Infamous Italian Mafia Boss Matteo Denaro Dies in Prison Hospital

Italian Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, who was arrested in January after evading arrest for decades, died of colon cancer in a prison hospital, Italian prosecutors said Monday.

Denaro, 61, was captured in Palermo on January 16, following decades on the run as Italy’s most wanted fugitive. His colon cancer diagnosis and need for treatment was what led Italian officials to his location and arrest.

Denaro has been cited as the mastermind behind some of the Italian mafia’s most brutal crimes, including two bombings in 1992 that killed Italy’s top anti-Mafia prosecutors.

Prosecutors in Palermo are requesting an autopsy, despite it being known that Denaro had been dealing with illness at his time of death. According to doctors, Denaro had been in a coma since Friday and died on Monday morning at around 2 a.m. local time.

Denaro was a mafia boss in Cosa Nostra, which primarily operates on the Italian island of Sicily, where he had spent the last 30 years. Italian investigators had hoped that Denaro would comply upon capture and reveal secrets about Cosa Nostra, though the mafia boss made it clear that he had no intention of talking, and took vital mafia information with him to the grave.

Denaro’s arrest came after years of mafia leaders and lower-level members being arrested in a crackdown on the Sicilian based crime group, sparked by the 1992 bombings. His capture led Palermo’s chief prosecutor, Maurizio De Lucia, to say “We have captured the last of the massacre masterminds.”

Denaro’s burial is expected to take place later this week in Sicily, according to Italian media.

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