Two lions kept on a farm in northern Italy by a retired railroad worker escaped from their cage Friday and killed two people, one of them the owner's 62-year-old sister, police said.

Police said the mangled bodies were found in the yard of the farm near Gallarate, an industrial city northwest of Milan, by a neighbor who was alerted by the lions' owner Duilio Scotti, 67, a retired employee of the state-run railroads.Scotti, a patient in a nearby hospital, became alarmed when his sister did not visit him Friday morning.

Police identified the victims as Esmerina Scotti, 62, the owner's sister, and Marcello Cerutti, 18.

Carabinieri, or paramilitary national police, started a hunt for the two lions and quickly found them near the farm buildings. A veterinarian fired tranquilizer darts into the lions, which were then returned to their cage.

"In this area a lot of people keep zoo animals in their homes," a Carabinieri officer told reporters. "Last year we had to shoot an adult lion that escaped in order to prevent it harming anyone.

"On that occasion we asked the mayor to issue an order banning the keeping of wild animals near inhabited areas, but nothing was done," he said.