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Police closer to solving green anti-mafia mayor murder

Gangster stopped in Colombia over 2010 Angelo Vassallo slaying

18 February, 15:21
Police closer to solving green anti-mafia mayor murder (ANSA) - Salerno, February 18 - Italian police say the arrest of a drug-pushing Italian gangster in Colombia has brought them closer to solving the murder of a southern Italian anti-mafia mayor who fought against building speculators who have marred coasts and countryside all over the Mezzogiorno.

Bruno Humberto Damiani, nicknamed 'the Brazilian' for his roots in that South American country, was stopped at Bogotà airport on an international arrest warrant for drug pushing in the lovely Cilento area north of Naples where mayor Angelo Vassallo was gunned down in a suspected Camorra hit on September 5, 2010.

Police said Damiani, who had extensive drug interests around the town of Pollica near Salerno where Vassallo was also fighting the spread of narcotics, met with representatives of a family of hoteliers and a number of criminals north of Naples just hours before the 57-year-old mayor was riddled with bullets outside his home.

Police believe Damiani, who is set to be extradited, will provide important leads in the killing of Vassallo, who had been elected to a second term in March that year and had received threats because of campaigns to defend the area's natural and cultural heritage.

The Cilento coast, bristling with vines yielding celebrated wines, stretches from the magnificent ancient Greek temples at Paestum (ancient Poseidonia) to the Gulf of Policastro, near the famed resort town of Sapri. It is studded with tourist gems such as the small towns of Santa Maria di Castellabate, Acciaroli, Velia, Palinuro, Marina di Camerota, Scario and Policastro Bussentino, all of which are under threat from speculators.

Most of the splendid rolling countryside of the interior is included in the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park - a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 - and the area is also celebrated as one of the finest spots to enjoy Italy's famously healthy Mediterranean Diet. The region is steeped in Greek mythology and legends.

While Paestum is its crowning glory, the remains of Velia (ancient Elea), home to a famous school of pre-Socratic philosophers, also attracts throngs of visitors. Vassallo, a leftist member of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), had been nicknamed the "fisherman-mayor" because of his main activity and his work in favour of the environment.

Ermete Realacci, former head of environmental group Legambiente and currently the PD's green-economy pointman, said after the killing: "The South has lost a person of great worth and courage... a friend who turned the defence of the environment into a battle".

"He was worried...He was a man in the front line against crime and reported all developments to me," said the prosecutor in charge of the investigation at the time.