Carabinieri (4)

For Those That Want Me Dead

9237160881?profile=originalBy Thom L. Jones for Gangsters Inc.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” - Henry David Thoreau

Francesco Di Carlo knew what it was about. And so did Angelo Fontana and Francesco Onorato, and Francesco Marino Mannoia, Giovanni Brusca, Nino Giuffre, Calogero Ganci, and Rosario Naimo.

Everyone, it seems, had a story to tell.

Coming in from the cold, the mafia pentiti (penitents,) the collaborators of justice, had stories to tell, information to bleed out drop by drop, each recollection, every memory, part of their rehabilitation, or more likely, a ticket to a better deal with the government. Forgive me for my murders and I’ll tell you about the ones you couldn’t solve.

Or even worse, didn’t know about.

Like the way we killed a woman, an innocent woman, her end predetermined because of her fate.

No random act of violence. Not the wrong place at the wrong time. A death that was planned and set in motion by the doctrine of Sicily’s most intractable criminal syndicate.

We murder and steal and corrupt everything around us, but don’t dare have an affair of the heart. Never cast doubt on the mafia family honor by falling in love. Especially when you marry and have a child.

In mafia-land, what has love to do with anything?

A young woman murdered in cold blood. By her father. Because the brotherhood demanded it. She was an adulteress. A sin worse than murder or thieving or extortion. In the cruel, twisted world of Sicily’s mafia, honor trumps sin, in the worst possible way.

How do you kill your own child; what would drive you to filicide, the most evil of all evils that a human can surely commit? Under the rules of mafia morality, it all makes sense.

A beautiful young girl full of life and joy and happiness, turning into an equally beautiful young woman. A mother with a child. Everything to live for, gone in seconds, because she longed for happiness. But those that wanted her dead would make sure it was short-lived.

Not only would they kill her, they would also murder her source of happiness. Two. For the price of one. No one kills quite like Cosa Nostra.

And they do it to her, in a shop that provides everything for life: a health and child-care store. If irony is the conflict 9237161085?profile=originalbetween appearance and reality, nothing could highlight her tragic end in quite the same way, dazzling in its conception.

Rosalia Pipitone (right) grew up in the shadow of a life governed by social rules that made her not only confused, but isolated from the very essence of her upbringing. Her only crime was to be the daughter of the mafia.

It gets worse.

She is only eleven when her mother, Caterina Lo Pinto, dies. She had a brother, Domenico, and although Pipitone remarried again, to Rosa Cina in November 1971, her paternal aunt becomes the primary carer. The upbringing is almost monastic. She is a sister with no brothers. Although this is not Lia, the name by which everyone will call her as she grows into womanhood.

9237161482?profile=originalShe wants the world and will defy everything in her determination to achieve her own special happiness. In her way, is u ziu nino. Uncle Nino to his mafia henchmen. Antonino Pipitone (left). Her mafioso father.

Born in October 1929, in Palermo, he grows up in a city that dates back almost 3000 years and changes from a baroque-flavored cosmopolitan center in the south of Italy, as much African as Italian, into a sprawling, concrete jungle of a place filled with tenement blocks created for the rural diaspora of the fifties and sixties.

The “Sack of Palermo” that takes place during the late 1950s and early 1960s as beautiful old buildings and complete streets are torn down and replaced by high-rise housing, driven by the greed and ambition of the mafia clans lining their endlessly deep pockets with the spoils of corrupted politicians and city bureaucrats.

Aquasanta gets its share, and this sea-side suburb, the home of Palermo’s docklands, long a mafia chapter, dating back into the nineteenth century, is governed by people like Nino Pipitone, who is a boss here. His father, Domenico, and his uncles, were mafiosi, so it almost destined him to follow the same path.

The family, or cosca as Cosa Nostra refers to its individual units, goes through a major upheaval following the Ciaculli bombing massacre of 1963, and the major shoot-out in Vialle Lazio in 1969. (1)

Pipitone is a staunch, dependable follower of the code, and survives a major upheaval of the family as they reorganize and fold into the Arenella and Partanna Mondello cosche under the leadership of Rosario Riccobono, a major drug trafficker within Cosa Nostra and important enough to be a member of the mafia Commission, the ruling body set up in 1957 to manage and control the activities of the various clans in Sicily. Pipitone becomes the consigliere, or counselor to the family.

He becomes the boss of Arenella after the mafia murdered Riccobono in November 1982, and Vincenzo Galatolo takes over Aquasanta. Who is who and which boss is in charge is not really important in this story It’s background. Foliage in a forest that moves with the wind.

A boss comes and goes, soldiers die, murder is part of the tapestry of life. Everyone seems to have the same name, as Sicilian tradition determines they name male children after father and grandfather. In one biological and mafia family, there could be ten Salvatores, all with the same surname. Vowels fall over themselves, confusing us with their endless, mind-numbing repetition.

The one constant is the murder machine that drives Cosa Nostra. Ordinary life is anathema to men of the mafia. They view its confusion and uncertainty through a different prism than normal people.

The names that count are Vincenzo and Angelo Galatolo. Uncle and nephew. Killers-in-law.

Angelo’s father, Giuseppe, known as Pinuzzo, is Vincenzo’s brother and a senior member of the Aquasanta clan. Born in 1944, Vincenzo, who will become boss of the district, lives at Number 7 Vicolo Pipitone, a dead-end street near the waterfront. A street with no view but much mafia history.

Generations of mafiosi have lived here, in this scruffy neighborhood, especially the Galatolos. They murdered many of their victims in this squalid alley-way. They planned big-time atrocities here.

The killing of the judiciary a number one priority.

They plot and plan the assassination of Alberto Dalla Chiesa, the Prefect of Palermo, gunned down with his wife and bodyguard in September 1982. In the same year it’s the fate of Pio La Torre, head of The Italian Communist Party. Nini Cassara, a chief in the Palermo Flying Squad, dies at their hands; these men decide Judge Rocco Chinnici’s end, huddled around a table in this street of death.

Working like beavers under the guidance and supervision of Salvatore Riina, Sicily’s major boss since the incarceration in 1974 of Luciano Leggio, mafia families gather here in Vicolo Pipitone like a murder of crows.

The killing squads mobilize for their briefings and weapons. Gruppo di fuoco, they call it. Fire Team. Men Like Pino Greco, Giuseppe Lucchese, Antonio Marchese, Mario Prestifilippo and many, many others. They would massacre and then go out wining and dining at Palermo’s finest restaurants. Almost all of them will die by the same violence they justified throughout their mafia lives.

This was the environment in which she Lia grew up.

Starting from seventeen, she studied art, and at The Accademia di Bella Arti, in Palermo, she meets a young man, Gero Cordaro, who is a year older. They have much in common, share the same free-wheeling love of life, and soon are a pair.

9237161683?profile=originalPhoto: Gero and Lia

She loves the poems and stories of Chilean author Pablo Neruda and the music of Italian Federico Guccini, a voice of the “social” movement era, which obsessed many young people during the 1970s and 1980s.

Someone remarked about her, “She had her own inner orchestra, a rich instrumentation expressing her hopes and desires.”

In the summer of 1977, she traveled by train to Ragusa in the far south-east of Sicily and met up with Gero. She spends an idyllic week with him before returning to Palermo, knowing her father is looking for her, at least two of his men tracking her movements. But still restless, and bridling under the controlling nature of her father, left Arenella again, to be with her lover.

He is from San Giovanni Gemini, a small town in Agrigento Province, fifty miles south of Arenella. Lia spends time with his family, loving the bucolic lifestyle, far from the teeming streets of the big city. They marry when she is eighteen, and although she invites her father to the celebration, he refuses to attend.

In September 1978, with no work prospects, they return to Palermo and move in with her aunt. Nino then finds them a place of their own and organizes a job for Gero, working in one of the tax offices run by the Salvo brothers, the richest men in Sicily, In bed with Cosa Nostra.

They have a child, a son, they call Alessio, and then it all turns bad.

In the summer of 1983, Lia and Gero drift apart. Marrying young and then having a baby can do this. The plans, the dreams, the aspirations of a life drowned in the monotony of work and children. She cuts her blonde hair and dyes it black. Changes her clothing choices, moves back into the free-rolling lifestyle she had adopted before her marriage.

