Italian mafia fugitive arrested in Spain after being spotted on Google Street View

Gioacchino Gammino escaped prison in 2002 while a movie was being filmed in the building

Lamiat Sabin
Thursday 06 January 2022 00:43 GMT
<p>Gioacchino Gammino (L) speaking with a man outside a fruit shop in Spain</p>

Gioacchino Gammino (L) speaking with a man outside a fruit shop in Spain

One of Italy’s most-wanted gangsters has been arrested in Spain after investigators spotted him on Google Street View.

Gioacchino Gammino, 61, was the boss of the Stidda mafia group in Agrigento, Sicily, that were rivals of the Cosa Nostra.

After he escaped from prison almost two decades ago, he was tracked down in the town of Galapagar, near Madrid, last month.

Italian police already had clues that he was lying low in Spain, but investigators said the image of a man of Gammino’s description standing outside a fruit shop on the map had confirmed their suspicions.

The image on Street View – which allows users to explore panoramic views of many streets around the world – shows him talking with a man outside Huerto de Manu (Manu’s Grove), a shop believed to have been owned by him that had closed down before his arrest.

Gammino, who had changed his name to Manuel, escaped from Rebibbia prison in Rome in 2002.

A year later, he was sentenced in his absence to life in prison for murder.

While in Spain, going by the nickname Manu, he had got married and worked as a chef in a restaurant called La Cocina de Manu.

Police found a photograph of him dressed in a chef’s uniform on the Facebook page of the restaurant, that closed down in 2014.

Investigators recognised him by a scar on the left side of his chin.

Gammino was one of Italy’s 100 most-wanted criminals, according to the country’s media.

In the 1980s, he had been investigated by renowned anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, who was later killed in a bomb attack.

Gammino had been on the run in Spain for 19 years before Italian police spotted him on Google Maps during a two-year-long investigation.

When Italian police arrested him on 17 December with the help of Spanish forces, Gammino reportedly asked officers: “How did you find me? I haven’t even called my family for 10 years!”

According to reports, Gammino escaped from prison on 26 June 2002 by taking advantage of commotion in the building caused by an apparent attempted escape by another prisoner amid the filming of a movie called Ics – directed by Alberto Negrin and stars Vittoria Belvedere.

During the filming, an alarm sounded because the other prisoner was attempting to climb over a wall to escape. Reports state that attempt was suspected to have been staged to cause a distraction while Gammino fled.

Gammino was able to slip away among a crowd of inmates’ visitors, movie staff, and film extras who were ushered towards the exit.

Prison guards noticed within hours that Gammino was missing, and Italian media reported on his escape the next day, but he vanished without a trace.

Nicola Altiero, deputy director of the Italian anti-mafia police unit (DIA), said Google Maps had helped police to “confirm the investigation we were developing in traditional ways”.

“It’s not as if we spend our days wading through Google Maps to find fugitives,” Palermo prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi told The Guardian.

Mr Altiero said Gammino was currently in custody in Spain and they hope to bring him back to Italy by the end of February.

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