> ANSA English > News

Italy in shock after toddler slain in Mob hit

Domenico, 3, joins list including 11-year-old dissolved in acid

18 March, 18:51
Italy in shock after toddler slain in Mob hit (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Taranto, March 18 - "Never shoot women or children" used to be a reputed part of the mafia's so-called code of honour.

But a crop of young victims of Mob violence have rebutted that myth, shocking even an Italy inured to the atrocities of its four mafias: Cosa Nostra in Sicily, Calabria's 'Ndrangheta, the Camorra in Naples and the smaller Sacra Corona Unita (SCU, United Holy Crown) in Puglia.

The country went into shock again Tuesday after a three-year-old boy lost his life in an indiscriminate revenge hit by the SCU on a Puglia motorway Monday night.

Domenico Petruzzelli was one of three people including his mother and a convicted murderer shot to death by killers in a passing car in what police believe was part of a mafia vendetta.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi led the expressions of grief and outrage.

He voiced "a father's grief" over the accidental victim.

"An awful pain, as a father as well as premier," tweeted Renzi, who has three young hildren.

Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola urged the "Italian State to react after this ruthless massacre".

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who ordered the deployment of 60 police officers to the province of Taranto, vowed that the government would give "a swift and concrete response to an incident of unprecedented ferocity".

Domenico Petruzzelli joins a long list of young victims of mafia by-blows or intentional murders.

One of the most notorious was the 1996 slaying of Giuseppe Di Matteo, the 11-year-old son of a Sicilian Mafia boss.

The case stunned the nation when it emerged that, after more than two desperate years in the hands of his kidnappers, he was strangled and his body dissolved in a vat of acid.

Giovanni Brusca, a brief acting head of Cosa Nostra convicted in the 1992 murders of anti-Mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, was found guilty of carrying out the murder.

Brusca, known as either "The Swine" or the "People-Slayer" for his violence, was said to have taken pleasure in Di Matteo's murder.

Before the Puglia hit, the most recent and most shocking child murder was committed in January by 'Ndrangheta, now considered the most powerful and brutal mafia.

The charred remains of tiny toddler Nicola Campolongo, nicknamed Coco, were discovered in a burned-out car in the Calabrian town of Cassano allo Ionio on January 19.

Police said three-year-old Coco was shot in the head along with his grandfather, Giuseppe Iannicelli, and his grandfather's 27-year-old companion, in an apparent Mob hit over a drug debt.

Iannicelli, who was serving a drug-related sentence on house arrest, was the target of the hit, police said.

Both the killers and victims were from rival clans affiliated to the deadly Calabria-based mafia, they said.

Iannicelli was reportedly caring for his grandson because the boy's father and mother were both in jail, accused of trafficking hallucinogenic drugs.

"Every line has now been crossed," prosecutor Franco Giacomantonio told reporters. "How can anyone kill a three-year old boy in this way? In many years of work, I think this will be the most brutal murder that it has been my duty to investigate," he added.

The Neapolitan mafia has been even more careless of young lives.

Simonetta Lamberti, 10, was killed near Salerno in early 1982 in a failed bomb attack on her prosecutor father.

Another 10-year-old, Luigi Cangiano, fell victim to a stray bullet in a Camorra shoot-out in Naples in July that year.

A baby boy, Nunzio Pandolfi, was shot to death in 1989 along with his mobster father, who was holding him in his arms, by two hitmen in a Camorra feud. He had not turned two.

Fabio De Pandi, 11, was another incidental victim of a Camorra shoot-out in the summer of 1991. He hid behind a car but the fatal bullet passed through the vehicle.

As for Monday night's attack in Puglia, police said they had "a number of promising leads" connected to the SCU feud.

The target was believed to be Cosimo Orlando, 43, who was shot behind the wheel beside his partner Carla Maria Fornari, 30, who was holding the three-year-old Domenico, all of whom were killed. Two more children in the backseat, a six- and seven-year-old, were unharmed. Police have released security-camera footage that captured the shooting.

Alfano said he would travel to Taranto to chair a law-and-order meeting.

"Above and beyond the great personal pain, there is the prompt reaction of the State," he said.

"We will not let such an infamous crime go unpunished".