Italy: 'I love you, but I have to shoot you'

By Larissa Cummings

October 11, 2008 12:00am

"I LOVE you, but to save face, I have to shoot you in the knee. You have one month to think about it."

This is what Antonio Romeo's father-in-law, Giovanni Sergi - alleged head of a notorious Griffith organised crime family - allegedly told him when he found out he was having an affair with his daughter, Maria. About six weeks later, Romeo, 46, was shot dead by a single bullet to the chest as he pruned trees on his brother's orchard on July 1, 2002, an inquest into his death has heard.

Family honour ... the Romeo family leaving court.

In a saga of crime, love triangles and "family honour", the historical underbelly of the Riverina town was again exposed in Glebe Coroner's Court yesterday.

Detective Sergeant Eugene Stek told the court Romeo was having an affair with his sister-in-law, Jenny Sergi, who was married to Giovanni's son, Antonio "Young Tony" Sergi.

Before this, Ms Sergi (now Jolliffe) also had an affair with Rocco Barbaro, whose left leg was amputated after he was mysteriously shot in the kneecap - an injury he claims was a self-inflicted accident.

Sgt Stek said Romeo served eight years' jail for importing a prohibited drug, during which time Ms Sergi's family found out about their affair.

In a statement tendered to the inquest, Sgt Stek said that Romeo's father-in-law allegedly told him after his release from jail that he "loved him" but he would have to restore his family's honour over the affair by shooting him in the knee "in a similar fashion to Rocco Barbaro".

Sgt Stek said "punishment" by Ms Sergi's family for the affair formed the basis of his first "hypothesis" for why Romeo was murdered.

The second involves Romeo's involvement in the supply of prohibited drugs, allegedly with Pasquale Barbaro, son of Francesco Barbaro.

But one source told police Romeo had "broke away from the Barbaro family and had begun to supply drugs on his own," Det Sgt Stek's statement claims. "After Romeo's release from jail, (Barbaro) didn't want extra competition and Romeo knew a lot," a source told police.

Sgt Stek said police had "met with much resistance" in the investigation and no further witnesses or evidence had come to light to enable a conviction. Coroner Mary Jerram found Romeo died of a gunshot wound to the chest administered by a person or persons unknown.

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Thanks to the International Campaign Against Honour Killings () for this article.