Matteo Messina Denaro, Italy’s most wanted Mafia boss, who had been on the run for 30 years, was arrested at a medical clinic in Palermo, Sicily after he went in for a cancer check. 

Denaro, who was waiting in the waiting room of the medical facility, made a run for it after he spotted armed police officers quietly moving along the corridors of the Maddalena private clinic. He pushed his way through hospital doors before racing to a local bar in a dramatic bid to escape arrest.

Police officers managed to overpower Denaro in the end and detain him. He was then taken to an undisclosed location.

An anonymous member of the staff in the facility told local media: “He’d been coming here on and off for about a year. He’d had an operation a few months ago and was back for more tests and chemotherapy. When I turned up for work this morning at 6 am it was all quiet and then he arrived to do his Covid test. A few minutes later a police officer wearing full body armor as if he was going to war came in and said he was looking for a patient.”

“He added: “He said to remain calm and that armed officers were on every floor of the clinic. We had no idea who he was or what his background was. The guy actually managed to get out and ran into a local bar but they tracked him down and that’s when all hell broke loose.”

Who is Messina Denaro?

Denaro was born on April 26, 1962, in Castelvetrano in the province of Trapani, Sicily, and is now 60 years old. His father was Francesco Messina Denaro, known as Don Ciccio, the capo mandamento of Castelvetrano and the head of the Mafia Commission of the Trapani region.

Matteo learned to use a gun at the age of 14 and is said to have committed his first of many murders at 18. He began his career as a bodyguard and a professional killer after singer Elena Zagorskaya reportedly introduced him to the D’Ali family.  

He is considered to be one of the new leaders of the Sicilian mob after the arrests of Bernardo Provenzano in April 2006 and Salvatore Lo Piccolo in November 2007.  He is estimated to have killed at least 50 people. “I filled a cemetery all by myself,” he once bragged.

He became a fugitive on the most wanted list in 1993. According to Forbes magazine in 2010 he was one of the ten most wanted criminals in the world.  

Among the most heinous crimes reportedly committed by Denaro, he allegedly had a 12-year-old boy strangled and his body dissolved in acid.

Denaro was a leading figure in Cosa Nostra, the real-life Sicilian crime syndicate depicted in the Godfather movies.