ROME (AP) — An Italian mother whose anguish over her missing daughter gripped the nation for weeks was told on live TV that the teenager had been slain, allegedly by the girl's uncle, whose house was hosting the show.
Concetta Serrano, looking like she was in shock, murmured "my brother-in-law is innocent," and "I can't believe it" as she sat in the dining room of the uncle's house.
The TV anchor of a popular show about missing person cases on RAI state TV told her late Wednesday night the breaking news that "one of the persons" being interrogated by police in Taranto, southern Italy, had allegedly confessed to killing Sarah Scazzi, 15, and that the body had been found.
While much of the nation watched, calls were made to the cell phone of the uncle, Michele Misseri, who, along with his wife, Serrano's sister, had been interrogated for hours and was still being questioned.
Misseri didn't answer. At one point someone telephoned the mother, who went pale. She then asked the TV show's reporter at the uncle's house if the news was true, La Repubblica daily quoted the anchor, Federica Sciarelli, as saying.
"At that point we told her, 'Ma'am, perhaps it is better if you go home,'" Sciarelli recounted.
"OK, let's go," the mother said, her face drawn as she left the room.
Sarah disappeared Aug. 26 while she walked the short distance through the town of Avetrana to her uncle's house, where she was supposed to meet a cousin to go to the beach along the Mediterranean in Puglia.
Taranto Prosecutor Franco Sebastio told a news conference that police had pulled out the waterlogged body of a blond girl resembling Sarah out of a cistern Thursday after Misseri had led them to a spot covered by stones, dirt and leaves.
DNA testing will be done to positively identify the body as Sarah's, Sebastio said.
Sebastio and police officials said Misseri had confessed that he had killed Sarah shortly after she disappeared. News reports said Misseri confessed to strangling the girl after she refused his sexual advances.
Sebastio declined to comment when asked to confirm news reports that Sarah had been sexually abused after she was killed. He would only say initial examination of the corpse indicated she "hadn't suffered" physically before the alleged strangulation.
The uncle raised suspicions about a week ago when he gave police Sarah's burned cell phone he claimed to have found while burning leaves near his house. The TV program asked Sarah's mother if she would agree to go on live TV in a transmission from Misseri's house, with her brother-in-law and other family members gathered.
Hours before the show went on the air, police began interrogating the uncle, and the broadcast went on without him.
(You can watch the controversial scene here.)