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Home Maidstone News Article
A young Italian man was murdered in a "senseless attack of brutal, drunken violence" in which he suffered 100 injuries, a court has heard.
Joele Leotta was fatally wounded at a bedsit above Vesuvius restaurant, in Lower Stone Street, on October 20 last year after a row about noise.
Four Lithuanian men have now gone on trial for the 20-year-old's murder. They are also accused of wounding his friend Alex Galbiati, 20, with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Aleksandras Zuravliovas, 26, of Beaumont Road; Tomas Gelezinis, 31, of Lower Stone Street; Saulius Tamoliunas, 24, of Union Street; and 21-year-old Linas Zidonis, of no fixed address, deny the charges.
Philippa McAtasney QC, prosecuting, said both victims were "punched, kicked and hit with whatever came to hand" - including a metal pole, a mop handle and a broom - when intruders forced their way into their room above the restaurant where they worked as waiters.
The jury was played a distressing clip of Mr Galbiati's 999 call, in which he could be heard crying and struggling to speak English as he repeated the address and asks for the police.
Mr Leotta's parents, Ivan and Patrizia, left the court while the clip was played.
Miss McAtasney said: "From the noise in the background it is clear the attack is still going on.
"Alex is plainly asking for help and indicating that he is injured."
The two Italians had arrived in the country six days before Mr Leotta's death and started a 13-week trial period at the family-run Italian restaurant.
The friends, who had grown up together in the Lecco region of Italy, were staying in accommodation on the first floor above the business. They shared the floor with the chef, Enrique Pareja, and a Polish man.
Gelezinis lived on the third floor with another Lithuanian man called Romens Klovas.
The court heard Tamoliunas, Zidonis and Zuravliovas had been drinking all day before heading to Gelezinis' home.
Mr Galbiati told police he heard thumping noises from the upper floors just after about 11pm, which is believed to have been a fight between Klovas and Zidonis and Tamoliuanis.
About 15 minutes later, someone began banging on the Italians' door and broke it off its hinges.
Mr Galbiati armed himself with a metal wardrobe rail, but said one his attackers took hold of the weapon and used it to strike him.
Miss McAtasney said: "Joele was also being attacked. According to Alex, the men were stamping on his face."
The court heard the pair thought the assault had come to and end and discussed calling the police - but one of the attackers, thought to be Zuravliovas, is said to have come back into the room while Mr Galbati was looking at his wounds in the bathroom.
The chef, Mr Pareja, came out of his room to help, but told police the men ordered him to go back inside.
Mr Galbiati said he could not get past the attackers to run for help so barricaded himself in the toilet.
Two of the men forced their way in and began to hit Mr Galbiati with the metal pole.
The victim said the ordeal went on for up to three minutes and only stopped when he pretended to faint.
Mr Galbiati, who by this point had managed to call the police, emerged when everything went quiet and discovered his friend lying at the bottle of the stairs at the very front entrance to the building.
Mr Galbiati was waiting for officers to arrive when one of his attackers, claimed to be Zuravliovas, sat down next to him.
Miss McAtasney said: "Alex said to him, in English, 'why did you do this?' Male one replied in his own language. Alex got up and went and sat somewhere else. Male one came over to him again and said, 'you, not me'. Alex was left with the impression that male one was suggesting that it has all been Alex's fault."
Zidonis and Tamoliunas were arrested in Gabriels Hill at 11.30pm.
The prosection say their clothes were blood stained. Zidonis was not injured but Tamoliunas had cuts on his forehead. The pair said they had been fighting each other.
Zuravliovas, who was taken to Tunbridge Wells Hospital to be treated for a head wound, was arrested at 12.45am. Miss McAtasney said his clothing was also blood stained and he had a cut above his eyebrow.
The prosecution says it has discovered traces of the victims' blood and DNA on the clothing worn by Zuravliovas, Zidonis and Tamoliunas.
Gelezinis was initially treated as a witness, but was arrested the next day at Maidstone police station after he admitted one of the Italians had bitten him.
He told police he had asked the other three defendants to leave after the row with his flat mate. He then heard the commotion downstairs and saw them fighting with the two Italians.
Gelezinis said he decided to leave and was walking past the fight when one of the Italian men came out of the room and fell on top of him and bit him on the arm.
Gelezinis claims he left with other Lithuanian man who lived on the second floor, Lucas Lementauskas, and were outside when the other defendants called out to them.
He said the other three gave Lementauskas their mobile phones and Zidonis handed over his jacket.
Miss McAtasney said: "According to Gelezinis, they then said that they were going to go back and kill someone."
The day before the attack, a complaint had been made to the landlord about noise from Gelezinis' floor. The court heard Gelezinis told police he thought it was made by someone working in the restaurant.
Miss McAtasney said: "The prosecution suggest that any bad feeling that might have existed on the part of any of the defendants towards the Italian victims must have been harboured by Gelezinis. He was the one who was in the danger of being evicted."
She added: "It would seem the defendants believed that the victims, the two Italian boys, had been the source of that complaint. If they did believed that, then they were wrong. For what it is worth, the complaint had come from someone else.
"Without bothering to find out the true state of affairs, late on the following evening, the four defendants, the prosecution says, in a drunken rage, went to the to the room occupied by the two Italian boys. They smashed down the door and attacked the two boys."
Mr Leotta went into cardiac arrest at 11.45pm. He died at King's College Hospital in London at 2.52am. The cause of death was given as head injury.
The trial continues.
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