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Alex Galbiati, from Lecco, Italy, said friend Joele Leotta was 'thrown in the air' during fatal attack above Vesuvius restaurant in Maidstone

By Anna Young

A young Italian man has described the frightening night his best friend was killed less than a week after they arrived in the country.

Alex Galbiati, 20, suffered serious injuries during an incident above Vesuvius restaurant, in Lower Street, Maidstone, and his childhood friend, Joele Leotta, sustained 100 wounds and later died in hospital.

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, who are all Lithuanian, deny murder and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Joele Leotta suffered multiple injuries at a Maidstone bedsit

The prosecution claims the four defendants attacked the two Italians on Sunday, October 20 last year, because they believed they were responsible for a complaint made the day before about loud music from the upper floors, where Gelezinis lived.

Mr Galbiati said he lashed out with a metal wardrobe pole in self defence, when intruders tried to force their way into the room he shared with Mr Leotta, also 20, above the eatery why they had secured jobs.

He told Maidstone Crown Court: "I saw hands coming in (through the door), trying to hit my friend. That's when I started hitting."

After managing to push their bedroom door shut, Mr Galbiati said at least one man began kicking the door until a panel fell through.

Alex Galbiati with Joele Leotta's mother at his funeral. Picture by Casate Online.

Previously, Mr Galbiati, who is speaking from behind a protective screen to give evidence, confirmed he called 999 twice before the men broke down the door.

The first call was at 11.13pm, the second was made a minute later and another call to the emergency services was made from Mr Leotta's phone at 11.19pm.

Mr Galbiati said he ended up on the floor and was struck by a man who was standing above him.

He added: "He (Joele) was leaning next to the bed while he was being beaten or he was being picked up and thrown in the air, and falling or hitting things."

Alex Galbiati with best friend Joele Leotta, who was fatally injured in a Maidstone bedsit

The victim told the court his attackers left but returned a short time later and the beating continued.

Mr Galbiati said he was assaulted in the bathroom by two men and could not see what was happening to his friend.

He pretended to pass out and only emerged from the toilet when it went quiet, which is when he found Mr Leotta unconscious at the bottom of the stairs and he waited for the police to arrive.

Flowers left outside the Vesuvius Restaurant where Joele Leotta was fatally injured

The pair had arrived from their villages in Lecco, Italy, six days earlier and were living in one of the bedsits above the restaurant.

During cross-examination today, Eleanor Laws QC, defending Zidonis, suggested the Italians had been smoking cannabis on the night of the incident.

Mr Galbiati had admitted they would often "smoke a joint" before bed but could not remember whether they had on October 20.

Various alleged weapons have been shown as evidence in court, including bent poles.

Blood stained and ripped pyjamas worn by Mr Galbiati and Mr Leotta on the night of the assault were also exhibited.

Joele Leotta's parents Ivan and Patrizia.

Mr Leotta's parents, Ivan and Patrizia, have been at Maidstone Crown Court. They have left the room while Mr Galbiati's 999 call was played during the opening speeches on Wednesday, April 16.

Mr Galbiati began giving evidence last Wednesday. He told the court he had travelled to the UK with Mr Leotta because they had been unable to find work in Italy.

The trial continues.

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