WAS PANTANI MURDERED?
Three and half a years after Marco Pantani was found dead in a Rimini hotel room, his mother Tonina has reiterated that she believes her son was killed and a new French book has fuelled the suspicions by suggesting that the autopsy and police investigation may have overlooked vital evidence.
The book called Vie e Mort de Marco Pantani was published in France on Thursday. It was written by Philippe Brunel of the l’Equipe newspapers who has covered cycling in Italy for many years. He has spent three years researching and writing the book and spent time in Cuba, Rimini and Pantani’s home town of Cesenatico. The book offers no proof that Pantani was murdered but reveals several pieces of evidence that raise questions about the enigmatic rider’s tragic death.
The official police investigation came to conclusion that Pantani died of a heart attack and brain edema caused by a cocaine overdose after he had locked himself in a hotel room for several days. Brunel turns that theory upside down, revealing that police photographs show the hotel room was wrecked but that Pantani did not have a cut on his hands or even a broken fingernail. He reveals that the police closed the investigation after just 55 days, did not take any digital fingerprints or call in specialist crime scene investigators. Brunel also claims a carton of Chinese food was found in Pantani room which he never ordered, the version of the hotel staff does not add up and the hotel videos were never used in the investigation.
After studying in detail the autopsy documents and carefully reconstructing Pantani’s final movements Brunel suggests that the quantity of cocaine found in his mouth and a scratch on his neck could indicate that he was held by someone who pushed the cocaine in his mouth. Brunel also asks why Giuseppe Fortuni, who carried out the autopsy, decided to take Pantani’s heart and other body tissue home with him after carrying out the autopsy. However Fortuni has quickly explained that this was he finished the autopsy late in the evening and for safety reasons.
“In my book there aren’t ‘other version’ of the truth but just questions. I didn’t make any hypothesis, I just asked questions,” Brunel told Italian television Saturday afternoon.
“There are lots of things that are unexplained and there are contradictions. I just wanted to see other possibilities and ask questions, including that Marco wasn’t alone but I’ve never said that Pantani was murder. I’ve got a lot of respect for Pantani and wanted to try and defend his death.”
The Italian investigative judge Paolo Gengarelli quickly responded to the accusations saying that the investigation was a success and refused to comment on the possibility that Pantani was murdered.
TONINA PANTANI: "MARCO WAS KILLED"
Tonina Pantani has always believed her son was murdered and repeated he claims on Friday after initial details about the book appeared in the Italian media.
“I’ve said it since the beginning but I’ve treated as if I was mad. Marco was killed and the investigation has to be reopened but not in Rimini. I’ve spent all summer reading the official trial documents and more sure than ever that it was murder. Marco upset someone. Nobody knew Marco like I did. I know what I’m saying and I’ll send all the money Marco left us to get to the truth,” she told the Italian press.
In a longer interview in the Repubblica newspaper, Tonina claims that her son wanted to speak out about why he was suspended from racing during the 1999 Giro d’Italia. Despite records showing huge fluctuations in Pantani’s haematocrit during his career and his involvement in several investigations, Tonina also claims Pantani never doped.
“The reason (of the murder) was that my son said what he thought and he wanted to talk about what was bad about cycling,” she told Repubblica.
“Marco was very honest. If he doped he would have admitted it. He never admitted it because he was clean.”
“The key to everything was Madonna di Campiglio. After that they cut him out and every time he tried to get back up, the police arrived, he was placed under investigation or he was summoned to appear in court. That doesn’t happen to serious criminals.”
A local drug dealer and Pantani’s last girlfriend Elena Korovina, a Russian girl who danced in nightclubs in Italy, are still on trial for supplying cocaine and as a consequence causing Pantani’s death. Two other dealers pleaded guilty and received a minor sentence for supplying Pantani with cocaine but Fabio Carlino and Korovina asked for a trial and have always claimed to be innocent. A final hearing and the sentence is expected on December 21.
A final verdict is expected before the fourth anniversary of Pantani’s death on February 14 but the truth about how Pantani died might never be known.