May 4, 1950 |
|Occupation||Crime boss, Criminal|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment with permit to exit prison in the daytime to participate in work activities|
Renato Vallanzasca Costantini (born May 4, 1950) is a notorious Italian mobster from Milan who was a powerful figure in the Milanese underworld during the 1970s. Following numerous robberies, kidnappings, murders, and many years as a fugitive, he is currently serving four consecutive life sentences with an additional 290 years in prison, but with permission to work outside during the day. This enables him to go to work every morning in a workshop in the periphery of Milan, making bags from recycled material. He is a local celebrity in Milan, famous for appealing to part of the public opinion for his image linked to the "myth of the bandit".
Vallanzasca was born in Milan, in the Lambrate district where his mother owned a clothing store. He was given the surname of his mother because his biological father, Osvaldo Pistoia, was already married to another woman by whom he had three children.
Vallanzasca became involved in vandalism and petty criminal activities early in his childhood. His first arrest occurred at the age of eight for having tried to let a tiger out of its cage, which belonged to a circus that had tented near his house. He was apprehended the following day and taken to Cesare Beccaria detention home. Because of this act he was legally compelled to move into an aunt's house, in via degliv Apuli, in the district of Giambellino, in the southern periphery of Milan, practically on the opposite side of the city.
Banda della Comasina
It was during this time that he formed his own gang of children involved in stealing and shoplifting. In spite of his young age, Vallanzasca was already a gang leader and began to make a name for himself in the ligera, the old Milanese underworld, with whose members he quickly began to cooperate. But shortly thereafter, resenting the rules and the "code" of the old criminal underworld, he decided to form his own criminal outfit called the Banda della Comasina, which soon grew to become the most powerful and ferocious gang in Milan during those years. The Banda della Comasina was a strong rival and enemy to the gang which was headed by Francis Turatello.
Within a short period, Vallanzasca accumulated a lot of money due to the numerous robberies and thefts carried out by his gang, and began to live an extravagant lifestyle: he took to wearing expensive designer clothes, driving luxury cars and would usually be seen in the company of beautiful women. His looks earned him the nickname "Il bel Renè" (the handsome/pretty Renè), a nickname he detested.
First arrest and escape
His smooth and successful criminal career was interrupted for the first time in 1972 when, ten days after the robbery of a supermarket, he was arrested by men belonging to the squadra mobile (flying squad) headed by Achille Serra. Serra later claimed that during the search of his house, Vallanzasca unstrung his gold Rolex wrist watch and put it on a table, telling him, "If you succeed in tying this to me, it is yours". A few minutes later, warrant officer Oscuri found some shreds of paper in the dustbin, which, once put together, showed a list of salaries of the employees in the supermarket previously robbed. In 1973, his girlfriend Ripalta Pioggia, gives to birth their son, Massimiliano Domenico.
As a result, Vallanzasca was convicted and sent to the San Vittore penitentiary. During the four and a half years of imprisonment, he unsuccessfully attempted to escape from the prison more than once. In addition to the failed escape attempts, he was involved in numerous fights and beatings, and was also an active participant in the various prison riots which erupted in the local prison environment during this period. These factors caused him to be transferred to 36 different prisons within a four and a half year period. Eventually, he found a way of escaping by voluntarily contracting Hepatitis. He did this by ingesting rotten eggs, injecting urine intravenously into his blood stream and inhaling propane gas. He was then transferred to the hospital, where he managed to escape with the help of a complacent policeman.
Life as fugitive
After his escape, on 25 July 1976, Valanzasca is free again. He still wants the money in the shortest time because he wants to go a bit of time with his girlfriend Ripalta and his son, Massimiliano; with them he will spend about a month between Sorrento and Cilento for later once returned to Milan, return to hiding.
After leaving son and girlfriend, Vallanzasca reassembled his old gang and began a series of new robberies, which totalled seventy. These robberies caused a few deaths, including those of four policemen, a doctor and a bank employee. He also committed four kidnappings for ransom, two of which were never reported to the police. One of the gang's victims was Emanuela Trapani, the daughter of a local Milanese entrepreneur who was held captive for over a month and a half, from December 1976 to January 1977, and then released upon the payment of a ransom of one billion in Italian currency. This incident coupled with the killing of two highway patrolmen who had stopped the car on which he was travelling to evade capture, caused him to flee Milan for Rome. There he was again recaptured. At this time, Vallanzasca had just turned 27 years old.
Return to prison
After his return to prison, in 1979 Vallanzasca married his new girlfriend, Giuliana Brusa. His former enemy, Milanese crime boss Francis Turatello acted as best man, thus sealing a temporary alliance between the two. On August 17, 1981, Turatello was eventually assassinated at the Bad'e Carros, the high security prison in Nuoro, Sardinia, by a Neapolitan Camorrista Pasquale Barra, along with Vincenzo Andraus and Antonino Faro, two Sicilian Mafiosi from Catania, Sicily. The hit had been ordered by Raffaele Cutolo, the boss of the Nuova Camorra Organizzata.
