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Serial killer and mobster fugitives captured

Questions raised about penal reforms

20 December, 20:13
Serial killer and mobster fugitives captured (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 to her. "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 war. 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 transferred. 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 of overcrowding. 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 jeopardized. "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.