A handwritten note found in his older sister’s home helped lead police to top mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro on Friday, according to court documents.
Carabinieri police in Sicily announced the arrest of 67-year-old Rosalia (Rosetta) Messina Denaro for alleged mafia ties. The arrest warrant was 57 pages long.
Her brother, 60-year-old Matteo Messina Denaro, was Italy’s most wanted man for 30 years before his arrest on January 16. Outside of a Palermo cancer clinic, the police nabbed him.
The arrest warrant stated that the note was discovered by police a month earlier in Rosalia’s home in the western Sicilian town of Castelvetrano, inside the leg of an aluminum chair.
During a sting operation to plant listening and video recording devices, including one that was supposed to go inside the chair, the police accidentally discovered it.
The note, which the police at first mistook for an incomprehensible scramble of words, signs, and letters, was photographed before being replaced. The analysis revealed it to be the story of a man’s fight against colon cancer.
While Italian authorities had previously stated that Messina Denaro’s failing health was the deciding factor in his capture, the identity of the informant was only made public on Friday.
The “historic result of the capture… originated from a note, imprudently kept, although hidden by Rosetta,” the judge wrote in the warrant.
After determining that no other family member was afflicted with cancer in a similar fashion, the police zeroed in on Matteo as the likely target of the note.
When the man whose identity Matteo Messina Denaro stole didn’t show up at the hospital when he was supposed to, the police were able to figure out who he really was and arrest him.
The mobster was found guilty of numerous crimes, including the murders of high-ranking prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino as well as a teenage boy whose body was dissolved in acid.
Messina Denaro, like many other mafiosi before him, used “pizzini,” small pieces of paper sometimes written in code, to keep in touch with family and associates while on the run.
The police say his sister was one of the people who handled the “pizzini,” but she disregarded his advice to burn them after use.
They say she was the family treasurer and that she used the alias “Fragolone,” which means “big strawberry” in Italian, to communicate with Messina Denaro.
A police video revealed that her home featured a large portrait of her wanted brother, who was depicted in the painting donning sunglasses and a crown.
Lorenza, daughter of Rosalia, is Matteo Messina Denaro’s defense attorney, and her husband, Filippo Guttadauro, is a convicted Sicilian mobster.
The warrant said that she was “inspired by an orthodox and rock-hard mafia culture” in her “origins and traditions.”