The crime story of the killer countertenor has been capturing the headlines in Italy because of the peculiarity of the perpetrators more than the horrific nature of the murder.
27-year-old Mirto Milani, together with his girlfriend and her sister, are accused of killing the mother of the two sisters, a 55-year-old former policewoman. More than two daughters killing their mother, it is the Jekyll and Hyde character of Milani that has shocked – the presumed killer who diabolically plotted the death of his future mother-in-law was a countertenor who had graduated from Milan's conservatoire.
After studying psychology in Bergamo, he went through Milan's Conservatorio di Musica Giuseppe Verdi, founded in 1808 and one of the most important music institutes in Italy. YouTube videos show him as a singer with a certain talent, but certainly not enough to forge a professional career, and he performed in the local churches.
Milani, from a family of musicians, entertained the public with opera arias while researching how to kill a person without leaving a trace. His internet searches included “the perfect crime”, “poisonous plants”, “torture”, “serial killers”, and “herbal tea”, and he subscribed to a True Crime YouTube channel, as did the two sisters.
The three had been working on the murder plan to kill Laura Ziliani for some time and in April they had tried to poison her with herbal tea, which did not work. Poison remained their preferred method and on 7 May they are accused of giving her a drink laced with bromazepam, a medicine to treat anxiety, and it seems that they then suffocated her, and at some point placed her body beside a nearby river.
A suspicious police force intercepted the cell phones of the daughters and Milani for several weeks. The three began inventing stories to explain Ziliani's disappearance. At the end of May, Milani said to a friend, “She had prepared a car to sneak off… I think that maybe she diverted the money to another account and is living the good life somewhere. The situation is disastrous… She was spending more than she had coming in, driving around in a 50,000-euro car, having aperitifs, lunches and dinners…. she bought loads of shoes and clothes…. she had this mania for showing off.” But Ziliani was already dead: her body undressed and hidden behind a bush near the river Oglio that runs through Temù where she lived, a beautiful tourist location in the mountains north of Lake Garda. She was killed for the money and property inherited from her husband, the girls' father, who died in an avalanche. Lucia, a third sister who is autistic and lived with her mother, said, “My sisters treated her badly and got angry with her because they said she didn't support them, and they wanted more money.”
It was three months until the body was discovered, and Milani's advice to the two sisters was, “Let yourselves be seen in the streets, so it's not as if we're not giving a damn.”
A friend who accompanied Milani on the guitar in church said, “He was the kindest, gentlest and most sensitive man I have ever known in my life.”
A video on his Instagram profile shows him singing Porpora's Alto Giove and “Dedicated to my mother.”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.