Just over 23 years have elapsed since the late summer evening when 28 year old Roberta Martucci diappeared. Since that fateful day on August 20, 1999 all traces of this young woman have dissipated. Cascading chestnut tresses, a beautiful smile, a black floral skirt, stiletto heels, and a charcoal jacket.
Roberta’s disappearance revolves around the Apulian towns of Torre San Giovanni di Ugento and Gallipoli. Former was the quaint village where she resided and embarked from in her car on that August evening. While later was the coastal town where she was about to join a friend for shopping.
Who Was Roberta?
According to her sister Lorella, she was a calm young woman. Lorella played a substantial role in the reopening of the case which subsequently charges leveled against a man close to Roberta. She had recently parted ways amicably with her long-term boyfriend. As the youngest of five daughters, Roberta gainfully employed at a retirement community. She dwelled with her mother and sisters. She befriends with two girls from Gallipoli, Rory and Cinzia.
Timeline & Events
In August 20, 1999, around 8:00 AM, Roberta luxuriates in a brief vacation. It is the day her sister Sabrina returns from Bologna. Sabrina was pursuing her studies at the local university. Roberta was ready to accompany her aunt, uncle, and sister Gina for a day at the beach.
At 9:00 AM, according to telephone records, Roberta engaged in a five-minute conversation.
9:30 AM, Roberta receives another call. This time it lasted for 45 minutes. Witnesses observe Roberta departed from her relatives, gesticulating and pacing restlessly along the beach. Seemingly she engrossed in a heated exchange.
Having concluded her call, Roberta rejoins her family. She remained calm for the whole day. During lunch with her aunt, uncle and mother, Roberta showed her intention to attend a party in Gallipoli in the evening.
8:20 PM Roberta borrowed a skirt from her sister Lorella for outing. She adorns a gray pearl top with her bare back exposed. She adorned gold earrings with blue gemstone. Then she wore a hand-knit gray jacket. Sabrina requested a ride in Roberta’s car. The two siblings departed from their residence. They embarked on their journey in a white Fiat Uno. Tragically, Roberta will never return.
8:45 PM. Roberta responded to a call, “Hi, Rory. If you choose to believe Cinzia, go ahead. I cannot converse at this moment”. The house of Sabrina’s friend is 200 metres away from the Martucci residence.
9:30 PM. Rory (the friend whom Roberta intended to meet) grows agitated due to her tardiness, a departure from her typical punctuality. Rory endeavours to contact Roberta, but her attempts prove futile. Roberta’s phone appeared to be switched off.
11 PM. Rory composes a message to her friend, stating “ROBERTA NON FARE SCHERZI” (Roberta, do not play tricks).
On August 21, 1999, around 3 AM Roberta’s cellular phone rings thrice. Then it subsequently fell silent forever.
In the afternoon law enforcement officials questioned several members of Roberta’s family. Her uncle and aunt mention of the two calls which Roberta answered on the morning of the 20th. Her brother-in-law Donato recounts witnessed her agitation during that encounter.
On August 23, 1999, a note received at the workplace of Donato’s sister.
“Hi, I’m Roberta. I wished to inform you that I am alive.”
A phone call received by the Carabinieri station on August 24, 1999. The owner of Bar Stella, situated on Via Genova in Gallipoli, reports the presence of the white Fiat Uno as mentioned in the newspapers. It was parked in front of the establishment. The informant vehemently asserts that the car was not there the previous night.
The ignition keys and registration papers were absent. The only remnant of Roberta was her gray jacket resting on the backseat. No fingerprints were traced. Yet a handwritten note was discovered. “I love you, my sweet love.” The vehicle found near Rory’s residence and Cinzia’s workplace.
Donato spontaneously made another statement to the Carabinieri on September 6, 1999. He revealed that he drove through Via Genova on August 23 at 10:30 PM and observed the absence of Roberta’s Fiat Uno.
The Carabinieri in Casarano draft a restitution report in favor of Laudina on January 15, 2000. She was Roberta’s sister and Donato’s wife. Laudina drives the car to their mother Concetta’s house, where it parked. Concetta used the car over the following months. The car was released without ignition keys or registration papers.
Follow-up In the ensuing months, numerous reports concerning Roberta surfaced. A viewer of the well-known television program “Chi l’ha visto?” asserts spotted her at a renowned club in Milan. A fabulist insists he witnessed her savoring a Viennetta at a local restaurant. An individual even claimed to encounter Roberta within a dream where she was murdered and concealed within a trullo (a traditional Apulian dry stone hut with a conical roof).
In addition to the note in the car, various missives received to family members or authorities. A fax arrived at a Taranto newspaper.
“Roberta Martucci is alive. However she’s in poor health. She will only contact with family members.”
The Lecce prosecutor’s office receives another fax in 2007. It implicated Roberta’s two friends, Rory and Cinzia. It also suggested that they incarcerated for a few months to elicit information.
“Regarding Roberta’s tragic disappearance, I inform you that she has departed. However, those two friends have full knowledge in Gallipoli.
The investigators endeavoured to pursue various leads, including drug-fueled gatherings in Gallipoli. It initially alluded to nine months after Roberta’s disappearance by Donato, who allegedly knew about her unsavory associations through an acquaintance. Rory and Cinzia were subjected to scrutiny. Nevertheless, this trial proved fruitless. Investigators, however, convinced that the two young women have downplayed their connection to Roberta before disappearance. Police investigated Repentant members of the mafia from Salento and Calabria. But they provide no assistance to the investigation. The hypothesis of a jealous former boyfriend is subsequently dismissed.
Donato the Suspect
Seven years after Roberta’s disappearance in 2007, Donato gave an interview. He informed the investigators that he and Laudina received the car registration from the Carabinieri in Casarano when they released Roberta’s car. Regarding the ignition keys, he stated that they already had a duplicate set. Donato questioned once again on June 13, 2018. This time he became a prime suspect in the case. He claimed to have no recollection of the car registration or the ignition keys. When confronted with his previous statement, he maintained no memory of it. But he insisted that the car was released without keys. A conversation between Donato and his wife is intercepted on June 14, 2018. Donato threatend to take his lie if the investigation implicates him.
During an episode of the TV program “Chi l’ha visto?” in 2019, Sabrina disclosed that she endured sexual abuse from her brother-in-law Donato since she was 16 years old. She also revealed that she confided in her sister Roberta. (Donato confirms this allegation, but too much time has elapsed for him to face prosecution for this crime under Italian law.)
Criminologists Isabel Martina and Roberta Bruzzone, along with Roberta’s sister Lorella, have successfully convinced investigators to reopen the case. They argued that Donato is directly involved in the disappearance. Also that Sabrina’s accusations were crucial to understand his motive. Roberta’s family divided into two factions. On one side were Lorella and Sabrina. On the other side were remaining two sisters and their mother, who defend Donato.
Roberta’s case closed in 2022. The charges against Donato dropped. The judge in his preliminary hearing, reported the motivation behind the dismissal. He stated that “there exists mere suspicions and conjectures against the suspect. That it lacks concrete and precise factual evidence to warrant a trial.