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Thousands pay their respects to tragic Elisa Claps
MORE than 7,000 people attended a memorial service for Elisa Claps in Potenza, Italy, at the weekend.
The schoolgirl has been missing since 1993 but on Wednesday a mummified body was found in the roof of the church in the main square – the place she was last seen.
Though formal identification is expected to take a month, personal items discovered near the body suggest that the remains are those of the 16-year-old.
For six years, Dorset detectives have linked the case of Elisa Claps with the brutal murder of Heather Barnett in Bournemouth in 2002.
Officers from the Major Crime Investigation Team have been back and forth to Italy in that time as part of their ongoing investigations.
Members of Elisa’s family, including her brother Gildo and mother Filomena, spoke at the service on Saturday, held near the church.
The large congregation was swelled by many local schoolchildren who came to pay their own tribute to the youngster.
Italian journalist Monica Napoli told the Echo last night: “Potenza is a small community and everybody has been immensely shocked by the discovery of the body.
“Most people feel very close to the story.”
She said that there was huge interest in the Italian media over the connection with the Heather Barnett killing, with several papers and television stations sending reporters to Bournemouth in the past few days.
Meanwhile Gildo Claps has spoken of his family’s feelings in the wake of Wednesday’s discovery by workmen.
“There’s a lot of anger because it’s really been a long wait, 17 years of hell.”
He added: “If anyone thinks that the family Claps’ response would be a happy one, they would be very much mistaken.”
“The discovery of the body will now help us to finally find those responsible.”
Mr Claps said he hoped forensic evidence would establish whether the perpetrator acted alone or had help and if the body has been moved at any time.
THIS week’s discovery of what is believed to be Elisa Claps’ body has not only dominated the headlines and news bulletins in her native land, but also focused Italian media attention on Bournemouth.
Around a dozen Italian television and print journalists flocked to the town on Thursday and Friday, keen to find out more about the possible links between Elisa’s disappearance in 1993 and the murder of Charminster mother Heather Barnett in 2002.
One of the last known people to see Elisa alive, Danilo Restivo, has lived in Charminster for many years. Daily Echo news editor Andy Martin was interviewed by three Italian television stations, including the national RAI channel, about the cases.
He and photographer Corin Messer travelled to Italy in 2004 as part of our investigations into the Barnett murder.