In his government photograph, Antonino Burrafato (photo, below right) has something of the look of actor Jon Cryer, wearing a uniform and a funny hat. His lips are pursed as though he is about to ask the man behind the camera to get on with it. The eyes are steely and piercing, someone who does not suffer fools gladly. He looks more like a Jefe than simply a prison guard. The image was taken for his warrant from the state; you can just make out part of the official stamp at the bottom left-hand side of the photo.
He worked in the judiciary system, the Polizia Penitenziaria, one of the seven different police forces in operation across the state. Per capita, there are twice as many police officers in Italy as can be found in Great Britain, a country with a similar population. Maybe Italians just like to be immersed in bureaucracy. Or maybe there are just a lot more criminals on the loose that need to be captured and secured.
He held the rank of vice brigadiere, deputy sergeant, at Cassa Circondariale Cavallaci, a penitentiary on the island of Sicily.
On the day he died, he was 49 years old.
Midday, June 29th 1982.
A thousand kilometres to the north of Sicily, in the Estadio Sarriá Stadium, Barcelona, Spain, Italy was playing Argentina, winning 2-1. They would go on to win their third Soccer World Cup title.
By noon, the temperature across Sicily would reach 100 degrees Celsius. In the town of Termini Imerese, at the base of the Madonie Mountains and overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, thirty-five minutes by car, south of Palermo City, most everyone was enjoying an early siesta, or relaxing after lunch, or more than likely, watching their television sets, waiting to cheer on their soccer-mad country to victory.
This was part of the island that had hardly changed over the years. They still talked about it being on Sicilian time which means it might take half a day to do anything-mail a letter, pay a bill, cash a cheque. Here, those that didn’t work in the traditional trades were known as the untouchables because no one, the police, the politicians, the judiciary, could touch them. They were the ones who lived in their beautiful villas, and only co-habited with each other. In 1982, in Termini, they were lead by Giuseppe Gaeta, who had followed his father Santo as the clan boss. Gaeta, sixty-five, was shot dead in the street, Via Vittorio Emanuele, near his home, on February 24th 2000.
The second state of Italy. The Mafia. They had been around for over a century, in one form or another.
Termini Imerese had been the starting point for an infamous Mafia murder ninety years before.
Emanuel Notarbartolo di San Giovanni, the governor of The Bank of Sicily, was travelling back to Palermo from Messina. At the railway station at Termini, two men climbed aboard and near Trabia, about five kilometres to the north they stabbed the governor to death, twenty-seven times, throwing his body out of the carriage. Notarbartolo was the first cadaveri eccellenti, excellent cadavers, a term that came into popular use during the 1980s to describe members of the state and public servants murdered by the Mafia.
The town had produced men of the Mafia in the past. Angelo Manantia was born here in 1904 as was his brother Pietro. Both were suspected in murders and left Sicily for America, where Angelo became part of the Joe Aiello gang in Chicago.
Termini Imerese had also been the centre of major Mafia trials following the scourging of the country by Cesar Mori, the prefect of Palermo who had been appointed by Mussolini to extirpate the Mafia from Sicily. They began in October 1927 and lasted until May 1929. One hundred and 150 were arraigned, 500 witnesses were called and over 6000 legal points were argued in one of the biggest Mafia trials ever held in Sicily up to that point.
The men arrested, all belonged or were associated with, the Andalora-Ferrarello clan ran by Salvatore Ferrarello who was aided by Giuseppa Anadalora, a mother of three sons and four daughters, described by newspaper reporters as a sinister, white-haired, toothless old hag with a ferocious leer. This crime family had dominated the Gangi region of the Madonie mountains for generations and may well have been more brigands than Mafiosi, but Mori wanted them to be men of the Mafia and that is how he orchestrated the trials.
Judge Giovanni Falcone once describe the area between Caccamo, to the south, and Termini Imerese, as The Switzerland of Cosa Nostra, where no one fired a shot, but all the same, cash from money laundering and drug trafficking and other illegal activities, flowed like an endless river into an inexhaustible reservoir of greed that fed the thirst of the Mafia.
