From Sicily to suburbia: Mob boss Domenico Rancadore arrested in west London after 19 years on the run
Italy says man arrested in west London after 20 years on the run was a key player in Sicily’s Cosa Nostra
Not much happens in Uxbridge, a west London commuter suburb just inside the M25. Or it least it didn't until today, when a quiet, dapper and “very pleasant” gentleman who lived on Manor Waye and was often seen polishing his cars was revealed to be a wanted Sicilian mafia boss.
True, there had been a small dispute when he insisted on planting hedges in front of the house, and there was general speculation about why he had installed CCTV cameras outside his home. But mild-mannered, elegant Marc Skinner had never seemed the type whose arrest would spark celebrations from Italy's Deputy Prime Minister.
Today the law finally came knocking for the 64-year-old, who had been living a seemingly blameless life as a house husband. Marc Skinner was unmasked as Domenico Rancadore, an ailing "man of honour" who had spent two decades on the run.
The man named among Italy's most wanted Dons was captured when he fled into the arms of a police officer as he tried to escape through his back garden. Later, the silver-haired pensioner blew a kiss to his family from the dock of a London courtroom as his bizarre double life was revealed. The man described by neighbours as "one of the nicest people you could meet" was also a "dangerous" mafia extortionist from Palermo in Sicily.
Mr Rancadore – a retired PE teacher who lived on an Italian state pension – was noted for continually cleaning his Mercedes and Jaguars, according to the residents of Manor Waye.
The reputed head of the Cosa Nostra in Trabia on the north Sicilian coast moved to England in 1993 after he was acquitted of mafia association following a three-year trial in Italy. Once here he took his English wife's maiden name and became known as Marc. He and Ann brought up their English born children Giuseppe and Daniela at the house while Ann ran a travel agency nearby.
In 1999 Mr Rancadore was convicted in his absence in Italy for being part of a criminal organisation and sentenced to seven years.
"They have been here for years. I've seen the children grow up with my children," said neighbour Joan Hills, 76. "We always thought he was a chauffeur because he had such nice cars and he would always go out dressed very nicely," said Terry Stidder, 53, who lives two doors down. "Most of the time he would be in a very sharp suit, which, if you think about it, is your typical Mafioso type," he added.
The Italian authorities issued a European Arrest Warrant in January 2012. Scotland Yard said it had made "numerous" inquiries before officers finally turned up. At the sight of uniformed officers at the front door, Mr Rancadore fled out the back but was stopped by a detective constable who had gone round to cover the rear gate, Westminster magistrates' court was told. After giving his false name, Marc Skinner admitted that he was in fact the man they were looking for.
Mr Rancadore is taking a cocktail of drugs for his heart condition and has high blood pressure, high cholesterol and angina, the court heard. Before he appeared in court, he had spent a night in hospital with chest pains.
With his wife and daughter in the public gallery Mr Rancadore shook his head as he was told through an interpreter that he would remain in prison. But irregularities with his legal papers could see him released as early as today. His wife had managed to secure £5,000 security for a bail bid, which was rejected. She declined to speak as she left court with their daughter.
"This is a man who will take flight if an opportunity presents itself," said District Judge Quentin Purdy, warning the warrant may be rescinded.
The problems with the paperwork were not specified. However, Italian extraditions are complex and if he walks free today there is no prospect of getting him back to Italy voluntarily, said Jodie Blackstock of the law reform organisation Justice.
Mr Rancadore headed to Britain in the same year as the Cosa Nostra's boss of bosses, Salvatore "Toto" Riina, was captured and anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were murdered.
A number of supergrasses including Gaetano Lima then named Mr Rancadore as a "dangerous" mafia figure with links to London and Tenerife. "Rancadore is dangerous, I can assure you of that," said Lima.
"We are putting another fugitive Mafia boss behind bars," said Italian Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano.
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