September 9, 2014 / 7:22 PM / 5 years ago

Arrest made in murder of Italian nuns in Burundi - officials

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Police in Burundi have arrested a man for the murder of three Italian nuns who were found dead - two of them raped and partially decapitated - north of the capital Bujumbura over the weekend.

Police named the 33-year-old suspect on Tuesday as Christian Butoyi. They said he had with him a blood-stained stone, which they think was used as a murder weapon, and a key, which they believe he used to enter the convent.

He also had a mobile phone that belonged to one of the victims, police spokesman Helmenegilde Harimenshi said.

“He confessed without any regret that he raped the nuns and killed them after,” Harimenshi said. “He said he committed that crime because, after his own investigation, he realised the parish was built on property belonging to his parents.”

The suspect will be examined by doctors who will determine whether he suffers from mental illness, police said.

Father Mario Pulicini, who is responsible for the parish in a northern suburb of Bujumbura, named two of the nuns as Lucia Pulici, who was 75 and due to celebrate her birthday on Monday, and Olga Raschietti, 82. He said they were found decapitated in their dormitory on Sunday.

The third nun, 79-year-old Bernadetta Boggian, was found dead early on Monday morning. The killings appeared to have happened at two separate times, he said.

“It is very difficult to know the reason behind the killing, but nothing can justify it,” Father Mario said.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry also reported the three murders. The Vatican said Pope Francis was “greatly saddened” by the killings.

A mass will be held for the nuns in a Catholic Church north of Bujumbura on Wednesday, and they will be buried in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where they worked for several years.

Editing by Edith Honan/Ruth Pitchford

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