And then one day, someone did fire a shot.
At approximately 3:30 pm, Antonino Burrafato was crossing Piazza Sant’ Antonio, en route from his home to his workplace. He was heading towards Via Carlo then on to his destination, the huge, forbidden-looking walled prison known as Cavallaci, a few hundred metres away. He had promised his young son, Toto, that when he returned home from his shift, they would sit down and talk over the soccer match. Perhaps Domenica his wife, would join them in a lively debate.
He would never arrive at his destination, and never return home.
Making his way across the paved footpath of the tiny square his life came to a sudden and violent end. When the police arrived and started their investigation, as usual, no one saw or heard anything. It would be fourteen years before the truth came out.
As Antonino walked across the small piazza, he would have been looking straight across the Via Isonzo at the steeple clock tower of the church of St. Anthony of Padua, the soft orange and cream building shimmering in the afternoon heat. There would have been few people about. He probably did not notice the two motor cars, circling the square, the windows down, the men watching him. Angels of Death waiting for their prey.
The cars stopped, and a man exited firing a shotgun at the officer. This was off-target, and Burrafato was no doubt scrambling to take cover in an area with little protection, except other cars parked on the streets surrounding the square, when another gunman fired at him repeatedly with a .38 calibre revolver. Burrafato dropped to the ground and the gunmen escaped in their cars. Rushed to the hospital on via Salvatore Cimino, only minutes away, the victim was declared dead. By his body, they found a copy of the famous Italian dictionary- Il Zingarelli. He had been taking it to work to repair it for his young son. It was returned, in due course to the family. There was blood on the cover.
Some corpses speak. Some murders are lightweight novellas. Others have the dense plot of a book by Joseph Conrad. The killing of the prison guard would be one that fell into the latter category. It was the murder of an officer of the state that made no sense without the key to the decryption of the puzzle.
Captain Gennaro Scala, the carabinieri officer in charge of the investigation, very quickly determined that this was no random killing, and that the hand of the Mafia was very much in evidence. A few hours after the shooting, a telephone call was made to a local newspaper. The caller claimed Antonino had been killed in reprisal for him being an executioner on Asinara. This was a prison island off the north west coast of Sardinia which housed Red Brigade terrorists and other subversive groups. Burrafato had never worked on the island, and the message was obviously meant to lead investigators down the wrong trail.
Scala was not distracted. He knew how easy it was to die at the hands of the Mafia. He knew that instability had always been the essential dynamic of its power base and that often killings were done not just to send a message but also to create confusion. His enquiries however, never progressed enough to lead to arrests, and he was transferred to other duties on the island. Scala was a top investigator for the police, rising to the rank of General before he retired and went into private investigation work for the ENI Group. His lack of success in tracking down the killer of the prison officer was due less to his ability than to the almost impossible resolution of the truth in any matter relating to mob killings.
In due course, the murder of Antonino Burrafato went into the too-hard basket and was filed away along with so many other mob deaths on the island. In a country, as one writer put it, besieged by Mafia killings, overlapping like scarlet waves in an ongoing nightmare ocean of criminal anarchy, it was easy to overlook or just simply forget, the deaths of lesser men.
This was a period when the Mafia was waging not only a war on itself, but also on government. It became known as anni di piombo, the years of lead: Maximum violence. Intimidation of the state. Total extermination of rivals.
The killings of politicians and high-ranking judiciary and senior police officers received plenty of media exposure and shocked reaction from the population. The Burrafatos would know only the grief and agony of their families and the resigned frustration of their comrades.
1982 was the year that the killers of the Cosa Nostra took aim at key representatives of the institutions: on April 30th, they killed Pio La Torre, Secretary of the Communist Party, and on September 3rd, Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, the prefect of Palermo and his young wife Manuela Setti Carraro. The leaders of the Mafia were arrogant enough to believe that they controlled justice on the streets of Sicily.
The killing of a prison guard in broad daylight on a main thoroughfare in a significant town was evidence of this.
