What happened during this week in crime history: May 12 – Body of Lindbergh baby was found (1932); May 13 – Pope John Paul II was shot (1981); May 15 – Second Vigilante Committee was formed in San Francisco (1856); May 16 – Voltaire was imprisoned at the Bastille (1717); May 17 – Police raid the hideout of the Symbionese Liberation Army in Los Angeles and kill six (1974).
Highlighted crime of the week – On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II is shot and wounded at St. Peter's Square in Rome, Italy. Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca, an escaped fugitive already convicted of a previous murder, fired several shots at the religious leader, two of which wounded nearby tourists. Agca was immediately captured. He claimed to have Palestinian connections, although the PLO quickly denied any involvement. Detectives believed that his confession had been coached in order to throw investigators off track. When his trial began on July 20, 1981, Agca maintained that Italy did not have the right to prosecute him since the crime occurred at the Vatican. He threatened to go on a hunger strike if his trial wasn't shifted to a Vatican court, but his request was denied and he was found guilty two days later. He was sentenced to life in prison but released in 2010.
Many people argued that the very unusual short trial must have been an effort to cover up evidence of a conspiracy. In fact, Italian authorities had their own suspicions but did not want to disclose them in a highly publicized trial. Instead, they conducted a relatively quiet investigation into the connection between Agca and Bulgaria's KGB-connected intelligence agency. The motive behind an alleged Soviet-inspired assassination must be viewed in the context of the Cold War in 1981. Pope John Paul II was Polish-born and openly supportive of the democratic movement in that country. His visit to Poland in 1979 worried the Kremlin, which saw its hold on Eastern Europe in danger. Although the exact extent of the conspiracy remains unknown today, Agca allegedly met with Bulgarian spies in Rome about assassinating Lech Walesa, the Polish labor union leader. However, this plan was abandoned when Agca was offered $1.25 million to kill the pope.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime. Visit the author's website for more information: www.michaelthomasbarry.com
His book can be purchased at Amazon through the following link: