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Retired couple suicide over rent, elderly brother follows suit in Italy

Retired couple suicide over rent, elderly brother follows suit in Italy
Three elderly people have killed themselves in Italy, apparently crushed by their inability to fight financial woes in the recession-hit country. First a couple in their 60s hanged themselves, then the woman's brother threw himself into the sea.

The bodies of Romeo Dionsi, 62, and Anna Sopranzi, 68, were found by neighbors on Friday morning at their home in Civitanova in central Italy.

Police said there was no doubt the suicide was linked to financial struggles.

Anna Sopranzi was getting a pension of 500 euro ($650) a month and her husband was a ‘victim’ of recent labor reforms, when the Italian government - among other measures - raised the retirement age and left him without unemployment insurance or the right to a pension.

One neighbor says he had spoken with the two and encouraged them to talk to local social service workers. However, the couple refused, being too ashamed of their inability to keep up financially.

"They couldn't even pay the rent," the neighbor said.

Romeo and Anna seem to have planned their deaths carefully. They left a note in front of their garage with apologies and leads to where their hanging bodies would be.

"They preferred to disappear rather than ask for help, showing their extreme dignity in a tragic situation," Mayor Tommaso Corvatta told local media, in tears.

He called on the government "not to abandon people."

Anna's brother, Giuseppe Sopranzi, 73, was so stricken by the news of the couple's death that he went and threw himself into the sea. He was brought back to shore, but attempts to revive him failed.

This file photo shows unemeployed people protest during a demonstration in Naples. (AFP Photo / Roberto Salomone)

The economic crisis in Italy has brought about a rise in suicides due to financial problems among the unemployed and small business owners, Corvatta said.

The unemployment figure has gone from 7 per cent in 2009 to 10.9 per cent in 2012.

"The unemployment rate is unacceptable and it is a tragedy for the whole country and for Europe," lawmaker Emanuela Munerato told AFP.

Laura Boldrini, the speaker of Italy's lower house of parliament, posted on her website that the deaths of the elderly illustrate "the despair of many, due to the shame of poverty."

Corvatta declared Saturday a day of mourning for the three victims, saying the tragedy is impacting "the community in a time of particular economic and social difficulties."

For more on the crisis in Italy, watch the report of RT's Irina Galushko from Rome.