Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina, feared Mafia boss, dies aged 87

Toto Riina file picImage copyright Unknown
Image caption “Toto” Riina was known as the Mafia “boss of bosses”

Notorious Sicilian Mafia boss Salvatore “Toto” Riina has died from cancer, Italian media reports say.

Riina, 87, former boss of the feared Cosa Nostra, was jailed in 1993.

He was serving 26 life sentences and is believed to have ordered more than 150 murders.

Riina had been in a medically induced coma and his family had been given special permission to visit him in the prisoners’ wing of the hospital in Parma, northern Italy.

As well as kidney cancer, he was reported to have been suffering from a heart condition and Parkinson’s disease.

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The secret lives of the Mafia hunters

Riina was born in 1930 to poor farmers in Corleone, Sicily – the birthplace of Don Corleone, the fictional Godfather in Francis Ford Coppola’s film trilogy.

His father was killed when he was 13 and at 19 he joined the local Mafia, committing his first murder to gain entry.

Riina seized control of the Cosa Nostra crime group in the 1970s. His reputation for cruelty earned him the nickname “The Beast”.

He spent nearly a quarter of a century evading justice – remaining all the while on the island of Sicily.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Judge Giovanni Falcone, second from left, surrounded by armed bodyguards in 1986, earned Riina’s wrath by jailing scores of Mafiosos
Image copyright AFP
Image caption And six years later, he was killed in a bombing that left this wreckage of a police car – ordered by Toto Riina

In 1992, two anti-Mafia judges – Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who had brought scores of mobsters to trial in the 1980s – were killed in Riina’s “war against the state”.

A year later, he was finally captured.

Even in detention, Riina ordered the murder of a 13-year-old boy kidnapped to try to prevent his father revealing information about the Mafia. The boy was strangled and his body dissolved in acid.

And, partly in protest at his arrest, his associates carried out a series of bombings in Rome, Milan and Florence in 1993, leaving 10 people dead.

Riina had been imprisoned under the “Article 41-bis prison regime” imposing tight security measures on Mafiosos intended to completely cut off prisoners from their criminal contacts.

The regime includes strictly limited family visits.

Petitions for him to be released into house arrest for his last days were met with angry protests from the relatives of some of his many victims.

The mobster’s eldest son, Giovanni, is serving a life sentence in jail for four murders.

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