Italian ref and girlfriend stabbed to death as police launch investigation

Italian referee Daniele De Santis and his girlfriend Eleonora Manta were brutally killed in their home in Lecce on Monday.

Police have launched a murder investigation but it has left the Italian footballing world in utter shock and in mourning.

The 33-year-old mostly officiated in Serie C while his partner, 30, was a model.

Reports from Italy claim that witnesses saw a man running from the scene with a knife but as of yet, there have been no arrests and the individual is still at large.

According to Italian publication La Repubblica, the body of De Santis was discovered on the staircase of his apartment complex on the second floor.

Manta's body was found inside the home, while the report states that CCTV has picked up a person leaving the vicinity.

However, the killer had his face covered and had a backpack over his shoulders, making identification difficult.

Marcello Nicchi, head of the Italian Referee Association, was aghast by the news and has been deep in mourning.

"I am shocked by this tragedy," he told Gazzetto dello Sport.

"We still know very little about the case. The thing I can say is that we are in close contact with the family and with all the people in the section [of the association]."

Echoing those words was the Italian Professional Football League.

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"No words can describe our pain for the premature death of referee Daniele De Santis and his partner Eleonora," they tweeted on Tuesday.

"We want to remember him with the smile of when he was on the pitch and for his great passion for Serie C, which he considered a family."

De Santis was set to officiate Wednesday's clash between Monopoli and Modena in the first round of the Coppa Italia, which would have been the 131st match he had taken charge of.

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