|Founding location||La Valletta, Malta|
|Territory||London in England, Malta, Alexandria in Egypt and Sanremo in Italy|
The Messina Brothers were the leaders of a criminal organisation that dominated the underworld in London from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Born to a Sicilian father and a Maltese mother in Valletta, Malta, the five brothers known as Salvatore, Carmelo, Alfredo, Attilio and Eugene Messina, whose real family name was Debono, were involved with their father in white slavery in Malta and Egypt from the early 1900s. In 1908 Egyptian authorities reported that the Messinas were known traffickers of women who attracted them with promises of marriage, then forced them into prostitution in the West End of London.
The Messinas and the London Underworld
The brothers moved to London in the 1930s and took the name of the Sicilian province of Messina. They quickly became involved in their father’s former trade and, during the years following the Second World War, imported women from Belgium, France and Spain. With a steady and highly profitable prostitution operation and adequate protection from members of the Metropolitan Police, the Messinas ran unchecked in the city. By the late 1940s they were operating thirty houses of prostitution on Queen Street, Bond Street and Stafford Street. Prosecution proved difficult as many of the women who worked for them had valid passports, making it hard to make a case for deportation of either the women or the brothers. Attilio Messina reportedly stated to the press: "We Messinas are more powerful than the British Government. We do as we like in England."
In the late 1940s Duncan Webb, a crime reporter on the tabloid newspaper The People, began writing articles claiming that information was being leaked from Scotland Yard to Alfred Messina and on 3 September 1950 the paper published a front-page article by Webb describing prostitution in the West End, including interviews with more than 100 prostitutes, and revealing names, dates, photographs and other information crucial to any police investigation.
The activities of the Messinas soon gained the attention of Scotland Yard, which formed a special investigative task force under Superintendent Guy Mahon to engage in an aggressive campaign against them. By the end of the 1950s the Messinas had been forced to flee the country. Alfredo Messina was imprisoned on bribery and prostitution charges, and Attilio Messina was sentenced to four years after being caught attempting to re-enter the country in April 1959.
Eugene and Carmelo Messina eventually resurfaced in Belgium, where they were both imprisoned after being convicted on prostitution and pimping charges, partly because of testimony given by detectives from Scotland Yard. Eugene was sentenced to six years and Carmelo was deported to Italy, where he died in 1959. The remaining brother, Salvatore Messina, went into hiding and was never apprehended.
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