Sicilian mafia boss Messina Denaro is dead: Italian media

25 Sep 2023 10:27am
This handout video grab taken and released by the Italian Carabinieri Press Office on January 16, 2023 shows the transfer of Italy's top wanted mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro (C) from the Carabinieri police station of San Lorenzo in Palermo, to an undisclosed location, following his arrest in his native Sicily on January 16, 2023 after 30 years on the run. - FILE PIX by AFP
This handout video grab taken and released by the Italian Carabinieri Press Office on January 16, 2023 shows the transfer of Italy's top wanted mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro (C) from the Carabinieri police station of San Lorenzo in Palermo, to an undisclosed location, following his arrest in his native Sicily on January 16, 2023 after 30 years on the run. - FILE PIX by AFP
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ROME - Sicilian Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, captured in January after three decades on the run, has died in hospital in central Italy, the ANSA news agency reported Monday.

The 61-year-old had colon cancer, for which he had sought treatment while on the run -- a decision that brought him to the attention of the authorities, who arrested him at a clinic in Palermo.

Messina Denaro was one of the most ruthless bosses in Cosa Nostra, the real-life Sicilian crime syndicate depicted in the Godfather movies.

He was convicted by the courts of involvement in the murder of anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone in 1992 and in deadly bombings in Rome, Florence and Milan in 1993.

One of his six life sentences was also handed down for the kidnapping and subsequent murder of the 12-year-old son of a witness in the Falcone case.

Messina Denaro disappeared in the summer of 1993, and spent the next 30 years on the run as the Italian state cracked down on the Sicilian mob.

But he remained the top name on Italy's most-wanted list and, increasingly became a figure of legend.

In a stunning swoop, he was arrested on January 16, 2023, as he visited a health clinic where he was being treated using a fake identity.

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He was detained in a high-security jail in L'Aquila, central Italy, where he continued treatment for his cancer in his cell.

In August, Messina Denaro was moved to the inmates' ward of the local hospital, where his condition had declined in recent days.

This weekend, media reports said he was in an "irreversible coma". Medics had stopped feeding him and he had asked not to be resuscitated, they added.

After Messina Denaro went on the run, there was intense speculation that he had gone abroad -- and he likely did.

But in the end, he was found to have been staying near his hometown of Castelvetrano in western Sicily.

Investigators had been combing the Sicilian countryside for Messina Denaro for years, searching for hideouts and wiretapping members of his family and his friends.

They were heard discussing the medical problems of an unnamed person who suffered from cancer, as well as eye problems -- a person who detectives became sure was Messina Denaro.

They used a national health system database to search for male patients of the right age and medical history, and eventually closed in.

But while his arrest brought some relief for his victims, the mob boss always maintained his silence.

In interviews in custody since being arrested, Messina Denaro even denied he was a member of the Cosa Nostra. - AFP

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