(By Christopher Livesay)
(ANSA) - Rome, December 20 - Police on Friday captured two
Italian fugitives who fled during separate prison leaves, one a
serial killer and the other an accessory to a mafia murder,
ending days of manhunts while raising serious questions as the
government works on penal reforms.
The most scandalous of the two cases involved Bartolomeo
Gagliano, who killed two prostitutes and a transsexual in the
1980s by shooting them in the mouth.
At the end of a leave granted for good behavior to visit
his mother, the 55-year-old hijacked a car at gunpoint and fled
the Genoa area in northwestern Italy, where he had been serving
time at the Marassi prison.
Police in France tracked him down Friday in Menton, along
the French Riviera near the Italian border.
Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri was debriefing
parliament on the situation when news of his capture was related
"Hurray! Hurray!" she said from the podium. "This proves
the Italian system works".
Hours earlier, police in the northern Italian city of Forlì
apprehended the second fugitive, Pietro Esposito, a convicted
mafioso who also failed to return to prison after a granted
leave on Thursday.
The 47-year-old member of the Naples-based Camorra was
serving time for participating in the 2004 murder of the
22-year-old girlfriend of a clan rival during an escalating turf
But he was shown leniency for helping authorities identify
those primarily responsible for the hit.
Esposito's jail term was scheduled to end in June, and
Gagliano's was up in one year.
Earlier Friday Cancellieri told the House that she has
ordered a full investigation.
She also urged calm and asked that people try not to judge
the entire system by this affair.
The country has nevertheless been shocked that Gagliano's
prison leave was apparently no accident, and was in accordance
with Italian policy.
"The permit was issued on legitimate foundations, after a
long study of reports that said for some time there had been a
balancing of the psychiatric disorder, lucidity, capacity to
cooperate, tranquility and no signs of being psychopathic," said
Daniela Verrina, the judge who authorised his leave.
Meanwhile the warden at Gagliano's prison was ordered to be
The timing of both cases could not have been worse for
Cancellieri and the government, who on Tuesday approved a prison
decree granting early release to 1,700 drug addicts and illegal
immigrants in a response to international pressure after years
The government has stressed that the new decree in no way
allows for the early release of violent offenders serving
lengthy prison sentences.
But the justice ministry admits its credibility has been
"There is no denying that this risks being a hard blow for
what we are doing to make prisons a more civil place that is
able to fulfill its rehabilitative function," said Cancellieri.