Lia turns to a distant cousin for solace and comfort, a young man called Simone Di Trapani. They meet and socialize, and everyone notices in a small place like Arenella. They may have become lovers, although this is never definitely established, yet evidence will emerge that they have known each other in some kind of relationship, at least four or five years before her death.

A rumor is enough to start an avalanche of gossip. Nino Pipitone becomes aware of the innuendos and demands that his daughter break off the relationship and return to her husband. She refuses. There is a major row between father and daughter. It’s alleged he spits in her face, insults her and insists she terminate the relationship. Lia, being Lia, shakes her head, and walks away. From her father, and unknowingly, from life itself.

Early in the evening of Friday, September 23, 1983, she goes shopping in Arenella, and about seven-thirty, is at the Farmababy Shop on Via Papa Sergio. A health and child-care product store, she is stocking up for the weekend, food, and other necessities for her young son. While in the store, she turns to use a pay phone on the wall.

9237162257?profile=originalTwo men walk in, faces covered, each carrying a Smith and Wesson.38 revolver.

They approach the serving counter and threaten the owners, Giovanni Lo Monaco and his wife, Rosalia Sciortino, demanding their cash. They hand over the day’s takings, 250,000 lira, about US$155.

What happens next is based on the shop owners’ testimony, which subsequent investigations determine leaves a lot of doubt. Some versions of their testimony claim the men shoot Lia in the leg and leave the shop, one returning shouting, “She recognizes me,” and then shooting her multiple times in the body. Others that this happens during the raid. Either way, none of it makes any sense: she wasn’t a threat to them, in any form. Killing her makes an armed robbery into murder with the obvious legal consequences.

It’s a pointless, unexplained reaction, unless, of course, it isn’t. Cosa Nostra do everything for a purpose. They embedded their history of violence in a culture nurtured through its labyrinthine politics.

Rushed by ambulance to Villa Sofia hospital, ten minutes away, they transfer her to Ospedale Civico, Palermo’s leading trauma unit, where she dies later that night at 10.20 pm.

In 1983, in Palermo, the mafia murdered a judge, six police officers, an apartment manager, and a building contractor. No one knows for sure how many mafiosi killed other mafiosi. Lia was the city’s 85th known murder victim for the year. Scattered like mustard seeds, there are bodies everywhere. Neighborhoods, suburbs, districts are charnel houses for death by violence. Shot down in doorways, blown up by car bombs, smeared on the streets, the ambush of murder is ubiquitous.

During the funeral for his daughter, people observed that Antonino Pipitone appeared calm, almost serene, with a faint smile across his face as if to say…... everything is under control. From the perspective of Cosa Nostra, it was.

He would live out the ends of his life in quiet medication, no doubt longing for adventure and death.

Exploits to fill his days, keep him occupied until he could close his eyes forever against the nightmare he must have endured in all those long years since that September evening.

It came for him in 2010. Nearly thirty years after the brutal murder of Lia.

Angelo Fontana, a nephew of Vincenzo Galatolo and a member of the Aquasanta clan, claimed in his testimony, “For us, killing was like going to buy bread. Inside Cosa Nostra, we knew it (her murder) was to save face, to save honor. The daughter was killed because she dishonored her father. In short, before, after, during, we always talked about this one thing.”

That they carried out no intervention to identify the robbers who had killed the daughter of a mafia boss was all the proof needed to confirm it was an inside job.

Riccobono’s wife is mugged one afternoon by a twenty-year-old street thug called Claudio Orlando. He’s traced, hunted down, killed by Fontana and the Galatolos, and his body disposed of within a few days.

Fontana confirmed who the killers were on Via Pappa Sergio- Vincenzo Galatolo and his nephew, Angelo Galatolo.

Although Lia is gone, the problem remained. Murdering her in cold blood is part one of a two-part story in the art of dealing out death to innocent people.

The day after they killed Lia, two men dressed as maintenance workers for Palermo Gas, visited a fourth-floor apartment in a building on Piazza General Cascino, It is the home of Simone Di Trapani. There is no noise, no disturbance, until his body falls out of the window, crashing down into the street below. When the police arrive, they find a note he left behind which in part reads, “I kill myself for love.”

Which of course he didn’t. His evacuation into oblivion is determined by the two Galatolos.

Ironically, as their son is being murdered across town, Simone’s parents are visiting Nino Pipitone to offer their condolences at the loss of his daughter.

Twenty-five days after the murder of Lia Pipitone, Angelo Galatolo is driving through Palermo on a Tuesday morning. Outside the Church of Don Orione on via Ammiraglia Rizzotto, a police car pulls him over. The cops knew all about Angelo. There is a warrant on him, outstanding for robbery, murder, and kidnapping. At thirty-two, he has a lengthy police file for mayhem.

Jumping out of the car, he shoots at the officers, who return fire, fatefully wounding him.

The priest attending morning mass at the church, on hearing the gunshots, rushes out to the street, finding Galatolo sprawled on the pavement leaking blood. Cradling him in his arms, he hears his last words, “Do you think the Lord will forgive me for all the evil I have done.”

Police investigation of Lia’s murder goes nowhere, and a year later, the magistrate in charge closes it as an “unsolved crime.” Ignoto. Unknown. And so it will remain for years. Palermo is a city that has played host to so many mysterious deaths over endless years. They archive this one along with all the rest. As is Simone’s.

As he grows up, Alessio is told that his mother had died in a road accident. And there it remains. Until 2003.

The police arrest Nino Pipitone and charge him with his daughter’s murder. The first sign that her death was more than a random shooting during a robbery, was when Francesco Marino Mannoia, a soldier in the Bontate family of Palermo, rolls and becomes one of the government’s most significant informants against the mafia. Over the years of his testimony, in both Italy and America, he discloses the details of Lia’s killing.

Although Pipitone goes to trial in 2004, there is not enough evidence to convince the court and they dismiss the charges. The pentiti testimony is hearsay and not strong enough.

Francesco Madonia was head of the Resuttana mandemento (3) and although in prison for the rest of his life, still ran things through his son, Antonino. Everyone called him Ninuzzu.

He summoned Pipitone and told him his father wanted the Lia problem resolved. They agreed the only way was the ultimate way. Ninuzzu then summoned Vincenzo Galatolo and told him to sort it. He did.

Gero, Lia’s estranged husband, visited Nino Pipitone sometime towards the end of summer that fateful year. He recalled in their conversation that the father has said, “She’s better dead than separated.” (4)

In July 2019, the law finally brought Vincenzo Galatolo and Ninuzzu Madonia to justice. Tried and found guilty for the murder of Rosalia Pipitone, they each receive a sentence of thirty years, to be added to all the years they are currently serving for other atrocities as mafiosi.

Francesco Del Bene, public prosecutor in Palermo had re-opened the cold case based on new and first-hand testimony from mafia informants.

9237162084?profile=original Photo: Nino Madonia and Vincenzo Galatolo

According to Nino Caleca, the lawyer representing Gero, “the verdict has a value that goes beyond the convictions of Madonia and Galatolo: It means overturning the mafia mentality in a city that is still a victim of it.”

It had taken thirty-six years for justice to be served, although the real criminal had died nine years earlier. A man who was part of an organization so steeped in evil, its own members regretted being part of it.

In 2019, law enforcement records Giulio Caporrimo, the current boss of the San Lorenzo family, in his residence in Florence, where he is in exile from his mob, talking to himself. Repeatedly. In one of his “conversations,” he claims the mafia Commission, set up after 1957, to manage and control the diverse activities of the many clans across the island of Sicily, once an example to the world, has been replaced “by mud, and wretches and organized garbage. I left the garbage, because the garbage has now become organized.”

Greek philosopher Plotonus claimed that mankind is poised between the gods and the beasts. Antonino Pipitone was so far right of center, he was out of sight.

"If nothing saves us from death, at least love should save us from life." - Pablo Neruda

Background for this story is from various websites, newspapers reports, and court documents covering mafia collaborators’ testimony and the trial of Antonino Pipitone in 2004 for the murder of his daughter. I have also drawn from a book co-written by her son (2)

1) In June 1963, a car bomb explodes on a quiet lane in Ciaculli, a countryside suburb of Palermo, killing a squad of seven police and soldiers. Michele Cavataio, the boss of Aquasanta, is believed to have been the man who organized this, In December 1969, gunmen shoot him dead in a mob attack on the Palermo office of a building contractor.