Antonino Burrafato was born in Nicosia on June 13th, 1933. A small, rural town of 15000 people, it lies in Enna Province, about 100 kilometres to the south-east of Termini. It is built around an ancient and now disused castle, which tops the highest crag in the area, and like many rural Sicilian towns, it is a maze of cobbled streets that follow the lie of the land in the classic medieval way that cities and towns were built.
Antonino had indentured himself as an apprentice with a local shoemaker, but lost his job when the owner decided to close his business and emigrate. It was then he decided to join the prison service. He and his wife moved to Termini Imerese and at the age of 29, he became a prison guard.
In 1982, he had the misfortune to be in charge of a situation involving a prisoner in transit in Cavallaci prison. Not just any old prisoner, but a Mafioso of fearsome dimensions. His name was Leoluca Biagio Bagarella.
A leading figure in the Corleone clan, a brother-in-law of the even more fearsome Salvatore Riina, a Mafia Boss of significant proportion, Bagarella (right) was a pathological killer who could frighten even the most hardened and brutal killers in an organization that had taken murderous terror to a level unheard of in its history.
It was rumoured he had killed, directly or by order, in the region of 300 during his mob career, although this has never been substantiated. He certainly killed enough however, to justify the expression: mass murderer.
He had been transferred to the prison in Termini Imerese from the maximum penitentiary on the island of Pianosa following his arrest late in 1979 as a direct result of investigation carried out by the head of the Palermo Flying Squad, Boris Giuliano. For his troubles, the policeman was shot dead in a coffee bar one morning in July of that year by Bagarella himself. Making a point. He could kill anyone at any time.
A few years earlier, Leoluca Bagarella was involved in one particularly nasty killing that involved a parish priest and an innocent bystander who was linked into another killing that Bagarella carried out.
Simone Lo Manto, a pastor at San Cipirello, a small, country town, located between Partinico and Corleoe, decided at some time in the 1960s to empty, in an act of defiance, the wine holding tanks of Antonio Salamone, the local Mafia boss, head of the Altofonto mandemento.
Salamone was a powerful Mafia figure. Married to Girolama Greco, the sister of Palermo boss, Salvatore The Engineer Greco, he had moved to Brazil following the first Mafia war in 1963, and then on to New York, before returning to Sicily in the late 1960s.
An insult of this magnitude had to be avenged. Lo Manto however, avoided the mob and eventually moved to Lazio where he lived for a number of years.
He came back to Sicily for a business venture in 1977. When Salvatore Riina the mob boss of Corleone discovered the man had returned, he contacted Giuseppe Agrigento, the then head of the local clan. A group of killers including Bagarella, Nino Gioè, Giuseppe Lo Bue and Agrigento tracked Lo Manto to a gas station in San Cipirello on May 31st, and as he filled his car, they drew up in their vehicle and sprayed the area with gunfire. The priest died and alongside him, his friend, Raimondo Mulè.
On the evening of August 20th, 1977, Colonel Giuseppe Russo, a long serving member of the carabinieri, and his friend, Professor Filippo Costa di Misilmeri, were gunned down in the village of Ficuzza; according to reporter Mario Francese, himself a Mafia victim in 1979, the killing of Russo had to be a public display to send a message to the State:
Do not mess with us.
Three shepherds including Rosario Mulè, brother of the late Raimondo, murdered three months earlier by Bagarella, were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. They were released in 1997 when pentito Giovanni Brusca confessed he and a hit team lead by Bagarella had killed the police officer. Brusca had himself been present as an observer when the priest and his friend had been slaughtered that afternoon in San Cipirello.
Towards the end of May, 1982, Bagarella’s father, Salvatore, himself a Mafioso, died and the son sought permission to visit and attend the funeral and co-ordinate this in visits to the prison by his mother, Lucia Mondello, and his sister. This was a request contrary to the rules as laid down by the prison governor, for a prisoner of Bagarella’s standing, and it was up to Burrafato to inform Bagarella that his request would not be granted.
