Two US students sentenced to life imprisonment for murder

Two US students have been found guilty of murdering a police officer in Italy following a year-long trial.

Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, was stabbed to death as he investigated a drug deal gone wrong in central Rome in 2019.

Californian students Finnegan Lee Elder and Gabriel Christian Natale were given life sentences.

Elder had admitted to stabbing Rega 11 times but maintained that he acted in self-defence, believing the police officer was a criminal.

Defence lawyers for the US students raised questions after talks between Elder and his lawyer appeared in the Italian media which suggested he had confessed.

But the defence said the transcripts were badly translated and seemed to omit parts of their conversation.

Prosecutors cast it as a brutal, unprovoked attack in which Elder, then 19, stabbed Cerciello 11 times with a seven-inch camping knife on a dark street near the Americans’ hotel.

But the defendants claimed self-defence, saying they were jumped from behind by men they thought were thugs following an earlier drug deal gone wrong.

The trial, which lasted more than a year, boiled down to a contest between two diametrically opposed versions of how the attack unfolded.

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