Italian Mafia kingpin Matteo Messina Denaro, notorious for his involvement in multiple heinous crimes, including orchestrating the 1992 murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, has passed away due to colon cancer, authorities confirmed on Monday.
Messina Denaro, aged 61, had been battling cancer when he was apprehended after 30 years on the run. In recent weeks, as his health deteriorated, he was moved from a high-security prison in central Italy to a hospital.
On Friday, Messina Denaro fell into a coma from which he never recovered, eventually succumbing to the disease.
Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini expressed mixed sentiments, acknowledging the need for compassion but emphasizing his lack of remorse through an Instagram post.
The Italian press had dubbed Messina Denaro as “the last Godfather.”
He was found guilty of a litany of crimes, including the 1993 bombings in Rome, Florence, and Milan that claimed ten lives, as well as the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Giuseppe Di Matteo, a 12-year-old boy, to deter his father from testifying against the mafia.
Despite his capture earlier this year, Messina Denaro is believed to have remained tight-lipped and provided no significant information to law enforcement.
Medical records leaked to the Italian media revealed that he had undergone colon cancer surgeries in 2020 and 2022 under a false identity.
His health had deteriorated considerably leading up to his arrest.
Born into a mafia-affiliated family in Castelvetrano, Sicily, in 1962, Messina Denaro followed in his father’s footsteps from a young age, engaging in criminal activities as a teenager.
He earned the nickname “U Siccu” (The Skinny One) and became the protege of Salvatore “the Beast” Riina, who was known as the “boss of bosses” of Cosa Nostra.
Messina Denaro, who once claimed to have committed enough murders to fill a cemetery, went into hiding in 1993 as turncoats began to reveal his role in the mafia.
However, investigators believed he remained in Sicily for the most part, often near his mother’s residence.
His communication with other mafia members involved the use of coded messages written on small pieces of paper known as “pizzini.”
He never married but had several lovers, and he had a daughter whom he had never met. Reports suggested that they met after his capture, and she agreed to take his surname.
Messina Denaro’s body is expected to be returned to Sicily for a private funeral.
Despite his notoriety, prosecutors had always questioned his status as the ultimate “boss of bosses,” positing that he was more likely the head of Cosa Nostra in western Sicily.