A 74-year-old man has been arrested in England after a British grandmother was found knifed to death at her Italian home yesterday.
The man was arrested by police officers in Shepshed, Leicestershire, last night in connection with the murder of Michele Faiers in Italy.
Michele, 66, was discovered lying in a pool of blood in her first-floor bedroom by her friend inside her rural home in Verratti village near Casoli, a town in eastern Italy, on Wednesday morning.
The mother-of-two was found on the floor next to her bed, dressed in her underwear and covered in a white sheet with just her feet poking out, an investigative source said told MailOnline.
Italian police were hunting Michele’s partner Michael Whitbread, 74, a retired IT consultant originally from Torquay, after he allegedly left the scene in the couple’s white Jeep Compass before police could question him.
Colonel Alceo Greco, of Italy’s carabinieri police force, said Mr Whitbread is a prime suspect in Michele’s murder and is feared to have fled Italy. Police described him as ‘intelligent, competent and able’.
Leicestershire police said today they had arrested a 74-year-old man in connection with Michele’s murder last night and he remains in custody.
Detective Inspector David Greenhalgh, from EMSOU, said: ‘We are continuing to work with authorities both in the United Kingdom and Italy regarding this incident.
‘Ms Faiers’ family have asked for privacy at this time and I would ask that this is respected.’
Michele Faiers (pictured with her partner Michael Whitbread) was found fatally stabbed in her idyllic Italian home on Wednesday
A 74-year-old man, who is a British national, was arrested by police officers in Shepshed, a town in Leicestershire, in connection with the murder of Michele Faiers (pictured) in Italy
Colonel Alceo Greco, of Italy’s carabinieri police force, said Ms Faiers had probably died at least three days ago and her partner Michael Whitbread (pictured), 74, is the prime suspect
Michele Faiers, 66, was found lying on her first-floor bedroom in a pool of blood by her friend inside her rural home in a village near Casoli, a town in eastern Italy on Wednesday morning. Pictured: The home this morning with police tape surrounding it
Michele, a mother of two daughters, was found by friend Petrina Keay who had travelled from the nearby commune of Palombaro, where 100 British expats live, after they called her yesterday morning but received no response.
Ms Keay had not heard from her for three days and had become increasingly concerned so decided to check up on her, police said.
Neighbours said they heard her screaming in horror at finding the 66-year-old in a pool of blood on the floor next to her bed and called the police who arrived at the home in the countryside.
Michele was stabbed seven times in the back, police confirmed to MailOnline, though conflicting reports gave differing accounts of how many times she was stabbed and precisely where.
‘She was found on the floor in her bedroom next to the bed, dressed in underwear and covered in a white sheet,’ an investigative source said.
‘There was no sign of a struggle and she was possibly stabbed in her sleep but we await the forensic examination to find out more.’
Michele was found by police in her first-floor bedroom and the keys to the house were reportedly still in the front door.
Police have issued an ‘all ports alert’ and are hunting for Mr Whitbread who is thought to be in the couple’s white Jeep Compass which is missing.
Investigators said while Mr Whitbread is the prime suspect in Michele’s murder, ‘there is no smoking gun here’. Police told MailOnline they had yet to find the murder weapon but were waiting for the autopsy to confirm what was used to stab Michele.
The couple had been living in the house in the countryside near the commune of Palombara, where 100 British expats live, for the past four years and were described by local residents as ‘very private’.
Local residents of the village near Casoli described the couple as ‘very private’
She was found inside her rural home in Verratti village near Casoli, a town in eastern Italy, on Wednesday morning
The house was still taped off in the countryside near the town of Casoli on Thursday
Meanwhile at the scene the house was still taped off and a British registered campervan was parked alongside the property with another van which has Italian plates
Meanwhile at the scene the house was still taped off and a British registered campervan was parked alongside the property with another van which has Italian plates on Thursday
Neighbour Luana D’Angelo told MailOnline: ‘They were quite private and didn’t really interact with the community as they couldn’t speak much Italian but they would always smile and say hello.
