At 4:00 am that morning, Italian television personality and host of 'Portobello', Enzo Tortora, was arrested in Rome for his alleged association with the Camorra and involvement in drug trafficking.
The image that bounced off Italian screens was that of a handcuffed Tortora being taken away by two police officials.
The popular presenter was in a state of complete shock, but managed to declare: “Sono innocente, questo è un mostruoso errore giudiziario” (I am innocent, this is a monstruous miscarriage of justice).
Born in Genoa in 1928, Tortora began his television career with 'Telematch' and 'Campanile Sera', before moving on to present programmes such as 'Il Gambero' and 'La Domenica Sportiva'.
After a long break from RAI in the 1970s, Tortora reached the highlight of his career, going on to break all of the records of that era with his innovative show 'Portobello'.
The interactive programme allowed the audience to call in to buy and sell objects, propose their own ideas and inventions, or to find lost friends, family or loved ones they had not seen in years.
On that fateful day in 1983, the television presenter was in Rome to sign the contract for the new season of the praised programme.
Instead, Tortora stumbled upon a truly Kafkaesque nightmare, becoming accused of being a “supporting” member of the Nuova Camorra Organizzata, the criminal organisation headed by Raffaele Cutolo.
Along with that of Tortora, a further 855 arrest warrants were issued in a “maxi-retata” (mass round-up).
According to the prosecutors of Naples who issued the warrants, Lucio di Pietro and Felice di Persia, the project should have given a “colpo mortale” (fatal blow) to the Camorra.
The accusations against Tortora were based on the declarations of turncoats Giovanni Pandico, Giovanni Melluso and Pasquale Barra, along with eight other defendants in the trial of the Nuova Camorra Organizzata.
The only objective evidence that the investigators were able to track down was based on a little black book which was found in the home of a Camorra member, with a name written in pen alongside a phone number.
Later investigations found that the name was not “Tortora”, but rather “Tortona” and that the phone number was not that of the famous presenter.
Italy was divided into two: those who believed that Tortora was guilty and those who advocated his innocence.
At first, many newspapers sided with the former, often driven by feelings of hostility towards Tortora.
For example, journalist and editor, Vittorio Feltri recalls: “Ammetto che mi stava antipatico e davanti a una persona che ci è antipatica, quasi quasi speriamo che sia anche colpevole. Poi una sera mi sono letto gli atti processuali…mi è ventuto il dubbio che fosse innocente” (I admit that I found him unlikeable, and before an unlikeable person, we almost hope that he is guilty. Then one evening I read the case files…I started to have doubts; perhaps he actually was innocent).
The presenter remained in prison for seven months before being granted house arrest, and in August, 1984, he was elected into the European Parliament by the Radical Party.
At the end of a long and tormenting but successful court hearing, Tortora was fully acquitted on September 15, 1986, by the Court of Appeal of Naples.
On June 17, 1987, exactly four years after his arrest, the Supreme Court definitively confirmed Tortora’s innocence.
Tortora returned to the screen on February 20, 1987, resuming his programme 'Portobello'.
Sadly, Tortora enjoyed only a brief return to normality, and died from cancer on May 18, 1988.