnation. “What happened is something” so enormous “that this person “will pay forever”, observes the expert who also raises the topic of protective role that society can play. “It must also be said that pregnancy for a woman is a dramatic challenge to her neurobiological, neuropsychic and interpersonal and intrapersonal structure. It will be necessary to pay greater attention to what may be the consequences of traumas, changes and fears of which these people very often they have neither a correct nor adequate dialogue “, he concludes.

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