The prison officer was scrupulously honest and a careful and faithful executor of the orders that were given to him, and at the same time, while being openly opposed to any form of compromise or subjection against inmates - as not infrequently happens in Italian prisons especially when dealing with dangerous criminals - showed understanding for their problems, within the extent permitted by law.
Francesco Marino Mannoia, a Mafioso who would become an informant for the state, and also present in the prison, claimed there had been a heated dispute involving Bagarella who at some time was allegedly slammed up against a wall.
Burrafato was a man of his word, and would stand by this. Even though threatened and abused by a criminal like Bagarella, he would not bend or be intimidated. It was a stance that would cost him his life.
The Mafia of Sicily has always been a meritocracy of violence. Its three core values are the code of honour, the contempt of the law and the tolerance of violence, and the worst insult against a Mafioso is sfregio an action designed to make a person lose face. When these ingredients are combined, the outcome is almost always fateful for someone.
Leoluca Bagarella became the mandanti occulti, the hidden identity who orders Mafia killings from behind the scene, and the someone was Antonino Burrafato.
Some weeks later, following his confrontation with Bagarella, the prison officer left him home and started his last walk on earth.
After the funeral of Burrafato, the investigation into his death sputtered to its inevitable, unsolvable end. Who had killed him and why?
His murder had in fact, been authorised by Leoluca Bagarella as payment for that perceived insult at Cavallaci prison in denying him access to his father‘s funeral. None of this was known until 1996.
Antonino Burrafato was not the only prison officer murdered by the Mafia.
In May 1971, Antonio LoRusso died while acting as driver and bodyguard for Judge Pietro Scaglione, who also lost his life in an attack launched by Luciano Leggio.
They abducted and murdered Calogero Di Bona in August 1979, making him a lupara bianco, a vanished person; Pietro Cerulli was shot dead in his car in July 1980. They killed Ignazio De Florio in October 1983, Pasquale Di Lorenzo in October 1992 and in December 1995, Cosa Nostra gunmen shot dead yet another prison officer, Giuseppe Montalto, in Trapani.
These killing went unsolved as did most Mafia murders on the island. Antonino Burrafato’s would have as well, except for one man who stepped forward and disclosed enough information for the authorities to finally close the case that had lain cold for fourteen years.
Salvatore Cucuzza was born in 1947. In 1975 he was admitted into the Mafia. Some sources claim he was recruited by Giuseppe Giacomo Gambino, a builder in Palermo and his borgata, or family, was that of San Lorenzo. Other sources claim he was a member of the Borgo Vecchio family at the time it was part of the Partanna-Mondello district under the control of Rosario Riccobono. After numerous arrests and terms of imprisonment, he met up Vittorio Mangano, (sharing a prison cell with him) who would become notorious as a manager of an estate owned by Silvio Berlusconi, the on-again, off-again president of Italy. In due course. Mangano became the regent of the Portan Nuova family
Through Mangano, it seems Cucuzza (left) moved to be part of the Porta Nuova Mandemento, which includes the families of Porta Nuova, Porta Felice and Borgo Vecchio. A mandemento is a group of three or more families within the Mafia of generally adjacent geographical areas. In due course, Cucuzza assumed the leadership of this district and became a powerful figure within the Palermo region. So powerful that according to pentito Salvatore Cancemi, Cucuzza replaced Salvatore Riina as the boss in Palermo, after Riina’s arrest in January 1993.
A pentito is best described as a witness against the Mafia, who under a protection program, has turned state’s evidence. They became a fundamental instrument in the government’s fight to try and contain an emerging phenomenon of unbridled savagery aimed at destabilizing the economic and political stability of Sicily. Their rapid growth in numbers was a development of the in-fighting between Mafia clans across the island.
Their value to law enforcement has been enormous and they have become a major tool in fighting the Mafia. Gaspare Mutolo for example, who surrendered to the authorities in the spring of 1992, handed in one thousand names of Mafiosi and their associates.
Cucuzza came to the notice of the authorities as a result of the confession of another Mafia pentito, Leonardo Messina. From that point on, he was hunted by the authorities for almost five years, becoming one of the heavily tracked superlatitanti (most wanted) Mafiosi in Sicily, along with Pietro Algieri, Giovanni Brusca and Bernardo Provenzano.