On April 28, 1980, Vallanzasca again attempted to escape from the San Vittore prison in Milan. During time in the open air, a group of prisoners mysteriously produced three guns, and managed to make headway taking a brigadiere (roughly, a prison guard sergeant), Romano Saccoccio, as hostage. A firefight commenced in the streets of Milan, and followed in the underground tunnels. A wounded Vallanzasca was arrested together with nine other companions who escaped.
The Novara prison riot
In the Novara prison, in 1981, he helped to set in motion a prison revolt in which some pentiti, or collaborators with Italian Justice lost their lives. Among them was a former member of his gang, Massimo Loi. According to Achille Serra, the young man who was in his early twenties had decided to abandon the path of crime and begin a new life in the legitimate world. However, Vallanzasca armed with a knife and supported by the prison crowd would not allow him to leave the prison unharmed. Loi was cornered inside his prison cell, alone and unarmed. Assisted by others, Vallanzasca repeatedly stabbed him in the chest with a knife, committing further atrocities on his mutilated corpse, finally beheading him. In an interview with L'Espresso on April 2, 2006, Vallanzasca vehemently denied any responsibility for the murder of Loi.
However, it is certain that Vallanzasca participated with high responsibility in the revolt at the Novara prison, during which two people were killed, one of which was Massimo Loi. It seems that Vallanzasca, in reality, was distanced from the gruesome episode, because there were others involved, as also they attest to the confessions of those days and dynamics of the revolt.
More escape attempts
Sentenced to a harsh prison term, Vallanzasca succeeded in tricking the police officers and managed to escape on July 18, 1987 through a porthole of the ferry which carried him to Asinara, Sardinia. He was stopped at a traffic control post less than three weeks after, while he was trying to reach Trieste. After returning to prison, Vallanzasca again tried escaping from prison in 1995, this time from the Nuoro prison. In this escape attempt, he was accused and suspected of having been aided by his lawyer, with whom he had close links. His father Osvaldo Pistoia died on 10 January the following year, aged 95.
Since 1999, Vallanzasca has been incarcerated in a maximum security prison in the city of Voghera. In the beginning of May, 2005, after having received a special three-hour permit to meet his elderly mother, he formalized a request for grace by sending a letter to the Ministry of Justice, and to the magistrate of surveillance of Pavia. On July 15, 2007, his mother, Mary wrote to the Italian president Giorgio Napolitano and the minister of Justice, Clemente Mastella, requesting clemency for her son. On September 15, 2007, Vallanzasca was notified by the head of state that all requests for clemency had been refused. He then continued serving his sentence at the Opera prison in Milan.
On May 8, 2008, he married his childhood friend, Antonella D'Agostino. The marriage was formalised with a civil ceremony on May 5, 2008. Renato Vallanzasca has recently opened a blog (www.renatovallanzasca.it), which was managed by a third party. The blog, however, is inactive.
Beginning in March 2010, Vallanzasca was given a permit to exit prison in the daytime to participate in work activities. He leaves his cell every day at 7:30 and returns at 19:00. His mother died on 8 February 2011, aged 94.
In popular culture
- In 1977, he released a film entitled La Banda Vallanzasca which was directed by Mario Bianchi.
- In 2005, Vallanzasca was also presented a play which was based on his life, entitled "Settanta Vallanzasca" by Domenico Ferrari and Alessandro Pozzetti.
- The beautiful René inspired the name of an Italian Ska group, Vallanzaska.
- In 2007, the life story of Renato Vallanzasca was told for the first time on television in a documentary realized for the TV show "La Storia siamo noi" (We are History) at Rai Edu.
- The film Vallanzasca - Gli angeli del male has been released by director Michele Placido in 2010. The actor acting in the role of Vallanzasca is Kim Rossi Stuart.
- "Storia di Vallanzasca". Corriere della Sera. 11 January 1996. Retrieved 9 February 2012. (Italian)
- Cristiano Armati, Italia criminale. Personaggi, fatti e avvenimenti di un'Italia violenta, Newton Compton Editori, 2006, p. 238 - ISBN 978-88-541-1083-0
- Jacquemet, Credibility in Court, pp. 70
- Testo dell'intervista
- From Tgcom website
- "Doppio colpo per il Bel Renè: muore la mamma e rigettata la semilibertà". Milan Today. 22 May 2010. Retrieved 9 February 2012. (Italian)
- Il fiore del male: bandito a Milano, Carlo Bonini and Renato Vallanzasca, ed. Marco Tropea, 1999, ISBN 88-438-0227-5
- Etica criminale. Fatti della banda Vallanzasca, Massimo Polidoro, Ed. Piemme, 2007, ISBN 978-88-384-8947-1
- Renato Vallanzasca. Milano calibro velluto, Francesca Arceri, 2005, ISBN 88-88764-49-6
- (Italian) Riflessioni - Renato Vallanzasca (Video)
- (Italian) Video Donne Parte 1
- (Italian) Biography of Vallanzasca on Leonardo.it
- (Italian) An interview of Vallanzasca in 2004
- (Italian) Biography on Pagine70
- (Italian)Renato Vallanzasca. The story of a criminal at the heart of the seventies La storia siamo noi - Rai Educational
- (Italian)The blog of Renato Vallanzasca
- (Italian)Events in the criminal underworld and Renato Vallanzasca