Vittorio Emanuele In ‘The King Who Never Was,’ Explained: Did Vittorio Kill Dirk Hamer?

Among the plethora of Netflix crime documentaries, the Prince of Naples, Vittorio Emanuele’s story, documented in The King Who Never Was, stands out as an intersection of royalty and scandals. Netflix’s latest release The King Who Never Was showcases the intriguing story surrounding Vittorio Emanuele’s life, which has always been draped with controversies and mystery. As the docu-series peels off the layers of his involvement in one of the most notorious criminal cases, namely the murder of 19-year-old Dirk Hamer, it exposes the mysterious persona of Vittorio Emanuele. As he grants exclusive interviews to the documentary makers, we get to know about his version of the truth, providing us with insights into his perspective. However, even in his candidness throughout the interview, we get subtle indications of concealment, which adds even more complexities to his character. 


Spoilers Ahead

How Did Vittorio Emanuele Get Away With The Murder Of Dirk Hamer?

Born on February 12, 1937, as the last heir to a royal family, Vittorio Emanuele was destined to take over the throne of Italy. However, following the Italian institutional referendum in 1946, which led to the creation of the Italian Republic, his family took shelter in Switzerland, with Vittorio Emanuele living alongside his mother, Marie Jose, while his father, Umberto II, resided in Egypt after a separation from his wife. During his formative years, Vittorio Emanuele’s life seemed removed from the lavish lifestyle of royalty. In the course of time, Vittorio Emanuele fell in love with Marina Doria, a remarkable woman known not only for her beauty but also for her prowess as a water-skiing champion in Switzerland.  


Yet, a series of controversies started surrounding Vittorio Emanuele’s name. Allegations of antisemitism, connections to the exploitation of sex workers, and other unsavory claims swirled around the Prince, marking his name with notoriety. However, amidst these controversies, one incident would prove to be the most chilling and horrifying of all—the murder case of Dirk Hamer. After the untimely death of Dirk Hamer, Vittorio Emanuele was arrested in 1978, but in a twist of fate, in 1991, he was acquitted of the criminal charges related to the murder, though he faced indictments for possessing firearms. Dirk Hamer’s sister, a former German model and actress named Birgit Hamer, could not find solace in the lenient punishment Vittorio received. Driven by the desire to seek justice for her deceased brother, she started a relentless campaign spanning almost four decades to unveil the truth behind the tragic event, hoping to bring closure to and accountability for the life lost due to the Prince’s unnecessary wrath.

During the summer of 1978, the Savoy family, comprising Vittorio Emanuele, his wife Marina, and their son Emanuele Filiberto, spent a delightful family holiday on the serene island of Cavallo, situated along the southern coast of Corsica, France. Little did they know that a fateful event would soon unfold, changing their lives forever. During this summer, a group of young Italian friends, including the German former model and actress Birgit Hamer and her brother Dirk, went on their trip to Cavallo. However, the exuberant nature of the group naturally brought about a certain level of noise, which did not sit well with Vittorio, who was immensely frustrated by their presence on “his” island. The group had also borrowed a dinghy attached to Vittorio’s boat, which further agitated him. But perhaps the aspect that frustrated him most was the fact that most of them were Italian. Due to his prolonged detachment with his native country, Italy, perhaps Vittorio’s mind had harbored such resentment toward them. Later that night on the island, when everyone was settled into their respective boats for rest, Vittorio made a fateful decision. Claiming that his intention was merely to “scare them,” Vittorio retrieved his rifle and confronted one of the young men, Nicky Pende. In a moment driven by anger and frustration, Vittorio fired two shots. While one was evaded by its intended target, the other hit Dirk Hamer, who lay sleeping in a nearby boat. The bullet injured Dirk in the stomach, causing severe swelling and profuse bleeding. He was swiftly rushed to the hospital, but despite undergoing a staggering 19 surgeries, Dirk tragically succumbed to his injuries.


 Immediately following the incident, Vittorio Emanuele was incarcerated. However, to Birgit’s dismay, he was soon released, prompting her relentless pursuit of justice for her late brother. After 13 years of waiting, Vittorio faced another trial, offering a glimmer of hope that justice would finally be served. Unfortunately, the court’s final judgment failed to align with Birgit’s fervent desire to see the untitled prince apprehended and held accountable behind bars indefinitely. Instead of focusing solely on the loss of an innocent life, the trial took an unexpected turn, introducing various issues that clouded the case. Lawyer Isolabella brought forth a new narrative, claiming the discovery of another firearm on the boat, which further raised mysteries surrounding the case. Allegations of additional gunshots being heard that fateful night raised doubts and posed new questions, casting uncertainty on whether Vittorio’s shot was the one that struck Dirk and ended his life. Ultimately, Vittorio escaped any incriminating charges of murder, evading legal consequences for his actions. However, years later, Birgit obtained a tape-recording containing Vittorio’s confession to killing Dirk—a shocking revelation that she courageously shared with the world. Despite the truth becoming widely known, Vittorio Emanuele managed to evade judicial punishment for his misdeeds.

The narrative surrounding Vittorio Emanuele’s case raises profound concerns about the flaws and shortcomings of the justice system. The case not only put Vittorio Emanuele into the spotlight of media scrutiny but also raised profound questions about power, privilege, and accountability. Born into the prestigious House of Savoy, a dynasty that had held reign over Italy for countless generations, the legacy of opulence and privilege shaped his early years, granting him a life devoid of significant struggles. His character was far from one-dimensional, marked by a series of worst circumstances and ill-fated choices. Power, an ever-present force in Vittorio’s life, seemed to act as an impenetrable shield, protecting him from the gravest consequences of his actions. While his deeds were undeniably chilling and fatal, his outward demeanor betrayed no sense of remorse. Rather, he exhibited the mannerisms and refinement of a gentleman, presenting himself with a sophistication that successfully manages to bury the darker aspects of his character behind his smile.


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Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda hails from a medical background, yet her journey is to cross the boundaries of medicine and survive in the cinematic world. The surrealistic beauty of cinema and art has attracted her from a very young age. She loves to write poems, songs, and stories, but her dream is to write films someday. She has also worked as a painter, but nothing attracts her more than cinema. Through her writings, she wants to explore the world of cinema more and more and take her readers on the same ride.

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