2) Palazzole, Salvo and Cordaro, Alessio, Se Muoio Sopravvivimi, Italy: Melapo, 2012.

3) At this time in Sicily, the mafia clans were grouped in units of three called madamenti. Resuttana comprised San Lorenzo, Arenella and Aquasanta, each run by its own boss, answerable to the head of the group.

4) Gero Cordaro was at one time suspected of being complicit in the killing of his wife. In the book written by his son, he claims:

“At the trial (2004) I said that I remembered little or nothing, and in fact I could only report suspicions and suppositions. I also wanted to safeguard Alessio. I had decided to raise a protective barrier and experience Lia’s death as a private matter, and at the time I acted accordingly. Then something changed. Alessio has grown up, other collaborators have added new details, I have developed a different anti-mafia conscience, and I have decided to speak.”

He also claimed, “During the trial, before my deposition, in a resentful and authoritarian tone, her father told me that he had serious health problems and therefore I would have had to declare as little as possible otherwise he would never be released from prison .”

Vincenzo Galatolo’s daughter, Giovanna, affirmed during testimony in February 2014, that she witnessed Gero talking to Nino Pipitone about this wife’s infidelity and seeking satisfaction from her father.

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9237160670?profile=originalBy Thom L. Jones for Gangsters Inc.

If you stroll through the gardens of Villa Bonanno, in Piazza Vittoria, Palermo, late in the afternoon as the sun is slowly sinking over Tunisia, the towering palms and beautiful walkways that seem to meander forever can quietly seduce you. Everywhere, the smell of a city drowning in the scent of citrus and the festering decay of neglect. It’s easy to get lost in thought and ignore the properties that crowd down from each side, especially the three-story white building, trimmed in a biscuit color, on the south-east side of the park.

It’s arched-entrance way carries the banner, Questura di Palermo Squadra Mobile. It used to be a monastery five hundred years ago.

9237161254?profile=originalPhoto: Entrance to Squadra Mobile

Now it houses cops of the elite Flying Squad who hunt the criminals of Sicily’s biggest city. To the left of the entry is a plaque commemorating one of them. His name, Giorgio Giuliano, although everyone called him Boris, his cognomen.

You look at the images of him, taken some forty years ago in Sicily. They are mostly black and white.

Like all photographs, they only show the one-dimensional resemblance; you can’t pick up his suppleness, the way he moved; his head shifting back and forth, the eyes taking in everything around him; the energy that seems to surround him.

Larry Smith, the author of Iwo Jima, claims that photographs are emotive journalism, drawn from an intuitive re-action, telling a story without words. If you look at photos of Boris, you can recognize this at the edges of the shadows, the patina holding the likeness together.

These impressions reveal a lot, but don’t tell us for example, how he spoke English with a Cockney accent, something he acquired when he worked in Frith Street in Soho, the West End of London, as a waiter at a restaurant that served veal made from horse-meat because it was hard to get the right stuff, with all the shortages following the second world war.

After he finished his degree at a university in Sicily, he went to England and lived there, illegally for two years, keeping the wolf from the door by serving up portions of nags to people who thought it was grain-fed calf, in this seedy, bustling, inner-city suburb of Britain’s biggest city.

I wonder if he knew that a fellow countryman and namesake, Carlo Giuliano, the famous jeweler of Edwardian England, worked in Frith Street, out of a shop at number thirteen, forty years before. Intersections. Figures moving through time and history, not always crossing paths, but part of the same amazing jigsaw that fits together around all of our lives. The endless motion of the eddy of life. Small streams and then rivers, flowing endlessly, somewhere.

As Boris brushed up on his English while serving food to eager customers in London’s west-end, back in Corleone, in the heartland of the Sicilian Mafia, a twelve-year-old boy called Leoluca was growing up with his two older brothers, Calogero and Giuseppe, learning the ropes from his father, Salvatore Bagarella, a seasoned Mafioso, developing skills with guns and knives, getting primed for the big days that lay ahead of him. Ready to sew and reap in the killing fields of Sicily in a war that would turn towns and cities into something more like the wastelands of Syria that the bucolic island it had always seemed to be.

A quarter of a century later, the paths of this young boy and this London waiter would cross in an ineffable moment in time that would stop the clock on how Italy related to its never-ending nemesis-the Mafia.

Whereas in the past, Cosa Nostra used to kill only their own, beginning in 1970, the Mafia started assassinating prosecutors, judges and others who were fighting them, and so began producing the never-ending Cadavere Eccellente, ‘excellent cadavers,’ as the famous Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia called the murdered officials of the state.

Boris Giuliano would become the first senior member of the modern-day Publica Sicurezza, the civilian police of Italy, to fall victim to this purge that would continue until the early 1990s. Not the very first police officer to die at the hands of the Mafia, in 1979, murdered simply because he was doing too good a job.

That awful distinction belongs to a sergeant, the same age as Boris; a man called Filadelfo Aparo, gunned down in a hail of bullets by a four-man hit team, in Piazzale Anelli, in the Santa-Rosalia neighborhood of Palermo on January 11. Sergeant Aparo was part of Giuliano’s squad, dying six months before his boss. (1)

Like Boris, Aparo was getting too close for comfort. His killers called him ‘The Hound,’ and they had brought him to heel.

Just why Giuliano is the target of the same group of men who had Aparo killed, and how he found himself, alone and unprotected, at the moment of his death, is a story that speaks much about the power of the Mafia in Sicily and its complex relationship with a state that it not so much fought as lived in harmony with. (2)

Coming up summer, it gets hot and humid in Palermo; the temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the moisture level up in the 90s.

July 20th, 1979 was no exception.

He’s showered and shaved and dressed by eight o’clock.

I picture him, below average height and lean, the dark hair hanging limp over his forehead, the droopy mustache, and the heavy bags under the eyes. He looked like a man carrying too large a burden; someone who has seen more grief than anyone should have to handle.

9237161290?profile=originalPhoto: Boris Giuliano

He clips his pistol onto his left hip, because he’s left-handed, sliding his jacket on, checking one last time in the mirror. I see him brushing the coat back, the lightweight, white linen one he favors in the summer heat, going for the gun. In the force they call him "The Sheriff" because he’s so fast getting the pistol out and ready. He’s also a crack marksman. Handy thing to be in a city full of crazy killers.

Then the telephone.

He answers and listens. I imagine him again, nodding his head.

‘Che bello!’ he says, I think. ‘This is great. This could be a good day.’

He checks his watch. It’s early; he’s not meant to be at the cafe until closer to 8.30 when his bodyguard will arrive to pick him up in the Alfa. No problem. He’ll get an extra ristretto, maybe check the newspapers: the Giornale di Sicilia, or yesterday’s L’Ora; meet this person with the information.

It could be a good day. Maybe things were moving at last. He’s glad his wife Maria and their three children have gone on vacation, back to Catania province, for the hot summer months. He won’t have to worry about their safety if things get moving. There’s trouble brewing across this part of Sicily. The wolves are loose, maybe they’re sensing the blood waiting to be spilled.

It’s a short walk, perhaps two hundred meters, from his apartment in Via Alfieri to the coffee shop. First, he stops and chats to the building doorman, the manager, handing him a check for the month’s rent.

The Bar Lux sits north, a block away, at the bottom end of Via Francesco Paolo Di Biasi, in the Libertá neighborhood. The road, as usual, packed with parked cars, people out shopping already this early Saturday morning; some standing on the corner of Via Ugo, smoking, talking, arms going like windmills, voices echoing off the buildings crowding the streets.

9237161853?profile=originalPhoto: Bar Lux

Boris goes into the café, nodding at the twenty people already there, and orders his short black and a cornetto, the horn-shaped pastry he liked to start the day with, and opens up a copy of the morning newspaper. He stands there, leaning on the bar counter, deep into the news, never notices the man with the pale face and shaking hands, who comes in through the door.

Short and stocky, dark hair and complexion normally swarthy, this morning, his blood is pumping, adrenaline heaving, draining the color from his features. In his shaking hand, he holds a gun.

It would not be a good day for the police officer. An awful day for a telephone call. (3)

The Victim.

