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U.S. tourists get life for murdering Italian cop

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Two American tourists were sentenced to life in prison by an Italian court on Wednesday (May 5) for the 2019 murder of a policeman near their hotel in Rome, in a case that shook the nation.

Finnegan Lee Elder, who was 19 at the time, had admitted to stabbing Mario Cerciello Rega in the early hours of July 26, 2019, while his friend Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, then 18, was tussling with another police officer.

However, the pair say they had acted in self defense because they thought the two policemen, who were not in uniform at the time, were thugs out to get them after a botched attempt to buy drugs.

Elder shook his head as the verdict was read out, while Cerciello Rega's widow Rosa Maria Esilio wept.

She spoke outside the court.

"This verdict is the result of a long and painful process that will not bring Mario back to me, it will not bring him back to life and it will not give us back our life together. Today is the first step towards a new justice and Mario will be an example for those who need justice."

The court rejected the Californians' testimony and handed down the toughest punishment possible in Italy.

The pair were also found guilty of attempted extortion, assault, resisting a public official and carrying an attack-style knife without just cause.

Under Italy's penal code, criminals serving life terms can be eligible for parole after 21 years, if they have a good behavior record.

The defense lawyers immediately announced they would appeal.

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