Juliet falls for Mafia hitman who killed her Romeo

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The Independent Online
WHEN THE carbonised corpse of 17-year-old Matteo Cannizzo was found in a car in the Sicilian countryside last year, investigators assumed that the quick-fisted youngster had been slain for some slight against a local Mafia boss or for a drug deal gone wrong.

But a supergrass has now revealed that behind the teenager's death was the story of a 20th-century Romeo and Juliet. Like the Montagues and Capulets in Shakespeare's Verona, the sweethearts' families were sworn enemies.

Matteo Cannizzo's crime was to have fallen in love with a 15-year-old girl, whose family, the Trubia, are staunch allies of the Cosa Nostra (the Mafia). Cannizzo's family was linked to the stidda a parallel crime syndicate, less structured than the Cosa Nostra, but equally ferocious. The two organisations are engaged in an ongoing battle for control of drugs, extortion and kickbacks in the depressed agricultural town of Gela. The story of the "Romeo and Juliet of Gela" has turned the spotlight on a town that has become a symbol of unbridled Mafia violence. Last week alone, Gela witnessed four murders in two days.

Despite repeated warnings to stay clear of his "Juliet", Cannizzo would not be deterred, even though he reportedly told friends that "sooner or later they will get me". The chilling details of the background to his murder have been revealed to police by "Juliet's" uncle, a former mafioso Orazio Trubia, who has turned state witness. His brothers are still fiercely loyal to the local Mafia don Giuseppe Madonia.

Trubia told investigators it was he who issued the death warrant for young Matteo from behind bars. His orders were carried out by two of his brothers, Pasquale and Pietro and two other young mobsters, Giovanni Ascia and Sergio Tuccio, both aged 22. Trubia said it was an unacceptable slight to the honour of his family that his niece should be mixing with the offspring of sworn enemies.

According to police reports, after Matteo's murder the stiddari demanded the young girl be sacrificed. They deemed her "guilty" of provoking herlover's death and said only her murder would restore the fragile peace between the warring clans. The power of the Trubia family silenced that request and a number of Cannizzo's relatives fled Gela.

In the meantime, the young woman has become engaged to Giovanni Ascia, one of the men accused of killing her first love. "It's true my daughter had a flirt with that Cannizzo but that's history and she wants to forget it," said the girl's mother, interviewed yesterday in Il Giornale di Sicilia.