Giorgio Boris Giuliano was born in Piazza Armerina, in October 1930. A small commune near Enna, it lies almost in the middle of the island of Sicily. His family moved to Messina where he grew up, studied at university and graduated in law in 1956.

Following a brief period working for a manufacturing company in Milan, he joined the state police in 1962. After his induction training course, the agency post him to Palermo where he applied to join Squadra Mobile, the Flying Squad, moving into the Homicide Section. (4)

He would stay here in until the day he died. Fighting planet Mafia.

Pietro Grasso, former president of the Senate, spoke on the fortieth anniversary of Boris Giuliano's death, writing on Facebook: “I always remember him with deep affection and admiration. He was a very skilled investigator and a policeman appreciated by colleagues and citizens; a man with great insights. Even today he is an example for men and women in uniform engaged in the fight against organized crime.”

His first major investigation was the Ciaculli Massacre. A mob war that went bad, resulting in the deaths of seven soldiers and police officers, killed by a car bomb on the last day of June 1963, planted near the home of Michele Greco, a Mafioso with roots that went back forever. From there, it was as though Boris had got on a travelator and just had to keep going. Case after case. Crime after crime.

On June 19, 1975, he graduated from the 101st session at Quantico, Virginia, the training center of the FBI. He was, and still is, the only Italian police officer chosen to attend this course. He would meet and make friends with many agents of the FBI and the DEA, including Tom Tripodi a famous former FBN (Federal Bureau of Narcotics) officer who was the drug agency’s top link into Italy and the first to go undercover in Sicily, against the Mafia.

Together, beginning in September 1978, they would work a narcotics inquiry, code-name “Operation Caesar.” that would eventually develop into The Pizza Connection, covering the biggest ever drug trafficking operation between Sicily and America.

It would also become the death of Commissioner Giuliano.

Its roots lay back in 1962 with the murder of Calcedonio Di Pisa, the Mafia boss of the Noce neighborhood in Palermo. A dandy who would dress in purple silk shirts and camel-haired coats, and had close links into the Bonanno Mafia family of Williamsburg, New York, he’s gunned down in a city square in the Ziza district the day after Xmas. It was all about heroin and the huge profits the mob could see waiting for them.

By August 1965, Giuliano and other investigators were tracking a complex drug trafficking operation developing from this period, which resulted in the arrest and trial of Mafia suspects in Sicily, mainland Italy and America.

Illustrious names appear on the charge sheets:

Francesco Coppola, Diego Plaja, Giuseppe Magaddino in New York and his father, Gaspare, in Sicily; the mysterious and illusive Santo Sorge and even Giuseppe Genco Russo, allegedly, the number one boss on the island. Plaja, a huge, obese waddle of a man, and the boss of Castellammare, had a daughter who married Giuseppe Magaddino.

A family within a family. The way Cosa Nostra maintains its bloodline.

Of the many stories of Giuliano’s life on the squad, there is a singular one, symptomatic of the problems police faced dealing with the wall of silence that "men of respect" lived by.

Boris had been asked to go and interrogate the old mafia boss Genco Russo in prison for an altogether banal affair: a large cattle rustling operation that had taken place in Russo’s domain, Mussomeli in the Province of Caltanissetta.  He can't say no, so he goes to the Ucciardone Prison in Palermo, reluctantly. He knows he won't dig a spider out of the hole.

As soon as the cell door opens, the prisoner, nearly blind from a cataract, already knows who his visitor is. He doesn't need to look at him: "Good morning, Inspector." And Giuliano says: “Buongiorno, zù Peppi. Ci avissi a fari nu paru 'i dumanni supra a alcune mucche.” (I need to ask you some questions about certain cows.) 

The answer is acerbic: " E ssu le mucche? (what are cows?)" Genco Russo denies the existence of cattle. And Giuliano just needs to say goodbye and leave: "Thanks, zù Peppi and goodbye." (5)

Giuliano personally arrests one of the suspects, Frank Garafola, one time under boss to Joe Bonanno in New York, now retired back in Sicily and still breaking the law in his golden years. When confronted by his safe filled with money he claimed no knowledge of how it came to be there.

After many trials, all the defendants are eventually acquitted. The drug dealing carried on, however, as more and more Mafia families moved from traditional criminal schemes into the more lucrative field of importing raw opium, and through secret factories across the island, converting it into heroin for the endless appetite of North America.

9237161886?profile=originalBy 1978, Gaetano Badalamenti (right), boss of Cinisi, was leading one of the world’s most prolific drug cartels. It helped that he had a brother, Emanuele, who lived in Monroe, Michigan, running various business operations, including a pizza restaurant chain. (6)

Formed in Naples, in 1974, the cartel embraced everyone who mattered-the Grecos, Bontates, Inzerillos, Luciano Leggio through his proconsul, Salvatore Riina, running the house for his boss in prison since 1974, and tied in with the Campania version of the Mafia, the Camorra, and Mafia crime families in the USA, especially the Bonannos and Gambinos. By 1979 Sicily had up to nine heroin laboratories hidden across the island, each capable of producing up to one ton of product a month.

In one of his many reports to his superiors, Giuliano claimed the Mafia had reentered the international drug traffic with all the logistics it needed, piggybacking on its old network of tobacco smuggling which it kept it alive following the end of the Second World War. (7)

A year after his FBI graduation, on October 20, 1976, Boris is promoted to head of the Squadra Mobile, taking over from Bruno Contrada who moved first to Criminalpol, the central directorate of the criminal police, and then to SISDE, the Italian secret service.

In 1992, arrested and charged with complicity in mafia association, in 2007 the courts sentenced him to ten years in prison. Information from Mafia informants linked Contrada to Rosario Riccobono, the boss of Mondello, and others, claiming he passed information to his mob associates tipping them off about forthcoming law enforcement investigations. (8)

Contrada’s case, one of the most complex and convoluted involving the Mafia and law enforcement, is causing ripples to this day as he still protests his innocence, aged almost ninety.

In 1969, as head of the Homicide Section of the Flying Squad, Giuliano is lead investigator in another mass killing, this one known as the Viale Lazio Massacre.

A shoot-out in a building contractor’s office on the north-west-side of the city. In the first week of December, it resulted in the death of Calogero Bagarella, the elder brother of Leoluca. One of the deadliest killers in the Corleone Family, his brother, would take his place and, over the years, would surpass anything his sibling had done.

The ambush and assassination of Judge Pietro Scaglione in May 1971 would present Boris Giuliano with the first of many examples of the killing of notable people. Excellent corpses as the media would refer to them, they would come to fill the streets and countryside of Sicily as a new breed of Mafiosi emerged, scouring everything in their path.

The 1970s is filled with cases for him to investigate. A decade bookmarked by the killing of two well-known journalists in Sicily.

In September 1970, crusading reporter Mauro De Mauro disappears. It would be twenty years before investigators confirmed his murder- kidnapped, strangled and buried- by Emanuele D’Agostino, Mimmo Teresi, Stefano Giaconia and Bernardo Provenzano.

His murder was part of a convoluted series of events linking into the very security of Italy itself, A person of influence in the Senate did not want the secrets out. Giuliano admitted this in a report, claiming “there was someone at the ministry in Rome who did not want anyone to get to the bottom of the De Mauro investigation.” (9)

There was the brutal assassination of Lieutenant Colonel Giuseppe Russo of the carabinieri (military police) investigation branch, and his friend the schoolteacher, Filippo Costa, in August 1977, in the forest of Ficuzza, just a twenty minutes drive from Corleone.

A thorn in the side of Riina, Russo was enjoying a holiday break with his family, when out for an evening stroll, he was gunned down by a group of men, including Riina and his godson, Giovanni Brusca. He kept it in the family, with his brother-in-law, Leoluca Bagarella, along as back-up.

Then the big one. The link that connected so many loose ends and started Boris Giuliano down a road to his own very special kismet.

Giuseppe Di Cristina is a powerful Mafia chief from Riesi in the province of Caltanissetta on the south side of Sicily. His father and grandfather headed the clan for generations, and then Di Cristina assumed the role of capo in 1961 at twenty-six. One of the youngest mob bosses ever. By 1978, he’s scared out of his pants by something he knows as Il Corleonesi. No one in Italy’s law enforcement knew who they were, but the Don of Riesi did. And they were after him.

