Maidstone: Three Jailed For Waiter Murder

Three men have been jailed for life for murdering an Italian waiter who suffered more than 100 injuries to his body as he was beaten to death in Maidstone.

Joele Leotta and his friend Alex Galbiati, both 20, were about to go to bed when the men broke into their flat above the Italian restaurant where they worked and subjected them to a vicious attack.

Aleksandras Zuravliovas, Linas Zidonas and Saulius Tamoliunas attacked the men because they believed they had made a complaint against one of them to their landlord about noise from the flat, a jury at Maidstone Crown Court was told.

All three were found guilty of murder and grievous bodily harm (GBH) following an 11-week trial and were jailed for life.

Zuravliovas, 26, was told he would serve a minimum term of 21 years, while Zidonas, 21, and Tamoliunas, 24, will serve a minimum term of 20 years.

Judge Philip Statman told them: "You had within you murderous intent. Your conduct towards these two young men showed no mercy. You attacked as a pack and used a variety of weapons.''

A fourth defendant, Tomas Gelezinis, 31, was also charged with murder and GBH but was acquitted by a jury.

Police arrived at the flat in Lower Stone Street on the evening of October 20 to find both men seriously injured.

Mr Leotta and his childhood friend had heard noise coming from a room above them followed by someone attempting to open their front door, the court was told.

Mr Galbiati called out to whoever it was to go away, but their locked door was kicked in, police said.

Detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate arrested 10 suspects but six men were released without charge and some later gave evidence at the trial.

A statement from Mr Leotta's family following the verdict, said: ``Nobody can see the pain we carry inside ourselves.

"It makes us unable to breathe; it makes us powerless; it leaves us empty and lonely. Why did this happen? He did not deserve something so ugly to happen to him.

"Joele will no longer be able to taste or smell, see, feel pain or feel joy and live his life. We will never be able to accept this. Joele was a kind, loving, respectful and determined boy. He would never show hatred, violence or cowardice.

"The memory of Joele is our strength. The memory of his voice with the words: 'Everything is cool, see you tomorrow'.''

Detective Inspector Ivan Beasley, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, called Mr Leotta's death "a tragic waste of life''.

He said: "An innocent young man who came to England with his friend for an adventure, to work and to learn the language, was beaten to death. Joele had over 100 injuries, which evidences a brutal and sustained attack.

"The whole investigation team would like to pay tribute to Joele's family who attended the trial and listened to very distressing evidence.

"Our thanks also go to Alex Galbiati who survived the attack and bravely took to the witness stand to give evidence along with other members of the public who gave evidence during the trial.''

Chief Crown Prosecutor Jaswant Narwal also praised Mr Galbiati for returning from Italy to give evidence, and said: "This was a senseless and completely unprovoked attack of drunken violence on two innocent students, who had only just arrived in the country.

"The violence seems to have stemmed from a mistaken belief that they had complained about noise in the building. They were both brutally attacked in their room and badly injured, so much so, that Joele sadly died.

"Our thoughts are with Joele's family who have conducted themselves with great dignity throughout the entire legal process.

"We hope the verdict brings some small comfort to them. We have worked extremely closely with them throughout the case, ensuring they were kept updated with its progress.''