Matteo Messina Denaro, one of the big bosses of the Sicilian mafia, died in prison at the age of 61. He was arrested in Palermo, Italy, in January after 30 years on the run.
The criminal had suffered from colon cancer for years. It was a deterioration in his condition that caused his death, according to the mayor of L’Aquila, a municipality east of Rome, where he was hospitalized.
This ruthless killer is best known for his role in the assassination of judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992.
It was the treatment that Matteo Messina Denaro received for his illness that allowed the police to find him after decades of searching. He was arrested earlier this year when he went to a clinic in Sicily, where he received chemotherapy treatments under a false name.
He continued treatment for his illness at the high-security prison where he was being held.
According to local media, he had been in a deep coma since Friday. He reportedly asked doctors not to try to resuscitate him.
I could have filled a cemetery
Nicknamed Diabolik, Matteo Messina Denaro was one of the leaders of the Cosa Nostra, a powerful Italian mafia.
Known as a merciless killer, he did not hide his violent accomplishments. With the people I killed myself, I could fill a cemetery, he boasted to a friend, according to the Italian press.
The mafioso had been sentenced to life in prison several times.
Among other things, he was involved in two bomb attacks in January and July 1992. These assassinations caused the deaths of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, judges hated by the Italian mafia for having led a major trial in 1986 against the Cosa Nostra . Four hundred and seventy-five mafiosi were accused and several were convicted.
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Judge Giovanni Falcone’s car was blown up by the explosion of a powerful bomb placed on a highway near Palermo in 1992.
Photo : Associated Press / Bruno Mosconi
Matteo Messina Denaro also participated in the murder of Vincenzo Milazzo, the head of the Alcamo clan, in 1992. He also strangled the latter’s companion. Both bodies were found in the woods.
He then continued his murderous salvo in 1993 by organizing attacks in Florence, Milan and Rome, which left ten dead and around a hundred injured.
He also participated in the kidnapping of young Giuseppe Di Matteo. The objective was to convince the child’s father to withdraw his testimony in the trial on the attack of Judge Falcone. Little Giuseppe was finally killed after 779 days of detention.
Matteo Messina Denaro is one of the last Sicilian mafia godfathers to be arrested.
After his disappearance, the nearsighted man, known for wearing thick glasses, lived in an apartment near his hometown of Castelvetrano, in western Sicily. He had false papers and pretended to be a doctor.
The Italian police increased the number of arrests and seizures of property in his entourage in the early 2000s in order to find him. It took 20 years for their strategy to bear fruit as the mafioso benefited from a significant support network.
Before him, his accomplices Salvatore “Toto” Riina and Bernardo Provenzano found themselves behind bars. They both died in prison.
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Mafioso Bernardo Provenzano was arrested in April 2006 by Italian police. He was nicknamed “The Tractor”.
Photo: AP / Luca Bruno
However, these arrests did not allow the Italian authorities to unravel all the secrets of the Cosa Nostra. Matteo Messina Denaro, like his colleagues before him, has remained silent about his past. He even reportedly denied any involvement with the Sicilian mafia.
He therefore takes heavy secrets with him to his grave.
According to Italian media, Matteo Messina Denaro will be buried in Sicily alongside his father, Don Ciccio, later this week.
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With information from Agence France-Presse and Associated Press
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