In desperation, he became a pentiti, an informant. The first mob boss in Sicily to turn into a collaborator with the judiciary since the 19th century.

He spills the beans to Captain Pettinato of the carabinieri, in a cottage somewhere in the countryside near Riesi. This was April 16, 1978.

Less than a month later, Di Cristini is history. He was, in Mafia terminology, “laid down.”

Shot dead by two men on Via Leonardo di Vinci in Palermo, during early morning rush-hour traffic chaos on May 5th. Boris Giuliano is one of the first police officers on the scene.

In the victim’s wallet, he finds bank checks made out for hundreds of millions of lire to a mysterious bank connected to Michele Sindona, one of Italy’s richest men. He’s under investigation by a lawyer called Giorgio Ambrosoli hired by The Bank of Sicily to determine what Sindona is doing to the banking world. At home and abroad.

There was also the private telephone numbers of Nino and Ignazio Salvo, Sicily’s two richest men, the island’s certified tax-collectors.

The Mafia issued and passed checks without concern. No one, least of all the banks, bothered themselves with the huge amounts of money traveling from Sicily in and out of accounts belonging to men of honor or their associates. Finding suspects with drugs on them was almost impossible. Boris Giuliano realized the way into the maze was to follow the money trail. He was the first Sicilian police officer to do this. He blazed a trail that would be followed, in years to come, by illustrious judges like Giovanni Falcone.

A year after Di Cristina’s murder, Commissioner Giuliano travels to Milan to interview Ambrosoli. They compare notes. By then, Boris knows it’s all about the money pouring in from drug trafficking. On July 12th, 1979, the lawyer is shot dead outside his home, returning from work. By a hit man brought in from America.

It’s like Elmore Leonard writing a movie script. Except it’s real-life.

Eight days later, Boris Giuliano is dead.

Earlier in that year on January 26, 1979, he’s called to another murder scene.

This one features Mario Francese, an investigative journalist and legal specialist for Giornale di Sicilia, the island’s leading daily newspaper. Gunned down near his home in Viale Campania in the Liberta district. Like De Mauro, his murder will lie unexplained for many years until investigations reveal the Mafia kill Francese because he was getting too close to the Corleonesi and their part in the assassination of Colonel Russo.

Attilio Bolzoni, a renowned Mafia expert, once said, “Palermo doesn’t think much about the dead. It’s a city of gravestones, bunches of flowers, little affairs at crossroads. They shoot at each other a lot.”

He doesn’t mention the memorializing of Palermo’s dead by plaques and shrines that fill the city from end to end. On buildings and walls, remembrance trees and parks, constant reminders, linking years of Mafia killings connecting every district and community, square and high street, in a landscape colored red by blood and black by despair. They all give voice to silenced demands for justice coming from the past (10)

In a city between the heavens and the flames as its mayor, Leoluca Orlando once described it, there is so much to commemorate, and for all the wrong reasons.

The head of the Flying Squad will have at least two plaques to honor him. One where he worked and one where he died. His murder was the inevitable consequence of discovering the connection between Palermo and the American heroin trade. And between the money-laundering of the Mafia and the banker, Michele Sidona. Boris Giuliano was becoming too big a danger to ignore.

The end for him, will begin on a luggage conveyor which ironically, is at Punta Raisi airport in the domain of mafioso Gaetano Badalamenti in Cinisi, a small town north of Palermo which he ruled with the traditional iron fist. He had become immensely wealthy from his management of labor and materials as the airport was constructed using Mafia connections, and then his control over it as the major drug conduit in and out of Sicily.

However, sometime in 1978, the Corleonesi use some infraction not only to have him removed as head of the Commission, but expelled, laid down, as they describe, it from the Mafia itself. He leaves the island and moves to the Americas. (11)

The vacuum he creates in Sicily’s drug trafficking landscape is filled by Salvatore Riina and his allies. This will be the catalyst for the events that lead Boris Giuliano to that fateful morning coffee stop at the Bar Lux. 

In Junes 1979, a young reporter at L’Ora, a Palermitan daily newspaper, met the Vice-Questore when he visited the office. One of the senior reporters said to the young man, “Boris Giuliano is an extraordinary policeman, because he is very different from the others.  He does his job extremely well, but above all his a normal man, one who is always on the side of decent people. It’s his instincts that make him nervous, he knows something terrible is about to happen here in Palermo.” (12)

It was. And it did.            

And I saw and behold, a pale horse, and its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him…..’ - Book of Revelations

End of part one | Continue reading part two

1) The murder of Filadelfo Aparo remains unsolved. Although Giuseppe Ferrante, a 23-year-old street vendor, is convicted for his part in the ambush and killing, the court based his conviction on circumstantial evidence. He died in prison before his appeals expired and the law fully resolved the case.

2) “ If other state bodies had supported Giuliano’s intelligent investigative commitment, probably the organizational structures of the mafia would not be so enormously strengthened and many brutal killings, including that of Giuliano himself, would not have been consummated…..he appeared in the eyes of the Mafia familes at that time like the only investigator capable of creating serious problems for them »

Judge Paolo Borsellino wrote this in the papers of the indictment of the first maxi-trial in 1986. Another hero isolated by the state, the judge was murdered by the Mafia in 1992. Probably, for all the same reasons.

3) The telephone call Boris Giuliano received that morning leading him to visit the cafe early, where he would be alone and unprotected, was made by someone following a meeting of the Mafia commission, or ruling body, confirming his murder, possibly held at a club called Il Castello in San Nicola Lárena. Thirty kilometers south of Palermo, they would gather there in the afternoon when it was closed to the public to lay down their policy of slash, burn, kill, extort and above all, control.

It belonged to another capo (boss) called Francesco Di Carlo. He is unique in that he is the only Sicilian Mafia boss to die of COVID-19. In of all places, Paris.

The men involved in that meeting were Salvatore Riina, Bernardo Provenzano, Michele Greco, Francesco Madonia, Giuseppe Calo, Bernardo Brusca and Antonino Geraci. All will be found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment for their part in the murder of the head of the Flying Squad.

4) Squadra Mobile is a division of the Italian State Police and operates in all of Italy’s major cities. In Palermo, it is divided into nine units, number one allocated to fighting the mafia.

5)  ref Il Dubbio. 21 January 2021


7) Ordinaza di Rinvio a Giudizo, maxitrial, Page1888.

8) The list of Mafiosi who informed against Contrada is long, and includes Tommaso Buscetta, Rosario Spatola, Gaspare Mutolo, Francesco Marino Mannoia, Salvatore Cancemi. Maurizio Pirrone and Giuseppe Marchese, the brother-in-law of Leoluca Bagarella. Besides Riccobono. Prosecutors accuse Contrada of also working with Stefano Bontate, the boss of numerically, the biggest Mafia clan in Sicily.

9) La Repubblica. June 18, 2005.

10)  Adamo, Sergio. Voice of the Forgotten. New York: Peter Lang, 2007.

11) Style, Alexander. Excellent Cadavers. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995.

12) A Palermitan Diary. Attilio Bolzoni. 2014

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9237143670?profile=originalBy Thom L. Jones for Gangsters Inc.

The catalyst is an arrest and a search.

On July 7, a bar-owner on Via Francesco Crispi, near the Palermo waterfront, finds a hand gun left behind by a customer. It’s a Brazilian made, six-shot Taurus.38 Special. He rings the police who visit and waits for the owner to return.

Sure enough, about an hour later, two men enter the bar and start looking for something. When stopped and questioned, Nino Gioe and Nino Marchese, both mafioso, deny the gun is theirs. When The Flying Squad get involved, they check the men’s possessions, and find in Marchese’s wallet a receipt that leads to a building in Romagnolo, Brancaccio: Number 56 Via Percori Giraldi. One of Bagarella’s lairs in the city.

In the apartment, the police find heroin, four kilos, guns everywhere, photographs of Bagarella and other mafiosi; one of Lorenzo Nuvoletta, a boss of the Camora in Naples, fake passports. A medical prescription made out to Giacomo Bentivenga, an alias used by Bagarella. A treasure-trove of mob miscellany, including a pair of worn work boots. Turned out they had belonged to one Melichore Sorrentino.

