Students gone ballistic

February 6, 1998

Lost property news. Plumbers called to fix a leaking waterpipe have found a .22 calibre Beretta pistol - "rusty but efficient" with the hammer cocked and six rounds in the magazine, behind panelling in a men's toilet in the Magnifico Rettore's building at La Sapienza University in Rome. The gun went off while it was being removed. The weapon is not the one used in the killing last year of student Marta Russo.

It is thought to be a left-over from the revolting days of 1968 and 1977. As the Beretta's serial numbers were ground off to render it anonymous, it is likely to have been a terrorist weapon rather than protection for the academic baroni who have held sway at La Sapienza. But it might have come in handy as the new rector sets about his declared task of decentralising the university, which is Europe's largest and globally second only to Mexico City.

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