"The Mafia Hunter" cop in charge of the search for a murderous mafia boss has revealed the inside story of how he managed to snare the real-life godfather.
Mateo Messina Denaro had evaded law enforcement like a ghost for decades, but one officer, Carabinieri commander Lieutenant Lucio Arcidiacono, finally found him after eight years of unwavering efforts.
Denaro, otherwise known by his comic book-inspired nickname Diabolik, had been marked as the world's most wanted fugitive in 1993, but was arrested on January 16, 2023, at a private clinic in Sicily.
READ MORE: Bloodthirsty mafia boss with comic nickname finally snared after filling own 'cemetery'
“There are moments when you think you’re close to the finish line, " Arcidiacono told the Guardian. "Then there are moments when you fly very low, and months later you realise the trail went cold.’’
The commander had prior experience in tracking down mafiosi, and gets results – but the search for Denaro was his biggest test. It was a hunt he began in 2015 and one he didn't give up on.
Coming face to face with his man at the clinic, Arcidiacono asked the suspect in sheepskin coat for his name. But he knew exactly who he was and the reply came back: "You know who I am."
Denaro, now aged 60, earned a fearsome reputation and the name "boss of all bosses". He strangled a pregnant woman, dissolved a child in acid and was responsible for a deadly bombing campaign.
Commander Arcidiacono has since said the chase of the fugitive was "like being on a rollercoaster" as cops finally snared the man who claimed to have "filled a cemetery, all by myself".
"We scorched the earth around him," he said. "We had arrested his relatives and many of his protectors. But over time we had also followed some leads that were wrong."
The "nerve-racking" search took investigating officers eight years of wire tapping, tracking and arrests, with it all finally coming to a head at a Palermo clinic.
Arcidiacono added: "But you see, the search for a fugitive is nerve-racking. You even have to interpret the silence of the bosses under wiretap.
"Then one day we had an intuition and all the pieces we had collected in the previous eight years all fell into place."
It was after officers stumbled onto the medical records offered up by the Ministry of Health that one Andrea Bonafede came to light, revealed to be the Diabolik fugitive, The Guardian reported.
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Speaking of the lead-up and culmination of the arrest, Arcidiacono said: "The night before the arrest, I didn’t sleep a wink. As bizarre as it may seem, I’ve thought about Messina Denaro every day for the last few years.
"I asked him what his name was, but the truth is that when I had him there in front of me, I knew exactly who he was.
"We have a duty to find out who protected him all these years. Our work isn’t over. We have a long way to go."
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