They find his name on a piece of paper written by Bagarella and then crossed out repeatedly. He and his brother, Giuseppe, had disappeared at the beginning of July. White shotgun. Why Bagarella kept the boots is a mystery. Maybe like most serial killers, he kept a memento of his hits. We’ll never know. The brothers’ Sorrentino are gone. Two vacancies to the ranks of Cosa Nostra.

That Saturday morning, Boris finishes his coffee and goes to pay the owner, Giovanni Siragusa. As he stands with his back to the door, Leoluca Bagarella walks in and steps up behind him. From the eyewitness reports, he’s as nervous as a whore walking into church.

He’s carrying a pistol, a 7.65milimeter Beretta, Short, like the killer, a seven-round clip in the handle. Small cartridge equivalent to a.32. Useless at thirty feet, deadly at thirty centimeters. Bagarella points up, he’s shorter than Giuliano who is no giant, and fires three times into jaw and head. Entry would small, exit wound big, destroying the face and features of the police officer, who tumbles to the floor. Bagarella leans over and empties the last four rounds into his victim’s back.

9237147057?profile=originalThe killer pockets the gun and walks out into the street, turning left into Via Di Marco, and steps into a waiting car. On June 20 that year, a yellow Fiat 128 belonging to a furniture manufacturer, Giuseppe D’Agostino, disappears from Via Aquileia, two kilometers to the west of the Bar Lux. On the same day, in Via Pacinotti, two kilometers south, someone steals plates from a Renault belonging to a signor Inzerillo. They come together a month later.

As Bagarella settles in, the driver heads north and they abandon the car ten minutes later in Via Lombardia. (7)

Although the cafe is full, only the owner can give a description of the shooter. A police-artist image creates what is close to the actual killer, but leads nowhere.

Inert here artist image and photo of Bagarella in 1979

The Squadra Mobile will produce a report on the killing on 21 July 1979, and another dated 16 December in the same year. Both are dead-ends. For some inexplicable reason, Bruno Contrada takes on the investigation. He gets nothing. One of the best units in the state police cannot close the assassination of their boss.

The district of Liberta becomes a graveyard for the Mafia. Between 1979 and 1988 they slaughter three law enforcement officers, three judges and two politicians in this area alone.

Bagarella finally comes to justice years into the future for this crime, his fate decided by the new breed of Mafia informants who pour out of the woodwork, spilling the beans.

He is currently serving thirteen life sentences plus 134 years for murders he committed over his lifetime as a mafioso. Locked away in the highest security prison in Italy, L’Aquila, on the island of Sardinia.

He managed the Capaci Massacre that killed Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three bodyguards. He orchestrated the bombings that ripped apart Milan, Florence and Rome between May and August in 1993, killing and injuring dozens.

He even arranged the murder in June 1982 of a prison guard while locked away in Cavallaci penitentiary in Termini Immeresi.

His victims were men and women and at least one child that we know of- Giuseppe Di Matteo.

Vincenzina Marchese is the sister to a band of villains who run the mob family in Corso dei Mille. And the wife of Leoluca Bagarella.

9237147266?profile=originalHer brother Giuseppe, also known as Pino, turns and becomes an informant in September 1992. It’s a disgrace that would drive anyone to drink, or worse. Secretly inducted into the Corleonesi by Riina and Bagarella, Pino acted as their spy embedded in Palermo’s clans. No one else knew who he was or what he did. Toto’s godson. A special boy. His treachery therefore double-sided.

With Salvatore Riina’s arrest in January 1993, one of the many informants to testify against him is Santino Di Matteo of the Altofonte Mafia clan. Bagarella orders Giovanni Brusca to kidnap Di Matteo’s son, age twelve, and hold him for ransom to maintain the pressure on his father to renounce his testimony. This is in November 1993.

They hold him for three years, then strangle the boy and dissolve his body in a drum of acid. Transversal vendetta some sources claim. They killed the child because Bagarella could not do the right thing and revenge the treachery of his wife’s brother by inflicting punishment on her family. By killing the boy, he shifted the balance of blame onto the law for creating the problem.

This act of evil is just too much for Bagarella’s wife.

She married Luchino in the wedding of the year in 1991, at Casa Professa, an ancient baroque church in the heart of Palermo; the reception held at Villa Igea, the most expensive hotel in Sicily, filled with guests from every level of society. Everyone danced to the theme tune from the the movie ‘The Godfather.” They had been engaged for fifteen years. Her husband was on parole, awaiting a legal judgment to determine whether he returned to prison.

He didn’t, and instead, lived with his wife at various places in Palermo province until in March 1994, he leased a 120 square meter luxury apartment on the fourth floor of a Mafia constructed behemoth of a block on Piazza Tosti, Malaspina, in the city's heart. Built by Tullio Cannella. A building contractor in deep to the mob, he was close to Bagarella who was protecting him from the Graviano brothers who ran Brancaccio and wanted to kill him. For some reason.

Brancaccio is an important cog in Bagarella’s great wheel of death. The biggest Mafia family in Sicily, it overflows with men who murder on command. Mangano, Spatuzza, Lo Nigro, Romeo, the De Filippo brothers, an endless chain of death merchants at his command.

When Canella flips and joins Italy’s list of Mafia tell-alls, he informs the police Bagarella had told him, Riina’s arrest in January 1993, happens because his other right hand, Bernardo Provenzano, turned cop and tipped off the authorities. Waiting in the shade too long can do that, it seems. He and Bagarella will run the Mafia from then on. (8)

Luchino is essentially the head of the armed wing, the fire teams, that the Corleonesi used to carry out hits. He not only leads, but is a hands-on boss who would match each of his killer’s astutarlo (hit) records. Exceeding most.

He’s not so much a killer as an exterminator. A human version of pyrethrum that settles like a curtain of death wherever he visits.

People around Piazza Tosti knew him as Signor Franco, who came and went quietly with his wife and faithful assistant, Calvaruso, who lived on the seventh floor of the same apartment block, and ran a clothing store for men on Corso Tukory.

Bagarella would often sit on his deck and look across the square at the homes of two Palermo judges in a building close by, Giuseppe Pignatore and Guido Lo Forte. Guarded day and night by a special unit of the carabiniere provided to protect them from dangerous mafiosi who they were prosecuting regularly at the Palace of Justice. Their apartment is within spitting distance, following each other’s shadows like a murder of crows. But only Luchino knew what was going on.

9237147659?profile=originalBy 1995, things were just too much for Vincenzina (right). She had suffered multiple miscarriages, believing they were penance to pay for her husband’s sins. Her brother, Pino Marchese, had become informant number 224, and the shame of this must have been unbearable to her. She was aware of the child being held captive in some deserted farmhouse near San Giuseppe Jato. She tried throwing herself off the balcony.

Calvaruso was there and stopped her.

In March, the High Court in Palermo finds her husband guilty in his absence for the Russo murder in 1977. Perhaps it’s too much of everything?

No one was there on May 12, 1995, when she hung herself. Like all Mafia women, she was a carrier of secrets. Cosa Nostra to her, as so many wives, simply meant death and destruction.

Bagarella came home to find her dead body. Her slippers by the bed, fresh flowers in a vase by their wedding photograph. She had spent her last moment on earth finishing the family ironing. There was a note: “Luca, it is all my fault. Forgive me.” She was forty-eight years old.

According to Renate Siebert, even before she committed suicide, she had 'let herself die' in a process of psycho-physical depression and decline. (9)

Calvaruso, who rolled and became an informant in January 1996, explained that Bagarella cleaned and dressed the body and then, carried it out into the darkness of the night and buried her. Somewhere. (10)

With the death of his wife, he even lost interest in killing people.

On June 24, Bagarella sets off for Corleone. Perhaps he had a meeting with Provenzano, who had been on the run from the law for over thirty years. He drops Calvaruso off at his shop in Albergerhia, picking up a pair of Levi jeans he was having altered, and then heads south towards the Palermo ring-road.

About seven in the evening. He’s driving a Lancia Y10, colored violet. A strange shade for a man with such a black heart. Suddenly, near the Pagliarelii junction, he’s hemmed in my multiple cars, lights flashing. Men everywhere and it’s all over. It’s less than two miles from the square where Toto was caught in January 1993.

Done in by more members of the family.

