A 1978 note announcing the abduction of a former Italian prime minister by the group that would later kill him has sold for 15 times the estimate at a controversial auction in Rome. The two-sided letter from communist guerrilla group Red Brigades, written on the group's letterhead, was the first of several notes given to the press following Aldo Moro's kidnapping on March 16, 1978, per the Guardian. Sent a day later, it said Moro, leader of the Christian Democrats, was the "political godfather and most faithful executor of directives issued by the imperialist powers" and had been "enclosed in a prison of the people."
Offered up by Rome's Bertolami auction house, the letter sold Thursday for $29,000, well above the estimate of between $1,450 and $1,900, though critics had condemned the sale. "These pages are dripping with blood, they can't be bought and sold, become a collector's item," said the journalist Mario Calabresi, whose father was killed by far-left insurgents while serving as a police commissioner in Milan in 1972, per the BBC. Five bodyguards were shot and killed when the Red Brigades seized Moro, who was himself found fatally shot in the trunk of a car in Rome almost two months later.
Calabresi said the letter should have been placed in an archive "to remind us of the barbarity of terrorism." Former Red Bridages member Paolo Persichetti said the document was not an original, but a copy, like the hundreds others already existing in archives, per the BBC. Still, Democratic Party MP Filippo Sensi said he was saddened by the sale of such a "painful record." The Red Brigades were responsible for several kidnappings and murders in Italy throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, during the so-called "years of lead." Several former members who fled to France before their prison sentences could begin were arrested only last year, per NPR. (Read more auction stories.)