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Born in Ravenna in 1864, Recchioni came to England in 1899 after he was implicated in a plot against Francesco Crispi, a former Italian prime minister. He subsequently bought a delicatessen on the Old Crompton Road, named King Bomba, frequented by a variety of prominent writers and intellectuals, including George Orwell, Emma Goldman, Sylvia Pankhurst, as well as a number of Italian anti-Fascist exiles. As a political activist, he acquired a wide circle of friends, which allegedly included Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald himself.
Nonetheless, Recchioni was monitored by British intelligence services, who suspected him of providing money and weapons to a group of potential assassins based in Rome. The rumours that Recchioni was planning the death of Mussolini began in 1929, and were passed by Ovra, the Italian secret police, to Colonel Carter of the British Special Branch. On a trip to Brussels in 1931 Recchioni was followed by a Special Branch agent. While in the city he met Angelo Sbardellotto, an Italian anarchist, who is reported to have offered to go to Rome and kill Mussolini if he could get money and weapons. Recchioni is alleged to have offered to provide both.
Sbardellotto was later arrested in Italy, after several abortive assassination attempts, and found to be carrying two bombs and a revolver. A copy of his confession, detailing meetings in Brussels and Paris, was forwarded to Special Branch. It was also accompanied by a request for Recchioni's extradition.
While the Home Office was considering this, the matter was complicated still further when the Daily Telegraph named Recchioni as one of those involved in the assassination plots, quoting Italian 'sources'. He promptly began legal proceedings against the newspaper. The Telegraph appealed to Carter for information, but was told that there was none to give. It would seem that the whole matter was just too politically sensitive, with the potential to embarrass the government.
Reccchioni won his case, and was awarded £1117 in damages, a decent amount for the day. No further action was ever taken against him and he died in Paris in 1933. His son Vero Recchioni, who later called himself Vernon Richards, went on to become a noted editor of Anarchist publications.
It remains unclear why British authorities declined to assist the Telegraph when there clearly was evidence implicating Recchioni. The details of the whole affair were kept secret for over sixty years, and were only released by the British Home Office in the early 2000s.
- International Institute of Social History: Archives Vernon Richards
- Bernabei, Alfio (April 1999). "The London Plot to Kill Mussolini". History Today 49:2.