Sicilian mafia boss who killed enough people to fill a cemetery dies of cancer

Sicilian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, dubbed the “Last Godfather” by many in the Italian press, has died.

The 61-year-old, who had been arrested in January after spending three decades on the run, died shortly before 2am on September 25 at the San Salvatore de L’Aquila hospital in the central Italian region of Abruzzo.

He had been staying there since August 8 under strict police surveillance and had gone into a coma on Friday.

Prior to entering a coma, Messina Denaro met some of his relatives and gave his surname to Lorenza Alagna, a daughter he conceived while in hiding.

The girl, who had first met her father in April when he was behind bars, remained at his bedside on his last few days, Italian news agency ANSA said.

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The man, who was held responsible for numerous killings and bombings over the decades, was suffering from colon cancer, diagnosed in 2020 while he was still wanted by the Italian police.

The mobster, deemed one of the most powerful bosses in the Sicilian mafia, also known as Cosa Nostra, had spent his years in hiding mostly in western Sicily, and his need for cancer treatment – which he was receiving under an alias as an out-patient at a clinic in Palermo – was a key element in his capture.

Following his arrest, Messina Denaro underwent chemotherapy and two surgeries linked to his cancer.

Given his precarious health conditions following the latest operation, the doctors decided to provide him with end-of-life care at the hospital where he eventually died rather than send Messina Denaro back to his cell at a maximum-security prison at L’Aquila.

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While the mafia boss is claimed to have once said to have killed “enough people to fill a cemetery”, following his arrest he even denied being part of Cosa Nostra and pledged to never collaborate with prosecutors.

The ruthless boss had been tried in absentia and convicted of dozens of murders. He was believed to have helped plan the killings of beloved anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in two massacres that also resulted in the deaths of their security officers and Mr Falcone’s wife.

The deaths of Mr Falcone and Mr Borsellino in the early 1990s shook Italy to the core and sparked a major crackdown on Cosa Nostra.

He was also believed to be involved in the 1993 bombings that targeted the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, an art gallery in Milan and two churches in Rome, which killed in total 10 people, injured 106 more and caused huge damages to the local artistic heritage.

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Messina Denaro was also convicted in relation to the kidnapping in 1993 of 12-year-old Giuseppe Di Matteo, which aimed at discouraging his father Mario Santo Di Matteo from helping investigators with their mafia probes.

The brother of young Di Matteo, who was held for two years before being brutally murdered, said the death of the mafia boss doesn’t bring him any relief.

Following his arrest, Messina Denaro had claimed: “Let me say one thing, maybe the one I care about the most: I am not a saint, but I am not involved in the killing of the child.”

Nicola Di Matteo, who following the arrest of Messina Denaro had expressed his wish the Cosa Nostra boss could live “as long as possible to suffer for a long time”, said after the news of his death broke: “You can’t wish death on anybody if you have some humanity, but had he remained alive suffering he could have maybe understood the enormous pain he had inflicted upon us.”

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