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Shock after Italian teen beaten to death in UK

Four Lithuanians charged in murder of 19-year-old Joele Leotta

23 October, 20:26
Shock after Italian teen beaten to death in UK (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Rome, October 23 - Italy was shocked Wednesday at reports of a brutal gang slaying at the weekend of a northern Italian teenager who had gone to England to study and find work.

Four Lithuanian nationals have been charged with attacking and killing 19-year-old Joele Leotta in Maidstone, Kent, British police said.

The four will appear via video link in Medway Magistrates' Court tomorrow, police sources said.

They were named as Tomas Gelezinis, 30, Saulius Tamoliunas, 23, Linas Zidonis, 21, and Aleksandras Zuravliovas, 26. The four also face charges of aggravated battery in connection with an assault on a second Italian victim.

Police said they had arrested a 30-year-old man, the tenth person of interest in the ongoing murder investigation. Initial reports suggested the gang attacked and killed Leotta, following him into his apartment, after accusing him of stealing jobs.

But police stressed that although they cannot say anything about a motive, they were not treating the case as racially motivated.

Earlier, police said seven men had been remanded in custody and two released in connection with the fatal beating.

Richard Allan, spokesman for the Kent Police, told ANSA that he could give no more details other than the fact the seven suspects were "European".

Earlier, police said the men were "of foreign nationality, not British".

There were unconfirmed reports they might be Bulgarian, Polish and Lithuanian.

Another unconfirmed report suggested that the murder might have been a case of mistaken identity.

What is certain is that Leotta died after he was kicked and punched by a gang of men aged 21 to 45.

Leotta, who may also have been stabbed in the attack, had travelled from his home in the northern town of Nibionno, near the city of Lecco, to Britain 10 days earlier to learn English and find work.

"It's not possible you can be killed because of a job," Leotta's cousin told ANSA.

His father said: "All I know is he's dead.

"He'd just arrived there. He wasn't a trouble-maker".

Friends, neighbours and officials told ANSA "He was a good lad, forced to go abroad to earn a decent wage".

His basketball coach said "he wasn't the kind of kid who went looking for trouble".

A friend of the victim sustained injuries to the neck, head and back that do not threaten his life. Authorities say Alex Galbiati was being treated in hospital.

Leotta's family, informed of the killing on Monday, has travelled to Kent.

They are being assisted by the Consul General of Italy in London, Massimiliano Mazzanti, who told ANSA that he is following the case closely.