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ROME – A 20-year-old California man accused of charged with murdering an Italian police officer apologized in court Wednesday, saying he was “filled with remorse” and hoped one day the slain man’s family would forgive him.

Finnegan Lee Elder, who has been on trial in Rome since February along with a fellow American, asked the court for permission to make a spontaneous statement that, he said, he finally had summoned the courage to give.

Elder said the night of July 26, 2019, when Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello was fatally stabbed on a Rome street, was the worst of his life “because I took a man’s life, I took a husband away from his wife, I broke a bond between brothers and I took a son away from his mother.”

“I’ll never be able to forgive myself for this, and I don’t expect Mr. Mario Cerciello’s family to ever forgive me, although I truly hope one day they will,” he said.

Elder and his friend, Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 19, were visiting Italy as tourists when Cerciello and another plainclothes carabinieri officer approached them on the street after the young men were involved in a botched drug deal.

Prosecutors alleged that in the ensuing scuffle, Elder stabbed Cerciello 11 times and that Natale-Hjorth hid the murder weapon, a military-style attack knife that Elder allegedly brought in a suitcase from the United States.

The defense has insisted the Americans didn’t realize the two Italians were police officers, didn’t see any badges and thought the men who approached them were criminal thugs.

Elder, who wore a mask as he entered the courtroom, said he had been struggling ever since that night, but was able to reflect on what happened while in prison. He recalled his mother wrote to Cerciello's family months ago, expressing his anguish and desire to apologize.

“But I didn’t have the courage to write or speak out” until Wednesday, Elder said.

“I understand that maybe it’s impossible to gain forgiveness from someone who lost a loved one, but I wanted to be honest that my desire is sincere,” he said. “All I can say is that I’m filled with remorse and it pains me to think of the suffering I’ve caused.”

Cerciello, who was killed soon after returning from his honeymoon, was hailed as a national hero at his funeral.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Cops arrest 8th man over gang-rape of Brit schoolgirls, 15, in Italy after victims picked him out from social media pics

AN eighth man has been arrested in connection with the gang rape of two Brit teenagers on holiday in Italy.

The development meant a fast track trial scheduled for Saturday against four others said to have attacked the 15-year-olds was adjourned.

8CCTV shows a group of men walking into the party around the time of the alleged attackCredit: Associated Press 8A total of eight people have been arrestedCredit: Associated Press 8A sign in the town reads, 'Our community asks your forgivenes'Credit: TGcom24

Officials said the eighth man had been identified after the two girls were shown social media photographs of him and that he was held just hours before the case was due to start.

The two girls were attacked earlier this month while at a party at an exclusive villa in Pisticci near Matera in southern Italy.

Police described the incident as "brutal and extreme".

Four men aged between 19 and 23 were arrested and held in connection with the attack, while three others were arrested and bailed.

Cops later released CCTV of the gang escaping after they had gate crashed the party.

A father of one of the girls also made an appeal for help.

It emerged at a press conference given by local proscutors that one attacker had suffered "bite wounds to his intimate parts".

One man could be seen hobbling away in the footage.

On Saturday, Judge Angelo Onorati decided to adjourn the hearing until next week despite the two girls and four men all arriving at court in Matera for the hearing.

An investigative source said: "The girls were all set to testify. They want to see justice done for what they went through.

"They have been in Italy ever since the incident two weeks ago and should be back at school.

"One of them had to have her birthday here away from friends and family as they cannot leave before the trial.

"They were ready to testify but the judge said he wanted to adjourn so the eighth person could be in court and his defence laywer said he needed time to prepare."

The four men all deny charges of sexual assault and wounding.

They insist the girls consented, although medical tests have revealed they were drugged.

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Among those arrested is a local rapper named as Micheal Leone.

His lawyer, Francesco Mastro, told the court his client was innocent and he had only been arrested because he had a violent rap song which "described exactly what happened".

8Local rappers Michele Leone and Egidio Andriulli are among the suspectsCredit: YouTube 8Alberto Lopatriello, 22, was arrested on suspicion of rape and wounding 8Giuseppe Gargano, 19, is one of the four men held at a jail in Matera 8Alessandro Zuccaro, 21, is one of the arrested men 8Michele Masiello, 23, is one of the suspects Brit girls ‘gang-raped at Italy party fought off attacker by biting his penis’ as CCTV shows suspects fleeing

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