On May 4th 1996, Cucuzza was arrested by the police hiding in the home of Francesco Arcuni in a suburb of Palermo called Cruillas, an impoverished neighborhood on the west side of the city. Following his arrest, he agreed to co-operate with the authorities and became one of the many pentiti helping law enforcement track down other Mafiosi across Sicily and mainland Italy.
As part of his confession, he disclosed that Antonino Burrafato had been killed, under the instruction of Leoluca Bagarella, by a group of men including himself.
This information was subsequently confirmed by two other pentiti: Matteo Marino Mannoia (who had been imprisoned at Termini Imereses at the same time as Bagarella), and Antonino Giuffre the head of the mandemento of Caccamo.
In addition to Cucuzza, the hit team consisted of Giuseppe Pino Greco, (photo, upper right, perhaps although not certainly, the most deadly killer in the Sicilian Mafia), Giuseppe Lucchese (left), Antonino Marchese and Pietro Senape (right).
In December 1987, Greco was found guilty in absantia at the Palermo Mafia Maxi Trial, of 58 murders. The reason he was not in the court house was because he himself had been murdered by the Mafia in September, 1985, his killer being his friend, Giuseppe Lucchese.
The gruppi di fuoco (fire team) as a concept, may have been created by Luciano Leggio, the fearsome Corleone capo. Giuseppe Di Cristina the Mafia boss of the Caltanissetta province confirmed to his handler in the carabinieri (he was one of the numerous family heads who himself became a pentito; perhaps the first) that Leggio had a secret group of fourteen killers prepared to commit murders at his bidding at any moment anywhere in Italy.
It was however, taken to a new level under the management of Salvatore Toto Riina who was one of the major Mafia bosses on the island from 1974 until his capture in 1993.
Perhaps not the boss of bosses as has generally been believed. As pentito Tommaso Buscetta pointed out: Cosa Nostra does not have a real head, but a centre of gravity located between Palermo and Trapani. In the Sicilian towns it is the Mafia that has the power, not the State. Even today they turn to Riina, they tremble in front of Riina, but they turn to him.
Roberto Salemi recounts a story that indicates the way fear becomes the driving force that leads to acceptance of the Mafia, and to people's unwillingness to collaborate with the authorities to fight the Mafia. A woman interviewed by a journalist regarding the Mafia summarized this feeling well. Without irony, she said: See, I told you these things to make you understand, because I like you. But why do you think I have not spoken before? Because I have three cats, a cute penthouse, a father, a mother, two brothers, three beautiful nephews, and all are combustible.
Riina was however, according to Martin Clarke in an article in the London Times Literary Supplement, September 1995, a very powerful leader in a fluid network of competing families, each loosely organized and subject to constant conflicts of fortune and alliance.
As the federation of Mafia clans that came to be known as The Corleonesi expanded, small groups of killers, expert in the use of firearms and explosives, emerged across Sicily to carry out the important killings. Killings that Riina and his associates determined would best suit their strategy of burn and destroy, within the world of cosa nostra and among the unsuspecting victims in the society it fed off.
The media referred to the underworld conflagration as a war, but it was really the Riina terror. There was no Mafia war in Palermo according to pentito Gaspare Mutolo. There was a massacre. Between January 1981 and December 1982 there were at least two hundred bodies hitting the streets of Palermo. Some sources claim as many as one thousand died or became lupara bianco.
The Palermo prosecutor, Guido lo Forte called it una mattanza referring to the Sicilian word for the annual tuna killing when schools of migrating fish are corralled into traps of nets off the coast and harpooned and battered to death.
The killers, working in teams, roamed the streets of the cities and the wastelands of the countryside murdering their victims with an efficiency that was breathtaking.
They included the Prestifilippo brothers, Salvatore, Mario and Giuseppe, and the Marchese brothers, Giuseppe and Antonino (right), Giovanbattista Pullara, Pietro Vernego, Giuseppe Madonia and the squad used to murder the prison guard in Termini Imerese. There were others always waiting in the wings to fill vacancies as men were either killed or imprisoned. Bagarella himself, was part of the group, as and when it was necessary.
