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Notorious Sicilian mafia leader dies in prison – media

Matteo Messina Denaro, who was serving several life sentences, has succumbed to colon cancer, Italian outlets say

FILE PHOTO: Italy’s mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro being escorted out of a police station in Palermo. ©  AFP / Italian Сarabinieri Press Office

Infamous Italian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, who was arrested earlier this year after three decades on the run, has died of cancer at the age of 61, the local media has reported.

The passing of Messina Denaro, who had been serving several life sentences for his involvement in numerous murders, was announced by Italy’s national news agency ANSA early on Monday.

The public broadcaster Rai said that the Cosa Nostra boss had succumbed to colon cancer at the San Salvatore hospital in the city of L’Aquila in central Italy. He had recently been transferred there from a maximum security prison due to a deterioration of his health. Messina Denaro reportedly fell into a coma on Friday and never regained consciousness.

L’Aquila Mayor Pierluigi Biondi has confirmed Messina Denaro’s death, saying that it “puts the end to a story of violence and blood.” It was “the epilogue of an existence lived without remorse or repentance, a painful chapter of the recent history of our nation,” he insisted.

While a fugitive, Messina Denaro was found guilty in absentia of numerous crimes, including his participation in the assassination of prominent anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992; bombings in Rome, Florence, and Milan in 1993 that killed ten people; and the kidnapping and murder of an 11-year-old boy in an attempt to dissuade his father from testifying against the mob. Police believe he committed his first murder at the age of 18.

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Messina Denaro, whose nickname was ‘Diabolik’ and had been dubbed ‘the last Godfather’ by the press, had been on the run since 1993. He was finally arrested this past January at a private health clinic in Palermo, on the Italian island of Sicily.

According to medical records that had been leaked to the media, Messina Denaro had undergone surgeries for colon cancer in 2020 and 2022 under an alias.

He reportedly refused to cooperate with the authorities and didn’t provide any information to investigators.

The newspaper Corriere della Sera said that Messina Denaro will get a “quick and discrete” burial in his hometown of Castelvetrano. The ceremony won’t be religious as the Catholic Church does not provide funeral rites for mafia members. The paper also reported that the ceremony will likely be filmed by police for investigative purposes.

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