Italian Mafia boss Messina Denaro, who was captured in January after 30 years on the run, has died, according to media reports. The 61-year-old died in L’Aquila Hospital in central Italy after slipping into an “irreversible coma” over the weekend, as reported by ANSA news agency. Messina Denaro, the former head of the Cosa Nostra Sicilian mob, was seeking treatment for colon cancer at the time of his arrest. He had been transferred to the hospital in recent weeks as his condition worsened.
Messina Denaro, also known as “U Siccu” or the Skinny One, was the protege of Salvatore “the Beast” Riina, the leader of the Corleonesi faction within Cosa Nostra. He gained notoriety for his involvement in numerous mob murders, including the 1992 killings of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, as well as bombings in Rome, Florence, and Milan in 1993 that claimed 10 lives. He was also responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Giuseppe Di Matteo, a 12-year-old boy.
During his time as a fugitive, Messina Denaro evaded capture by communicating through the pizzini system, leaving messages on tiny bits of paper. He had multiple sources of income, including drug trafficking and gambling, both in Italy and abroad.
Despite his notoriety, prosecutors have doubted that Messina Denaro held the title of the Mafia “boss of bosses,” suggesting that he was likely the head of Cosa Nostra in western Sicily. He went into hiding in 1993 but was captured after authorities received a tip about his illness. Medical records leaked to the Italian media revealed that he had undergone surgery for colon cancer in 2020 and 2022 under a false name.
Messina Denaro’s death marks the end of a long and violent chapter in Italian organized crime history.