justice

Italian Police Nab The Criminal Ring That’s Drugging, Robbing, And Killing Gays at Rome Bars

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Tom Kington in Rome, for The Guardian on Sunday 12th December 2010 15.11 UTC

A gang which robbed at least 50 tourists in Rome after offering them drugged wine at a gay bar has been rounded up after allegedly killing a middle-aged American.

Police suspect that Kelly Cullen, 56, who was found dead on 14 November in the Colle Oppio park overlooking the Colosseum, was one of the victims of the gang, which preyed for months on foreigners mingling in the street outside the nearby Coming Out bar.

“The first tests showed the American – who was found robbed and partially clothed – died of a heart attack, but we suspect blood analysis will show he had a fatal reaction to the knock-out drug the gang gave him,” said police official Tiziana Lorenzo.

The gang, comprising two Romanians and an Egyptian, started offering the wine spiked with benzodiazepine to tourists this summer, just as a wave of homophobic attacks on customers of the Coming Out peaked.

As their victims began to lose consciousness, the gang would guide them into the park and strip them of their valuables. “The area known as Gay Street was fertile hunting ground because of the crowds,” said Lorenzo. “Foreigners were mainly picked because they were likely to have more cash and leave town without reporting the theft.”

Up to 25 Americans were robbed, as well as British, Spanish, Swiss and German drinkers.

Working on a tipoff from bar staff, undercover police spotted the gang at work on 16 November. “It was a quiet night and they left empty handed, so we arranged for a “random” identity check, far from the bar, by police who confiscated their bottle of wine, which was positively tested for the drug,” said Lorenzo.

“The gang did not suspect a thing and two nights later they were back at the bar and we arrested them as they escorted a drugged Swiss man in the direction of the park.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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14 Comments

  • Soupy

    It’s good to see that the Rome police even pursued this criminal activity. Of course they don’t want to hurt the tourist trade.

  • PogosWorld

    Romanians and an Egyptian. Foreigners in Rome.

  • jacknasty

    the headline is a bit sensational for my taste. “drugging robbing and killing gays” makes it sound quite a bit different than the details in the article suggest. I’m not trying to defend what these criminals did at all, drugging and robbing people is terrible crime and should be punished, and punished severly if one of them dies as a result. But that headline made it sound like they were intentionally murdering people for being gay, when in reality they were trying to rob people and targeted gay bars based on the crowd size.

  • scott ny'er

    @jacknasty: I agree the “killing” part is a bit sensational. It’s quite possible that it was an accidental death and not planned.

    That said, it’s also possible that these dirtbags targeted gays because gays seem like easy targets and less likely to report the crime because they might be closeted, no?

  • jacknasty

    @scott, I agree, any sort of oppressed population makes an easier target. If victims do remember they are less likely to come forward if it means admitting they were at a gay bar. Also at a bar nobdy is goin to think twice about somebody “taking a drunk friend home” when they lead the victims away.

    But the headline makes sound like the story was going to be a hate-crime or gay bashing.

  • James P.

    wait… 56 is considered ‘middle age’??

  • Palermo

    The Embassy recently told a family friend that her son, also an American, was a victim of this gang a few months ago. So that makes at least two who were murdered.

  • Turner

    My brother was found in this park (same story) druged,american on vacation, 50 years old,found dead first night he arrived,they first thought it was a heart attack. November 1st 2010 less than 2 weeks later kelly cullen was found same story. My brother needs to count.

  • erin

    @Turner: hey there Turner, I am so sorry about your brother and it is insane that two weeks went by and my uncle was also killed. can you email me? I have been trying since Nov to get anywhere with information on this and what happened/etc. and run into the same BS on ‘nothing new’ with no idea what is happening with these people who are arrested, etc. I am Erin Cullen and Kelly was my uncle (more like older brother, we are insanely close) on at [email protected] — would be comforting to commiserate and help bring justice out of this!!!!

  • erin

    @Turner: hey there Turner, I am so sorry about your brother and it is insane that two weeks went by and my uncle was also killed. can you email me? I am Erin Cullen and Kelly was my uncle (more like older brother, we are insanely close) You can email me at [email protected] — would be comforting to commiserate and help bring justice out of this!!!!

    I have been trying since Nov to get anywhere with information on this from police, the embassy, the reporter and what happened/etc. and run into the same BS on ‘nothing new’ with no idea what is happening with these people who are arrested, etc.

  • ewe

    Juvenile gypsies that have grown up into rotten adults.

  • erin

    @Palermo: can you ask your family friend to email me on [email protected]? My uncle Kelly Cullen was killed and i would like to talk to another family going through this and what information they have been able to get as I am getting nowhere in trying to understand the autopsy report, what is happening to the people arrested, etc. PLEASE PLEASE. thank you! –Erin Cullen (Seattle, WA)

  • erin

    @Palermo: was this in reference to teh Turner family or someone else? Please email me as my uncle was killed – Kelly Cullen. I am Erin Cullen Harris ([email protected])

  • Turner

    @Palermo: Palermo this is from the Turner family. I would like to know what family you are referring to is there another death besides Turner and Cullen? Please contact one of us. [email protected] or [email protected].

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