"I will never regret it!"
These were the last words that the late boss of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, Matteo Messina Denaro, told investigators in the last session of his interrogation.
The man who lived for 30 years on the run, it took a tumor to bring him to his knees. He died this Monday morning in the hospital of L'Aquila, 8 months after he was arrested in a police operation in January of this year.
The 62-year-old mob boss was suffering from a severe form of colon cancer, which was diagnosed while he was still in remission in late 2020.
But who was Matteo Messina Denaro?
A life spent with a gun in his hand since he was a boy, while numerous murders and massacres remain in his conscience.
His arrest had been promised by Italian investigators, magistrates and Interior Ministers over the years.
Messina Denaro spent half of his life in hiding and soon after the capture of another mafia boss, Totò Riina, he became untraceable.
As the science police were tasked with updating his image, having only one photo of the boss in his youth, his billionaire empire fell apart and was taken piece by piece.
Thus her chain of protection and funding was dismantled, while Gdf managed to destroy the myth of a godfather who had infinite power but lived as a ghost, although his invisibility did not prevent him from becoming a father twice.
Children of Matteo Messina Denaro
Everything is known about a girl. Lorenza, until about 10 years ago, lived in her paternal grandmother's house with her mother, Francesca Alagna. Then together they decided to sever their close ties and go live somewhere else. Lorenza, who bore her mother's surname (then her father gave her the surname in the hospital after the arrest), lives in Castelvetrano and gave birth to a son on July 14, 2021, whom she did not name Matteo, even though that is what mafia tradition wanted.
Very little is known about the other boy, even this one of those who came out of the interceptions. He is called Francesco, like the old patriarch of the dynasty, and was born between 2004 and 2005 in the province of Trapani, between Castelvetrano and Partanna, where Matteo Messina Denaro has built his economic and criminal power.
The boss who loved women and luxury
Careful in managing his inaction and protecting him with a host of supporters, one of the world's most sought-after bosses has left behind only the image of an indomitable playboy with Ray Bans, expensive and stylish casual shirts. '…
And behind this now faded image is a trail of legends, a great conqueror of women's hearts, a lover of gold Porsches and Rolexes, a video game maniac, a passionate follower of movies and comic books. And here one stands above all... He is "Diabolik", from which he borrowed the nickname. Even in his pseudonyms, Matteo Messina Denaro personified the double face of a leader capable of combining the traditional and well-known dimension of the mafia with its more modern version.
Heir of Bernardo Provenzano and Don Ciccio Messina Denaro
The godfather of Castelvetrano has always moved between criminal ferocity and political pragmatism. For this reason he was considered the heir of Bernardo Provenzano but above all of his father Don Ciccio, another boss of the traditional nomenclature who died as a fugitive in 1998. When the old patriarch disappeared, the traces of the young Matteo had already been lost for five years, in 1993, even before he was involved in the investigations of the massacres of those years. And since then Diabolik had always managed, sometimes with lucky acrobatics worthy of the elusive comic book character, to escape the blows. A reward of one and a half million euros was placed on his head, but to get to the tracks, the investigators tightened the network of supporters with a deadly pincer. His family members were not spared either:
First shooting when he was 14, first murder when he turned 18.
The judicial "disasters" of Matteo Messina Denaro, otherwise known as Diabolik, started according to the penitent, "for the two automatics he wanted to put on the front of the Alfa 164" in 1989, when he was still a boy. His famous father, Don Ciccio, - the boss of Castelvetrano - received his first complaint about the mafia association. Already known in investigative circles since that time, he does not yet enjoy public "fame", but he received the mandate by delegation from his sick godfather who led him to the inheritance. As the child prodigy of crime, destined by blood ties to take a role in Cosa Nostra, he has always had to deal with gunfire. At the age of 14 he knew how to deal with them, while at the age of 18 he committed his first murder.
He was part of the commando that would kill Falcone in Rome
"I could build a cemetery with the people I killed," he confessed to a friend.
In accordance with the strategy of the massacre of the Corleones, of whom, like his father, he will always remain a loyal ally, he is involved in the massacres of 92 where judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino lost their lives. Messina Denaro's role only came to light when the Caltanissetta Prosecutor's Office, which reopened the investigation into the attacks, sought custody of the Castelvetrano boss and in October 2020 sentenced him to life imprisonment for the two attacks. According to the investigators, he was present at the summit requested by Riina in October 1991, in which the death plan aimed at the two magistrates was decided. The penitents have then shown that he was part of the commando that had to eliminate Falcone in Rome, so much so that he participated in the shadowing and inspections organized for the attack. However, Riina's stop came from Palermo.
On the run since 1993
"Diabolik" also played an important role in the 1993 massacres in Rome, Florence and Milan. Charged and tried, he was sentenced to life in prison for the bombings. His long escape began in June 1993. In a disturbing letter written to his girlfriend Angela at the time, he announced the start of his life as a Scarlet Pimpernel.
"You will hear about me, they will paint me as the devil, but they are all lies," he wrote to her, implying that he was aware that his name would soon be associated with serious bloody events.
Penalties for massacres and murders
The "Ghost" of Messina Denaro was followed by a mountain of arrest warrants and life sentences for mafia group, murder, assault, possession and transportation of explosives. In the most serious criminal events of the last 30 years, starting with the massacres of 92 in which Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were killed, his hand was recognized. He himself, moreover, boasted that he had "killed so many people that there would be enough to fill a cemetery." But if his reputation as a ruthless man is known and appreciated, some doubts have been raised about his real ability to rebuild, after the arrest of Totò Riina and Bernardo Provenzano, the unitary structure of Cosa Nostra affected by the arrests and a fragmentation process. A boss who led Cosa Nostra into the second millennium, without however managing to avoid the end like the old godfathers.
In his criminal career, the godfather from Trapani has accumulated dozens of life sentences. In addition to those for the bombs, he received a life sentence for the kidnapping and murder of toddler Giuseppe Di Matteo, the son of the penitent kidnapped by a Cosa Nostra commando, strangled and dissolved in acid in 1996 after almost two years in prison (also why did he keep denying it). Convicted of creating mafia organizations since 1989, with the last sentence for this charge being 30 years in prison. The Marsala court recognized him as the boss for the first time in 2012. And the boss also received a barrage of life sentences in the Omega and Arca trials which shed light on a series of mafia murders carried out between Alcamo, Marsala and Castellammare between 1989 and 1992.
"I have never been a member of the mafia and I will never regret it"
Matteo Messina Denaro has always denied, before justice, that he was part of Cosa Nostra. And he also denied the charges of massacres and murders, denied ever dealing drugs (I was rich, my father was an art dealer) and claimed that his time on the run had only ended because of illness. In 70 pages of testimony during the interrogation, given to the prosecutor of Palermo, Maurizio de Lucia, Denaro had made it clear: "I rule out remorse." And so it happened.