true crime

Maria Basso died after eating spaghetti. It was allegedly part of a bigger plan.

There's a case in Italy right now that has captured the attention and sympathy of the public, and it's one that police have been working around the clock to solve.

Investigators are trying to determine whether an elderly Italian woman was murdered via a spaghetti dish she was served by a younger relative.

Maria Basso, 80, died shortly after being taken to a restaurant in Sicily by her great niece, Paola Pepe, in December 2022.

Maria was vulnerable to choking if she did not eat finely chopped or pureed food. Despite this, Paola, 58, took her great aunt for a meal to the restaurant. Paola ordered her great aunt a plate of spaghetti and allegedly forced her to consume it. Within two days, Maria was dead. Investigators say the pasta was lodged in Maria's airways, which resulted in her death.

Initially, the incident seemed to be a tragic accident. But then suspicions began to emerge.

Watch the trailer for True Crime Conversations. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

A police investigation was launched after officials found Paola had amended her great aunt's will just days before the meal took place.

Maria did not have any children of her own, therefore her extended relatives — including Paola — were set to potentially receive part of her inheritance. Records show Maria had intended to leave the majority of her $834,000 fortune, which she had accumulated during a long career with Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to a Christian youth education scheme.


Her great niece is said to have made several trips to the bank where Maria held her finances, though Paola's intense interest aroused some concern from the bank's director and officials. This led them to file a complaint with the public prosecutor's office, reports Italian media outlet Corriere della Sera.

Other relatives of Maria's told investigators they had become suspicious after Paola turned up at Maria's 80th birthday party out of the blue and disappeared with her for hours afterwards.

Police claim Paola then moved her great aunt to a care home some 1,300 kilometres away without telling their other family members. She also allegedly failed to take any of her relative's personal belongings or medication with her to Maria's new residence.

Court records show that Maria had signed documents giving her great niece power of attorney, entitling Paola to make decisions on Maria's behalf and to manage her assets. Paola was subsequently named as sole heir to her great aunt's assets in a new will signed just two days before her death.

On that fateful day in December 2022, Paola sent a picture of her great aunt seated at the Sicilian restaurant, in front of the spaghetti dish, to concerned relatives who had asked her for information on their loved one's whereabouts and wellbeing. 

Paola has insisted upon her innocence, saying Maria's death was nothing more than a tragic accident.

She is now out on bail under house arrest and awaiting trial.

Feature Image: Supplied/Courts.