Sleeping couple killed with sledgehammer by friend Andrea Cardinale who heard 'voices'

  • Watch Gregg Easteal's report

An Italian national living on Teesside has been ordered to remain at a secure hospital indefinitely after the brutal killing of two friends.

Andrea Cardinale was found to be suffering from acute paranoid schizophrenia when he launched his attack on Sicilian couple Antonino Calabro and Francesca Di Dio with a sledgehammer and a knife in their bedroom as they slept.

The incident happened at a block of flats in Stockton just days before Christmas last year.

Teesside Crown Court was told he had heard his victims’ voices in his head telling him to kill them and told police he believed they had placed a curse on him.

The 22-year-old had previously denied murder but admitted to two counts of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

At a sentencing hearing on Wednesday 25 October, a judge told Cardinale that he may never be released back into the community.

The former casino worker showed no reaction as he was led away from the dock.

Andrea Cardinale has been ordered to remain at a secure hospital indefinitely. Credit: Cleveland Police

The court heard Cardinale and "close friend" Mr Calabro, 26, were friends from croupier school and travelled to the UK in 2019 to work at the Grosvenor Casino in Stockton-on-Tees.

Cardinale was dismissed from that role in September 2022 due to poor work ethic and “odd behaviour”, prosecutor Nick Dry said.

His mental health deteriorated until the attack in the early hours of 21 December, which saw him go into Mr Calabro and his fiancee Ms Di Dio’s bedroom and bludgeon Mr Calabro with a sledgehammer before stabbing him.

Ms Di Dio, 21, who was visiting for Christmas, was able to escape and run upstairs before being chased by Cardinale, who killed her with the sledgehammer, the court heard.

Police at the scene on Thornaby Road, Thornaby, following the killings. Credit: GAZETTE MEDIA COMPANY SYNDICATION

Mr Dry said Cardinale then went to a petrol station to buy diesel and a lighter to blow up the flat. He doused the property in fuel but did not ignite it.

Both bodies were found in the flat in Thornaby by Cardinale’s father, who had travelled over to persuade his son to fly back with him to Sicily after the family became concerned about his mental health.

Cardinale, of Thornaby Road, was arrested that afternoon and later told police he killed his friends because he believed they “had been conjuring and putting curses on him”, Mr Dry said.

  • Footage from Cleveland Police captures the moment Andrea Cardinale was arrested

Police looked at his phone and found searches including dynamite and “how to make a bomb”. He had also searched on the internet for “voodoo” and “how to remove the evil eye”.

Speaking on Wednesday, Judge Paul Watson KC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, sentenced Cardinale to an indefinite hospital order, saying that he had been suffering from undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia at the time.

The court heard three psychiatric experts agreed that the defendant’s “unrecognised psychosis” was the “substantial” reason for the killings, with Professor Donald Grubin saying the illness “was so acute that his culpability for the killing is minimal”.

Peter Makepeace KC, mitigating, said: “The families are crying out for answers and it’s entirely understandable. The answer in this case appears to lie in a devastating and acute illness which has led to him being responsible, albeit in a diminished form, for the death of his closest friend.”

'We can no longer find inner peace'

A statement from Ms Di Dio’s mother, Anna Nosi, read in court, said: “The death of my daughter overturned and destroyed my life, that of my daughter Veronica and my ex-husband, Giuseppe.

“Since her death we can no longer find inner peace or comprehend what happened. We no longer sleep at night because our thoughts are all about our daughter.

“I often go to the cemetery and talk to my daughter looking at the small picture on the tombstone hoping for her to answer.

“We are completely exhausted, our every thought is of our beloved Francesca who is sorely missed and whose presence will never be filled and replaced by anyone.”

Mr Calabro’s father, Salvatore Calabro, said in a statement: “For parents, a child is an extension of life, for a sister, a shoulder to lean on and a person to ask for help, but unfortunately this has been denied us.

“Not having Nino with us anymore, after having cuddled, helped and supported him for 26 years is not easy to overcome, but with a lot of willpower and with the help of our Lord we have to face the future as serenely as possible.”

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