Five Satanic cult members received heavy prison sentences today for killing the singer of their amateur rock band and two other women in brutal ritual murders that shocked Italy.
Nicola Sapone, one of the leaders of the Beasts of Satan rock band, was sentenced to life behind bars for the double homicide in 1998 of singer Fabio Tollis and his girlfriend Chiara Marino.
The group had apparently believed that Marino, who was stabbed to death under a full moon, was the personification of the Virgin Mary. She was 19.
Tollis, 16, took a fatal hammer blow to the head after trying to prevent her murder.
Sapone covered Tollis's mouth with a chestnut husk to silence him and also slit his throat in what Italian media called "an orgy" of bloodletting. The band pushed the dead bodies into a pit and urinated on them.
Four other followers of the band received sentences of between 24 and 26 years.
The convictions were the latest for members and followers of Beasts of Satan, and followed the high-profile conviction of band leader Andrea Volpe, who received a lighter, 30-year sentence after leading authorities to the bodies and confessing to the killings.
Band members were also convicted for murdering Volpe's ex-girlfriend Mariangela Pezzotta in 2004. She was shot in the mouth and her body mutilated.
The Satanic killings sparked fears in Italy of a spread of devil cults, and the Vatican last year started a course for Roman Catholic priests on Satanism and exorcism in response to what the Church said was a worrying interest in the occult, particularly among the young.