Missing Italian Woman Artist Found Dead in Turkey

Police have found the body of an Italian artist and activist who went missing while hitchhiking in Turkey dressed in a wedding gown to appeal for peace, officials said Saturday.

A man suspected of killing the artist, Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo, 33, was detained late Friday and charged with murder Saturday, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

The woman was last seen on March 31 in the industrial city of Gebze while hitchhiking to Israel in the wedding dress as part of her "Brides on Tour" project aimed at pleading for peace in conflict areas.

Police found her naked body hidden in bushes in a forested area near Gebze, northwest Turkey, after questioning the suspect late Friday, the governor's office said.

The artist, also known as Pippa Bacca, was hitchhiking to the Palestinian territories with a friend, who was also wearing a wedding gown.

The two left di Marineo's hometown of Milan on March 8 and hitchhiked to Turkey together. They separated in Istanbul shortly before di Marineo went missing, with the aim of reuniting in Beirut, Lebanon.

Police tracked down the suspect when he switched on di Marineo's mobile phone, having inserted his own SIM card, an Italian Embassy official said. The official asked not to be named because he was not authorized to give information on the police investigation.

The Dogan and state-run Anatolia news agencies said the woman had been strangled.

The Italian Embassy official would not confirm the reports, saying an autopsy was under way.

Anatolia identified the suspect as 38-year-old Murat Karatas and said he had previously been convicted for theft.

One of di Marineo's sisters, who was in Turkey to search for the artist, identified the body.

"Her travels were for an artistic performance and to give a message of peace and of trust, but not everyone deserves trust," another sister, Maria, was quoted as saying in Milan by Italian news agency ANSA.

"We weren't particularly worried because she had been hitchhiking for a lot of time, and thus was capable of avoiding risky situations," she said, according to ANSA. "She was a determined person when it had to do with working for art."