They murdered Pio La Torre, head of the Sicily Communist Party and his driver, Rosario Di Silva; Mario Francese a crusading reporter for the Giornale di Sicilia; Pippo Fava, another reporter in Catania; Judge Rocco Chinici; Francesco Saporito and his wife; Giuseppe Giammona; police officers Calogero Zucchetto and Attilio Buonincontro and Rosario Giaccone, Judge Cesare Terranova. They gunned down the head of vascular surgery at Palermo Civic Hospital, Professor Sebastiano Bosio, in front of his wife, in November 1981.
The Mafia killed their very first reporter in Termini Imerese. His name was Cosimo Cristina. An investigator and stringer for L’Ora the Palermo daily and Il Messaggero of Rome, his body was found on the railway lines near the city in May 1960. Although initially determined as an accident, and then a suicide it was eventually found that he had been killed. He had been involved in controversial inquiries connected into the infamous Mazzarino Friars and their links into organized crime and members of the Mafia, the murder of union leader Pasquale Culotta and the Mafia linked death of Agostino Tripi.
Angelo Mangano, the police chief of Corleone carried out a re-investigation of the death in 1966, and was convinced the murder of the journalist lay at the hands of the Mafia, although no convictions were ever laid.
In May 1980, three of the hit-squad walked up to Captain Emanuele Basile of the carabinieri, who was carrying his four year old daughter through the crowds of Monreale, celebrating the feats of the Holy Cruxifix and shot him in the back, six times. A few weeks later, his replacement, Mario d’Aleo and two of his men, Giuseppe Bommarito and Piero Morici were shot dead in the same town.
One day, a month before they killed Antonino Burrafato, they killed one of their Mafia enemies, a man called Alfio Ferlito.
He was being driven from Enna to Trapani in a Mercedes-Benz car, accompanied by three carabinieri officers, Silvano Fronzolin, Salvatore Raiti and Luigi Di Barra. The squad hit their target, Kalashnikoved him to death, and the collateral damage was the other four men. Blasted in broad daylight on the busiest road in Sicily. One of the killers was Salvatore Cucuzza.
The killing of Ferlito was engineered as a favor by Riina towards a Mafia boss in Catania, Nito Santapaolo. Ferlito, another mob boss from the same area, was an arch-rival of Santapaolo’s who reciprocated the favor by helping in the ambush and killing of Colonel Dalla Chiesa, the newly appointed Palermo Prefect, who along with his wife, Francesco Morvillo, was riddled by bullets from one of the same Kalashnikovs used in the ring-road massacre, just three months earlier.
Riina in organizing the removal of Ferlito, not only created a debt to be honored in his favor by a powerful ally, but also removed an enemy who had been a close friend of Salvatore Inzerillo a powerful Mafia boss heading up the Passo di Rigano clan, who himself had been killed in May 1981, one of the first major casualties of the second Mafia War that was triggered by the design of Riina.
In the semiotic landscape of the Sicilian Mafia, no one matched Salvatore Riina in his devious interpretation of the ground rules as they benefited his insatiable appetite for power and control.
On and on it went. A seemingly never ending litany of death and misery visited on a population that would grow numb at the daily news of fresh carnage. The message seemed very clear: If you mess with us, you die.
The Corleonesi and their allies were intolerant of anyone they perceived as a threat. People began to believe that they were a kind of impersonal and immutable force of nature. They even coined a phrase to describe it: fenomeno Mafioso.
People could and would die for almost any reason. Change your meat supplier and one morning, you and the seven people with you would end up dead, riddled and blasted by killers with no mercy for time or circumstance.
Be a mother driving your car with your twin baby sons strapped in the back and get blown to a red smear by mistake. Be a newspaper reporter and dare to criticize or ridicule the Mafia, and you either disappear - lupara bianco - or get shot in the head when you go to buy a pack of cigarettes. Be a child of a Mafioso who becomes an informant, and die a long, lingering death with a steel drum of prussic acid as your coffin.
