Who is Italy's most-wanted mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, who has been arrested in Sicily after 30 years on the run?

When Matteo Messina Denaro was arrested while undergoing treatment in a private clinic in Sicily after a 30-year police hunt, he did not put up the fight that officers may have expected.

When asked his name, the fugitive, who once boasted he could “fill a cemetery” with the bodies of his victims and is considered the last “secret keeper” of the Sicilian Mafia, said simply: "I'm Matteo Messina Denaro”.

The arrest brings an end to the search for the man considered the leader of the mafia in Sicily – known as Cosa Nostra – who was tried and sentenced to life in jail in absentia over numerous murders.

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A spokesman for the police service, the carabinieri, Pasquale Angelosanto, said Mr Denaro, 60, had been arrested while attending an appointment at La Maddalena Clinic in Palermo, which specialises in cancer treatment. He is understood to have used a false name.

In this handout image provided by the Carabinieri, Matteo Messina Denaro is transported in a van after he was arrested In Sicily.

Italian media reported Mr Denaro had been undergoing treatment for around a year, although police had only made a definitive identification in the past three days.

"This is a great victory for the state, which demonstrates that it does not give up in the face of the Mafia,” said Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni, who took up office in October, adding that January 16 would be a day of “celebration”.

The caribineri thanked local people in a tweet, saying: “Your joy merges with ours to continue building together a society free from mafia oppression.”

Mr Denaro is wanted for two bombings in Sicily in 1992 that murdered top anti-Mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino and the deadly 1993 bomb attacks in Milan, Florence and Rome.

Other grisly crimes he was convicted of include the murder of a Mafia turncoat’s young son, who was strangled before his body was dissolved in a vat of acid.

Nicola di Matteo, the brother of the murdered boy Giuseppe, said the arrest had “reopened a wound”.

“I read that he is ill,” he said. “I hope that he can live as long as possible to have a long suffering, the same that he imposed on my brother, an innocent little boy.”

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Mr di Matteo added: “A wound has reopened, the memory of that horrendous period. I thank the police and the judiciary, who have always been by our side. Let's hope the whole truth comes out."

Mr Denaro’s arrest on Monday came 30 years and a day after the capture of convicted “boss of bosses” Salvatore “Toto” Riina, in a Palermo apartment, after 23 years on the run.

Mario Mori, the now-retired police officer who served as head of the special operations unit known as the “Ros" at the time of Mr Riina’s arrest, said Mr Denaro’s capture spelled the end of the Mafia.

He said: “The Mafia of Cosa Nostra, the operational, structured one, made up of families, provincial and regional commissions, that is, under a command structure, no longer exists. The last follower, even if perhaps he was no longer able to manage anything, was Messina Denaro.”

That all three top bosses were ultimately arrested in the heart of Sicily while they conducted decades of a clandestine life will not surprise Italy’s police. Law enforcement have long said such bosses rely on contacts and confidentiality of fellow mobsters and complicit family members.



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