This time it’s the brothers De Filippo-Pasquale and Emmanuele- men of honor in the Brancaccio clan. Brothers-in-law to Pino Marchese. Pasquale’s a close confidant and friend of Bagarella. Now, hated and despised by their wives and families for becoming informants, they give the low-down on Luca and where he might be.

His bravi raguzzi (fine boys) turned out not so good at the break.

“I must have dreamed″ giving birth to her sons, Mrs. Marianne Bruno said, her voice shaking with anger on a broadcast on RAI state TV. “Maybe they’re not even mine. They disgust me.″

Luchino surely wondered as the DIA (Anti-Mafia) agents escorted him to their Palermo headquarters at Tre Torri, near Palermo’s huge public park, Favorita, will it ever stop?

If the past is a foreign country, Leoluca Bagarella will spend the rest of his life there, as he has no future. (11)

But first, he’ll call his lawyer.

"He always did the job with love." - Antonino Calvaruso

Back to previous chapter | Back to Part 1


1) Reski, Petra. The Honoured Society, London: Atlantic Books, 2012.



4) The Italian word cristiano is spelled cristianu in Sicilian. The former does mean “Christian.”

 Sicilians however, use cristianu almost always to mean a male human being, not in a religious sense.


6) Bolzoni, Attilio. White Shotgun, London; MacMillan, 2013.


8) Raggruppamento Operative Speciale Carabinieri. Reporto Investigativo Roma 30.07.1196.

9) Renate Siebert. Mafia and anti-Mafia, Concepts and individuals. Univeristà della Calabria.

10) In September 1996, Calvaruso leads investigators to an area between Villabate and Bagheria, to a hole covered by a marble slab. He claimed Vincenzina is here, but the pit was empty. Forensics identified something had laid there, but it was inconclusive on origin.

Not far away, on Via Pablo Neruda there is a bland, inconspicuous building, formerly a steel and hardware warehouse, once the registered office of I.C.R.E. a company owned by Leonardo Greco, the Mafia boss of Bagheria.

During the period Riina rules, everyone knows this place as “The Auschwitz of Cosa Nostra.” People who went in never came out. It served as a court to dish out death sentences and dispose of bodies. It would have been home-away-from-home to someone like Bagarella. Burying his wife in the neighborhood would make sense.

11) The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. L. P. Hartley. The Go-Between.

Other sources for the story are various newspapers-La Repubblica, L’Ora, Oggi, L’Unita, Giornale di Sicilia, Corriere della Sera- and government documents on-line. As always, when writing about the Mafia, reports, even government official documents, often offer inconsistent evidence. I have tried to use the standard three rule: three interpretations of the same event from non-conflicting provenance.

Thanks to Joey Nardi for his support in translating some Italian files that puzzled me, Chris G for showing me places I had not thought to go, and the lovely Edy Biraschi for her invaluable guidance in getting me through Sicilian dialect mysteries in search of the truth. Also, Justin Cascio, at for some background on Corleone.

His website is a must-visit for mafiaologists.                 

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9237143670?profile=originalBy Thom L. Jones for Gangsters Inc.

"Death will be the proof that we lived." - Rosario Castellanos

The Killer.

It seemed to some, Leoluca Bagarella organized his murders with the same care and deliberation you might use ordering an entrée at a favorite restaurant-knowing the result is more than satisfying.

One of his closest aids, Antonino Calvaruso, recalled how his boss was so meticulous in his preparation ritual in everything he did. From dressing for the occasion, preparing for church, to killing a victim.

Tomasso Buscetta, perhaps Sicily’s most famous Mafia informant, confirmed this. He spent time in Ucciardone Prison with Bagarella, and then three months alongside him in a penal infirmary, and came to know although had a low opinion of him. He would come to believe that he did not belong to humanity.

9237144254?profile=originalBagarella (right) told him he would light a candle in front of a statue of Jesus and pray: “Take him Jesus, take him to you.” After the killing, he would pray, “Dear God, you didn’t want him. I have sent him to you. Lord, you alone know that they are the ones who want to be killed. No guilt attaches to me.” (1)

As the 1970s end, there are three murders that will be the litmus test measuring his importance within the Mafia:

Giuseppe Russo, a senior officer in the Carabinieri military police, older than Italy itself, Giuseppe Di Cristina, a Mafia capofamiglia and Boris Giuliano.

Di Cristina was not only a major figure in the brotherhood, his political clout was big enough that Italy’s ruling party, The Christian Democrats, hung their flag upside down outside party headquarters in Riesi as the funeral cortege passed.

Russo represented the Italian State at one of the highest levels.

The head of the Palermo Flying Squad was one of the most senior police officers in the city.

Assassinations of these kinds showed the world just how significant Cosa Nostra is.

Being Mafia is so important to them. From a nobody, a nessumo mischiato con niente, a nothing involved in nothing, they become a person of respect. Never to stand in line, drinks and meals for free, everyone stepping aside as they walk the streets. If respect is an addiction for Sicilians to a mafioso, it’s the very air that they breathe. Una sgarroa, an insult, is unacceptable. Respect creates power, which equals money that brings control. Their monopoly of coercive force governs everything.

In the wickedness of man that was Cosa Nostra, in a soulless town like Corleone, Leoluca Bagarella could, it seemed, with killing, resist everything but temptation. If forgiveness is something you gift yourself, he would spend a lifetime resisting this impulse.

His father Salvatore and mother Lucia Mondello married in 1928 and settled in an old tufa (porous limestone, locally quarried) house down near Piazza Annunziata, close to the Ospedale Dei Bianchi, the town’s only hospital, and the church of Santa Rosalia that they and most of their Mafia friends would use, although it was the wives who spent most time there.

Its priest, Girolamo Liggio, was a cousin to Luciano Leggio, the Corleone boss and major domo in Sicily until his arrest and imprisonment in 1974. Leggio was also a third cousin to Salvatore Riina, another Mafia star in the making. In a place where consanguinity was commonplace, almost everyone connected to someone, somehow.

The Bagarellas were a large family, not uncommon in a rural Catholic town. There were three boys, Giuseppe the eldest and then, Calogero, born in 1935. Leoluca Biagio, known by friends and family throughout his life as Luchino, arrived in February 1942. He had sisters, at least three, possibly four.

One of them, Antonietta, will become famous, twice. Initially, for being the first woman in Sicily to face trial in the Palermo Court of Assize in 1971, for Mafia association. Her second moment of fame is when she weds Salvatore Riina in 1974. She always called him Toto, the standard epithet for his first name.

On April 16, they marry in Cinisi, in a church. Their priest, Agostino Coppola, is a made man in Badalamenti’s clan. He will christen each of their four children and will die in 1995 under house arrest for his crimes.

9237144662?profile=originalToto (right), one day, will become the Big Boss of the Sicilian Mafia, the capofamiglia of Sicily, according to some sources.

By the late 1950s the Bagarella family is living at 24 Via Scorsone, in the San Giovanni district of the town, a narrow street as wide as a broomstick, and this is where she meets Toto after he’s done a stretch in jail. She will love him with no conditions. It will last for ever.

Antonietta lives there to this day in a house filled with memories overflowing. It must make the roof swell to contain them. Three rooms off the street, four rooms at level one above. Her husband is dead. One son is in prison forever. The other gets nine years for “Mafia membership”, and will spend his life under “special surveillance.” A life lived. For what purpose?

One of the memories is surely of the massive gunfight that took place at dawn on May 7, 1963 almost outside her front door. Leggio, Calogero and another fearsome killer in their group, Giuseppe Ruffino, try to kill Francescp Paolo Streva, Dr Navarra’s fearsome ambidextrous killer, and some of his men. Although this attempt fails, in the first week of September, Streva is gunned down in a country lane in the Pirello district, a rural area between Cortleone and Ficuzza, by Bernardo Provenzano and at least two other gunmen.

An extra in this story, Provenzano will one day, become the Mafia boss of Sicily.

Luchino is born into a family with a long connection into familial criminality. On his father’s side, there is a link to a long-dead uncle, Epifanio Palumba, who was part of one of Sicily’s early crime families, the infamous Rapanzino gang of Palermo province. Cattle rustlers, and thieves, the law exterminates them by 1840. (2)

His uncle, Arcangelo, brother to Salvatore, is one of dozens of victims of the Navarra war that rips apart Corleone in the late 1950s. (3)

Riina and Calogero Bagarella become close friends and both work at a flour mill in the town until Riina kills his first victim, shooting him over a dispute about a game of bowls. At nineteen he goes to prison until early release in 1956. The two men form a lifelong friendship that will come to embrace Leoluca as he grows into adulthood.

