Mummified Body of 70-Year-Old Woman Found Sitting at Kitchen Table, 2 Years After She Died

Mummified Woman
Marinella Beretta.Handout

The disturbing story of Marinella Beretta has ignited calls for better care of the elderly in Italy.

The mummified body of an elderly woman was found sitting at the kitchen table of her home in northern Italy, police said. 

Marinella Beretta, 70, had apparently been dead for more than two years when authorities discovered her remains. Officers had arrived at her cottage near Lake Como because high winds threatened to topple trees in her overgrown garden, according to local reports.

The woman's disturbing story ignited calls for better care of the elderly in a country where nearly 40 percent of people over the age of 75 live alone. According to a 2018 survey, the respondents also said they had no living relatives or friends to support them in times of need.

"What happened to Mrs. Marinella Beretta in Como, the forgotten loneliness, hurts consciences," Italy's Family Minister Elena Bonetti wrote on Facebook. "Taking care of each other is the experience of families, institutions, and our citizens: no one has to be left alone," she said.

Neighbors said they had not seen Beretta for two-and-a-half years and assumed she had moved away when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

She was "loneliness personified", wrote Massimo Gramellini in a front-page editorial for Corriere della Sera, Italy's most popular daily newspaper.

"Many of us still have memories of the chaotic, branched families of peasant Italy," he wrote. "Instead, the modern family is reduced. People die alone. And we live alone, which is almost worse." 

Police said there were no indications of foul play.

"The mystery of Marinella's invisible life behind the closed gate of her cottage teaches us a terrible lesson," said Il Messaggero, a Rome-based newspaper. "The real sadness is not that the others did not notice her death. It is that they did not realize Marinella Beretta was alive."

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