The Mafia, as Eric Hobsbawn and Terence Ranger, pointed out did not limit themselves to exercising great authority, but had invented a tradition which they could, in a certain sense, justify and perpetuate. The rules of the game were always in their favour.
The Mafia came to have such a hold on Sicily, that in 2001, Pietro Lunardi, a minister of the state, making a speech in August 2001, claimed: One needs to get along with the Mafia and the Camorra (the Napolitan Mafia). Everyone should resolve problems of criminality as they see fit…..the Mafia has always existed…..always will.
Tommaso Buscetta learned to his cost and grief just how unrelenting they were in pursuing their itinerary of death. Following the news that he had become an informant, at least eight of his family, sons, grandsons, brothers-in-law were shot dead or simply disappeared. None of them was in the Mafia. They died simply because of their name or their connection to the name Buscetta.
Towards the end of his life, he had been fighting a two-year battle against cancer. In a last newspaper interview, he said he viewed death as a welcome relief. For me, death has been like shade on a sunny day. As a Mafioso I knew I had to get accustomed to its company. It was in the rules, he said. The useless death of others, the unjust death of innocents, convinced me not to remain a Mafioso.
It seemed a certainty then that to dishonor a powerful member of one of the most powerful clans on the island by having the nerve to refuse his demands could only really have one outcome for Antonino Burrafato.
Salvatore Cucuzza in his testimony, confirmed that Leoluca Bagarella, incensed by the refusal of prison officer Burrafato to bend the rules and allow him to attend his father’s funeral, had passed down the word from his prison cell to kill the guard.
Bagarella was one of Salvatore Riina’s closest associates. Enough clout to get almost anything done. Both of his brothers, Calogero and Giuseppe were Mafisosi, as had been his father. In addition, Riina had married Bagarella’s sister, Antoinetta, and Giuseppe Marchese who was himself close to Riina, had a sister of his own, Vincenza, who had married Bagarella.
Family within family. Biological and criminal.
All working badly for Antonino Burrafato.
Bagarella was a special kind of Mafia monster. One who deserves an article all to himself. It’s enough for this particular story to simply include this statement made by Tommaso Buscetta, perhaps the most famous Mafia informant in Sicily’s history. He knew him in a prison hospital where they were patients for three months, and had the following to say: I prefer not to speak about him, I think he doesn't belong to the human species...in prison everybody feared him. I remember we stayed three months together in the prison infirmary and the only words he told me were good morning and good evening. He’s certainly got mental and physical problems. When we were in prison together and playing football he would kick the ball with two feet at the same time ? Have you ever seen anything like that?
On June 29th 2002, a service was held in the prison at Termini Imerese to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the killing of Antonino Burrafato, followed by a dedication at a memorial stone erected near the spot where he had been shot dead. Four years later, almost to the day, Sergeant Burrafato was recognized by the state as a Victim of Duty in accordance with Law 466/1980 dated 26.6.2006 and was awarded The Golden Medal of Civil Merit for sacrificing his life to the noblest ideals of courage and spirit of the service.
The death of a good man, a crime forgotten, had finally been remembered
His son Salvatore, sometimes called Toto, was a teenage boy the day his father died, not yet seventeen. After high school, he went to the University of Palermo and earned a degree in political science. He became a freelance journalist and in 1999 he was elected to the council of the town where he had been born and raised. In 2009 he was elected the mayor of Termini Imerese.
In August 2010 a letter was delivered to the town hall addressed to the mayor. When he opened it he found a bullet and a note that read: You’ll end up like your father.
It seemed as though the Mafia had long memories.
In November 2004, Bagarella was granted legal aid by the Palermo Court of Assizes, after it was determined he was destitute. One of the most significant figures in the Mafia for thirty-five years, a man who must have created massive wealth for himself, he was somehow able to convince the courts that he had no money to fund his many, expensive, defence lawyers.