In 1957, Giuseppe murders a shepherd, Ambrogio Miceli, who he believes is playing fast and loose with sister Maria Matilde, the youngest daughter. Because it’s family, Calogero is there to help him. They shoot their victim dead on Via Streva, a narrow, twisting lane on the east-side of the town.. The law catches up with Giuseppe and he finished up in prison for life, dying there, allegedly murdered in Ucciardone, Palermo, in 1972.

9237144484?profile=originalCalogero (right) goes on the lam and stays that way until he dies in 1969, killed in a Palermo gun-fight. Leaving behind his girlfriend, Riina’s sister, Arcangela, four years younger than he was. Widowed before she could get married.

If she followed the custom of her day and never wed, she could well be the Arcangela Riina who lives today in Via Rua Del Piano in the town. She will be 82, with a lifetime of memories, no doubt like her friend Antonietta, who lives a mere three minutes away by car.

The law believed Calogero was still alive until twenty years later. A carabiniere squad in Corleone, under Captain Angelo Jannone, taps into Lucia’s phone in December 1990, and hears a conversation that confirms the death of her son.

Legend claims he’s buried in the local cemetery, although his remains have never been identified.

In 1942, as Leoluca Bagarella emerges into the poverty of Corleone, Riina is a twelve-year-old urchin playing in the muddy streets. Both Luchino and Toto Riina have two things in common that links them in family and life. They become one day, related through marriage, Bagarella forever being known within the Mafia, as “the brother-in-law”, and they are both seriously height diminished. 152 centimeters. Five feet, even.

They called Riina u curtu, shorty. Behind his back. No one, it seems, was stupid enough to use this pejorative about Bagarella. Anytime. Anywhere. He would become one of the most active and proficient killers in an organization filled with deadly men. Some sources estimate he murdered over 300, which if true, would make him one of the worst serial killers in modern history. We will never know the actual number, but it surely runs into double and possibly triple figures.

Unlike Luciano Leggio and Riina, there is no record of just who was the first man Bagarella kills. Perhaps involved in the Navarra-Leggio conflict that filled Corleone and the surrounding countryside with dozens of corpses from 1958 until 1962, which would have given him a sound apprenticeship in the art of sudden death.

The law obviously had their suspicion because along with Riina, his brother Calogero and his father Salvatore, Bagarella is a defendant at the famous Mafia trial held in Bari, on the Italian mainland, in 1969. Salvatore goes to court after completing five years in judicial exile. Served in Naples from 1963 until 1968. Everyone in the dock came from Corleone, and the judge acquits them all. To carry on killing.

We have information about the men Bagarella murdered in 1977, the year of his first excellent corpse. Or at least, some of them.

He shoots dead two men at a gas station on May 31 in San Cipirello, a small commune about 25 kilometers south-west of Palermo. One is the intended victim, the other collateral damage.

Simone Lo Manto is a shepherd, and he steals wine from a property that belonged to Nicola Salamone, the Mafia boss of the area. A crime that needs punishing. And seen to be. Bagarella and another man, Giuseppe Lo Bue, shoot the victims as they stop for petrol at a station near the town. Lo Manto is dead because he is stupid. Raimondo Mule, because he is a friend of stupid. We realize all this happened because a man called Giovanni Brusca is watching from his Fiat just down the street. He had helped to set the hit in place and would disclose all the details when he became an informant.

In the bizarre and unbelievable cruel extreme coincidence that permeates the world of Cosa Nostra, Mule’s brother, Rosario, also a shepherd, is wrongly convicted along with Rosario Cascio, Salvatore Bonello and Cosimora Russo of another double murder that takes place later in the year, 30 kilometers to the east of San Cipirello. The men serve almost twenty years in prison until information emerges that frees them. One of the multiple killers in this second incident is Leoluca Bagarella.

9237145256?profile=originalAnother is Giovanni Brusca (right).

The victims are Colonel Giuseppe Russo and his friend, the schoolteacher, professor Filippo Costa. Also, collateral damage. Ironically, it is testimony by Brusca that helps prosecutors re- investigate the case leading to the men’s freedom in 1995.

By early 1979, law enforcement in Sicily knew something was brewing in the land of Cosa Nostra, but no one had all the pieces of the puzzle being assembled in the hills of Corleone.

Salvatore Riina was slowly infiltrating Palermo using some of his favorite Mafia families as attack pawns- San Lorenzo, La Noce, Resuttana, Uditore and above all his number one, San Giuseppe Jato, a town half-way between Corleone and the big city. Smaller than Corleone, it sheltered a fearsome Mafia clan ruled by Bernardo Brusca, two years older than Riina.

His son, Giovanni, would take over the family after the courts sentence his father to life in 1985 and would become notorious for his many crimes, one in particular which would come to haunt Leoluca Bagarella and bring him the level of grief he imposed on so many of his victims and their families.

They shared the world of the Mafia and the profession of killing machines. Known either as “the pig” or “the Christian killer,” Brusca blew up a judge and his wife and supervised the murder of a young boy. By his own words, they fitted in the one or two hundred people he killed as a mafioso. There were so many, the total escaped him. Some of them he eliminated in partnership with Bagarella. As a killer duet, they were almost certainly the best in Sicily. (4)

After shooting dead Giuseppe Di Cristina in 1978, Bagarella’s biggest assignment from Riina is to remove this troublesome cop in the Palermo Flying Squad, who is getting too close for comfort.

The carousel was going around and around at Punta Raisi Airport, and all that was on it were two battered blue suitcases. An officer in the Financial Police, on duty that day, June 19, 1979, watched as a porter removed the cases, which had arrived on a flight from Rome, and had no tags. He claimed a man paid to take them out to the kerbside, but when the police officer accompanied him outside, there was no car waiting for the pickup.

9237145292?profile=originalWhen officers from the Flying Squad arrived and they opened the cases, they found almost $US500,000 wrapped in aprons from a pizzeria in America, in Pennsylvania, and articles of clothing, some showing the logo of the same business. (5)

Badalamenti’s nephew, based in New Jersey, sent them.

Salvatore Sollena was a soldier in the Gambino Mafia Family, based in Cherry Hill. The drugs the money covered were also, ironically, discovered by the law at JFK Airport in New York before the mob could collect them. A double-banger in the worst possible way. For Sollena. The mob killed him. Two behind the ear. Found in the trunk of his car at The Four Seasons Hotel parking lot in Collingswood, New Jersey. It may have been for screwing this up. Or his gambling habits. Another deal gone south. All kinds of reasons. Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambinos, said make him go away. And he did.

The Flying Squad’s investigation, starting at the airport, would determine the trunks are for a soldier in the Villagrazia Mafia clan, Francesco Mafara. Some sources claim he was part of Brancaccio’s family, numerically, the largest in Sicily. He owns a quarry to the west of the city and links to one of the biggest and most mysterious art heists in history, the theft of Caravaggio’s Nativity stolen in 1969 from a Palermo church. He never picks up the suitcases and then he then disappears in 1981 during the great mafia war.

They strangled him, along with two others, Antonio Grado and Francesco Marino. The murderers, Pino Greco, Mario Prestifilippo, Giuseppe Lucchese and Fifo Marchese were laughing and joking as they carried out the killings. Then, they loaded the dead onto a small vehicle, drove the bodies out into the countryside and buried them. (6)

Lupara Bianca, they call it, white shotgun. Gone for good. Shoot them on the street and they are dead. Make them vanish and know one really, really knows. It’s a special Mafia agony. Legend has it Corleone was the first family to use this technique. They never denied it. Myth or truth, it was impeachable advertising for their brand: The Corleonesi.

Boris Giuliano knows this money find is an important link in his inquiry into Mafia drug trafficking. The pieces are fitting together. He orders a sweep across Palermo province as far as Trapani to check on potential heroin labs, suspicious buildings, places that could store large amounts of product and equipment. He’s putting on the pressure.

And so they kill him. It’s the Mafia’s solution for problems that fit the too hard basket. Negotiate. Mediate. Then eliminate.

Continue reading Behold a Pale Horse

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