‘They had three dogs and the last time I saw them a week ago they were in the garden in front of their house but there was nothing untoward.
‘I just can’t believe he could something like that if it was him because they always seemed so happy together.’
Medical examiners are running forensic tests to investigate how long Michele was deceased before she was discovered by her heartbroken friend. It is believed she died on Saturday.
The tragedy comes just months after Michele returned home to celebrate her daughter’s wedding.
Before moving to Italy Michele and Michael ran Divers Down scuba school in Torquay, Devon. At the smart terraced home the couple shared in the town, neighbours spoke of their shock at the news.
One – who has lived on the same street for 20 years – said: ‘She was here for her daughter’s wedding in September. I didn’t see Michael with her. She was obviously so happy at the wedding, this has just come as a complete shock.
‘It must be awful for the daughter, she’s only just got married and is having to deal with something like this.
Ms Faiers and Mr Whitbread had been living in the house in the countryside near Palombara for the past four years
Pictures show the couple enjoying a winter break, skiing in nearby mountains and in one snap she is seen with her daughter Harriet
‘I find it very hard to believe he was involved, they seemed such a lovely couple. I can’t imagine he would have done that.
‘I wouldn’t have thought he had that in him. I just can’t believe it. Michael was the nicest guy you could ever meet.
‘She was just a lovely person, they moved out to Italy to retire. I don’t know why they ended up in Italy but they both loved diving. He worked as an instructor and they used to own the dive school at Babbacombe before selling up.’
Petrina Keay, who discovered Michele’s lifeless body at the couple’s Italian home, is being comforted by friends.
One expat pal Phil Adams said: ‘She is absolutely devastated. Can you imagine ? She went in there and saw everything.
‘All we know is that she hadn’t heard from Michele for a few days and went up the house to check on her.
‘When she got there the keys were in the front door because that’s very common here and she went in and found the scene.
‘She called for help and now Michael has disappeared in their car and everyone is just completely devastated by what’s happened.
‘Petrina went in and found the body and then her screams alerted neighbours and the police were called.
‘They weren’t married but there was talk of marriage.’
Officials said that around ‘fifty to sixty’ British families live in area with many of them pensioners.
Sources in Italy said Michele’s family were expected to travel there in the next day or so to formally identify the body and an autopsy will be carried out at the local hospital in nearby Chieti.
Michele made her last post on her Instagram page on October 25, when three pictures of a spectacular sunset taken from the terrace of her house were uploaded.
She captioned it ‘another beautiful sunset’ and among the people who liked it was her partner Mr Whitbread.
Other pictures show the couple enjoying a winter break, skiing in nearby mountains and in one snap she is seen with her daughter Harriet.
The couple also enjoyed several diving holidays together and Mr Whitbread is believed to be an experienced scuba diver.
Michele was found by police in her first-floor bedroom and the keys to the house were reportedly still in the front door
A local plumber who the couple employed confirmed the Facebook identities to MailOnline and said: ‘I just can’t believe it. They seemed such a perfect couple. We stayed in touch and would message each other every now and then.
‘I live about 40km away and I heard the news from my friend who lives across the road from Michele and Michael. She was found stabbed and he’s now missing. I’m shocked.
‘The area is full of British people and I have numerous British clients. They employ me to help install boilers and water pipes on their properties.
‘I last saw Michele and Michael a year ago when I came to check the boiler. They had bought some abandoned properties in front of their house and were going to do them up. I just can’t believe it.’
Meanwhile at the scene the house was still taped off and a British registered campervan was parked alongside the property with another van which has Italian plates.
Around the house are olive trees, lemon groves and cumquat plants and in a sign of the couple’s British links a dartboard is on outside wall.
The nearby commune of Palombaro is home to 100 British expats who moved to the area to buy and renovate abandoned farmhouses.
The wider region of Abruzzo is popular with middle class Britons who have moved there because of the cheap cost of living or have holiday homes there.