When the attorneys representing the Buttafato family presented their bill, the presiding judge allowed them payment of 500 Euros (equal to about $400 at this time) which would barely cover the costs of coffee breaks during the long, drawn out legal process of seeing Bagarella brought to justice.
Years after the killing of Antonino Burrafato, Leoluca Bagarella and Antonino Marchese were handed down life sentences for his murder, confirmed by the Court of Assizes and Appeals in Palermo, by Magistrates headed by Giuseppe Nobile. This was in 2007. Since his capture in 1995, Bagarella had faced the courts on numerous occasions and given enough life sentences for his numerous crimes, he could live to be a thousand and still owe the state time.
The immurement of Bagarella until he eventually dies, is simply an act of persiflage by a government struggling to comprehend the unbearable pain and suffering he and his associates in the Mafia have inflicted on so many people for so many years across an island almost inured to hardship and grief through their daily contact with this secret society.
Aristotle’s god of pure reason would no doubt shudder in disgust if he had to worry himself over the conduct and behaviour of men like Leoluca Bagarella who are truly without redemption.
The state’s inability to handle a crisis like the Mafia was hardly surprising. It struggles to handle much more mundane matters. In a ten year period (1990-2000), 72,000 people died on the roads of Italy. The government’s response to a problem of this magnitude, was to increase the speed limit to 150 kph..
Abusivisimo, illegal building, is a recurring cancer across Sicily and the whole of Italy. The Mafia has its sticky fingers deep into this. Houses, hotels, factories, sprout across the landscape in their thousands. In one year, 2000, five thousand illegal buildings went up, representing 800,000 square meters of poured cement. Per capita, Italy uses more concrete than any other country on the planet. Incredibly, the more houses that are built, the less they are required. Two and a half million houses are not even lived in, yet hundreds of thousands more are being built each year. Abusivisimo, like Mafia, is just another example of Italy’s attitude to the rule of the law and the authority of the state.
Italy is continually prosecuting local and state politicians on charges of bribery and corruption, particularly in connection with appalti, government contracts. Often factories and other major commercial properties are created simply to ensure contractors, generally Mafia connected, and politicians, almost certainly Mafia connected, made a profit from them, regardless of whether they served any purpose.
All across the south of Italy are roads that lead nowhere, and abandoned buildings, half-finished and left standing, their purpose, to create wealth for investors, fulfilled.
Prices are inflated for all local services because of the Mafia’s cut. Landfill sites are filled with toxic waste as the Mafia strokes money out of overpriced contracting and haulage contracts. Medical care is overpriced and underperforming as the mob takes its share of the multi-billion Euro industry.
Lunardi himself, selected as Minister for Infrastructure and Road-Building, responsible for a budget of 100 trillion lira, had a major interest in Rocksoil, an engineering and construction company. He never considered there to be a conflict of interest.
Corruption of the state by the Mafia is a meal trying to fill an insatiable appetite.
Antonino Burrafato was murdered to satisfy an appetite of a different nature, one of hate and fury and anger in a man who seemingly had a low tolerance of frustration, and unfortunately, an easy access to satisfying these emotions.
Salavator Cucuzza, the man who helped kill the prison guard, and who then confessed, revealing the why and the how, also received his punishment. Under Italian law, a pentito would generally receive a sentence of twenty years for murder. Through the application of summary judgement, this could be reduced to thirteen years and four months. His advocates argued extenuating circumstances on his behalf, and after an appeal was lodged, his sentence was reduced to ten years.
In an interview, after the dedication ceremony to his father in Termini Imerese, Salvatore Burrafto said: Il tempo lavora contro la giustizia, ma speriamo che arrivi commungue una sentenza sulla morte di mio padre Time works against justice, but hopefully there will be a judgement on the death of my father.
Ultimately there was. Whether it was the judgment he and his family had hoped for, we can only guess.
One should always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them more.
My thanks to Carmelo, from The Real Deal and Mobbed Up forums, for his help in sourcing a particularly evasive image.
Read more by Thom L. Jones' articles at his Mob Corner.
Copyright © Thom L. Jones 2012