Italian authorities have arrested a shepherd in connection with the murder of an Ethiopian refugee who had become a symbol for integration in Italy after founding a remote farm to protect a rare breed of mountain goat.
Agitu Ideo Gudeta, 42, was found dead Tuesday on the floor of her apartment bedroom next to the church of Plankerhof, a small hamlet in the remote, German-speaking Mòcheni valley near Frassilongo. She had suffered several blows to the head with a hammer.
Investigators say a 32-year-old Ghanaian man she had hired to care for the more than 100 goats at her 27-acre “The Happy Goat” farm has been arrested in connection with the crime.
According to the Italian daily Repubblica, the itinerant shepherd at the farm, Adams Suleimani, was brought in for questioning Tuesday night based on evidence found at the scene.
Carabinieri are investigating allegations that he had assaulted and raped Ms Gudeta after an argument over an unpaid salary. He is being detained in Trento as the investigation continues.
Neighbours began looking for Ms Gudeta after she failed to turn up for a business appointment though they could hear her mobile phone ringing and vibrating inside her flat.
Originally from Addis Ababa, Ms Gudeta moved to a remote mountain valley of the Trentino-Alto Adige region in 2010 and founded a farm designed to protect the rare Mòcheni valley breed of mountain goat.
As one of the few black people farming in the region, she had overcome persistent racial harassment to become a beloved figure in the valley.
She became a national symbol for environmentalism and integration after Radical Party politician Emma Bonino singled her out as an example of successful integration and courageous female entrepreneurship.
In 2019 she was nominated for the Luisa Minazzi-Environmentalist of the Year prize by the Italian environmentalist association Legambiente.
“Our entire group expresses sorrow over the assassination of a courageous woman who was passionate about her job and engaged in defending environmental and human rights,” said the Legambiente nominating committee in a statement.
“In the coming hours we will vigilantly follow the investigation into this unacceptable femicide, which follows in the wake of racist threats that Agitu Ideo Gudeta had received several times in recent years.”