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Danilo Restivo, accused of killing neighbour and placing lock of hair in her hand, admits habit of secretly snipping hair

A man accused of brutally murdering a mother and placing a lock of hair in her hand has admitted in court he got a thrill from cutting women’s hair without their knowledge.

Danilo Restivo is accused of battering his neighbour Heather Barnett around the head before mutilating her and leaving someone else’s hair in her right hand.

Restivo, 39, who denies murder, said he developed a habit for secretly snipping hair from women’s heads after cutting a girl’s hair for a bet when he was a teenager and discovering he enjoyed feeling and sniffing it.

The Italian national said it was not sexual behaviour but conceded he became so concerned that he saw a psychologist to break his habit.

Seamstress Barnett, 48, was found at home in Bournemouth, southern England, in 2002 with the hair in her right hand and with hair cut from her own head below her left hand.

Restivo also faces allegations in Italy that he murdered schoolgirl Elisa Claps in the town of Potenza, southern Italy, in 1993. The jury has heard that locks of her hair were also left near her body.

Giving his evidence at the start of the defence case through a translator, Restivo said: “The hair-cutting first happened when I was about 15 or 16. I was studying at a scientific secondary school and it started as a bet between school friends.

“I was trying to get accepted into this group and the first three times I cut hair it was as a bet, but then I started liking it and I kept doing it. I meant no harm.

“The problem was that I liked touching the hair and also smelling it. Afterwards I would throw it away in the street. I never knew it was an offence to cut women’s hair and if it is I apologise. It was not a sexual attraction.

“It occurred to me these women and girls might find it frightening and intrusive. I tried to stop but was unsuccessful and carried on doing it after I came to England. I tried various ways and even went to a psychologist.”

Restivo, who moved to Dorset six months before Barnett’s death, said he had met her once to ask her to make some curtains for his partner as a surprise Christmas present.

He claimed a bloodstained green towel found at the murder scene, which the prosecution said could be linked to him through DNA tests, had been given to Barnett as a colour match for the curtains.

The jury has been told that Barnett’s murder bore “remarkable similarities” to that of 16-year-old Elisa Claps. She had also been brutally stabbed and locks of hair were left close to her body.

Her body was found in a loft of the Most Holy Trinity church in Potenza last year, 17 years after she went missing.

Restivo said he had met her at the church at the time she vanished but said he had left her to pray.

He said knew Elisa and was attracted to her. He said: “I declared my love for her but her response was negative because she was with another boy. She refused me and we were just friends.”

Restivo claimed he had asked to meet Elisa in the church to ask her how he should go about courting another girl.

He said: “We met up and went inside the church and behind the altar where we talked for about 10 minutes. She told me a boy had been harassing her outside. She then left and I stayed to pray and that was the last I saw of her.”

The jury at Winchester is being asked to rule only on the murder of Barnett. An inquiry is taking place in Italy on the Elisa Claps murder but the British courts have no jurisdiction over that case. The trial continues.

Guardian News & Media

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