Santino Di Matteo

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Santino Di Matteo (Altofonte, December 7, 1954), also known as Mezzanasca, is a former member of the Sicilian Mafia from the town of Altofonte in the province of Palermo, Sicily, Italy.

Santo Di Matteo took part in the killing of Antimafia judge Giovanni Falcone on May 23, 1992, near Capaci. After his arrest on June 4, 1993, he became the first of Falcone's assassins to become a government witness – a pentito.[1] He revealed all the details of the assassination: who tunnelled beneath the motorway, who packed the 13 drums with TNT and Semtex, who hauled them into place on a skateboard, and who pressed the button.[2]

Killing of son[edit]

In retaliation of Di Matteo becoming informant, the Mafia kidnapped Di Matteo’s 11-year-old son, Giuseppe Di Matteo on November 23, 1993.[3] According to a later confession by one of the kidnappers, Gaspare Spatuzza, they dressed as police officers and told the boy he was being taken to see his father, who at that time was being kept in police protection on the Italian mainland.[4] In Spatuzza's words, "To the kid's eyes we appeared like angels, but in reality we were devils. (...) He was really happy, he kept saying 'My father, my dear father'". Instead they held Giuseppe for 26 months, during which time they tortured him and sent grisly photos to his father to force him to retract his testimony although he'd already signed a legally binding deposition.[citation needed]

Di Matteo made a desperate trip to Sicily to try to negotiate his son's release but on January 11, 1996 after 779 days, the boy, who by now had also become physically ill due to mistreatment, was finally strangled on the orders of Giovanni Brusca.[5] The body was subsequently dissolved in a barrel of acid to prevent the family holding a proper funeral at which they could mourn and to destroy evidence — a practice known colloquially as the lupara bianca.[6]

Di Matteo once had to face Brusca, in court. Bursting into tears Di Matteo told the judge: "I guarantee my collaboration but to this animal I guarantee nothing. If you leave me alone with him for two minutes I'll cut off his head." The confrontation nearly got violent, if not for the guards who restrained Di Matteo.[2][6]

In October 1997, the pentito Di Matteo was rearrested. Although a key witness in several important trials under way, he had returned home to recommence his criminal activities and avenge atrocities carried out on family members.[7]


In March 2002 Di Matteo was released early, along with four others, in return for cooperating with magistrates, outraging relatives of Falcone, who stated that the system of pentiti safeguarded killers from prosecution for murder.[2] Despite no police protection, he decided not to go into hiding but returned to his family in Altofonte, protected by an iron gate and two dogs. He tried to live a normal life in the town, but was shunned by the townspeople.[2][8]

Before his arrest Di Matteo already had become hesitant about the violent strategy of the Corleonesi. In their testimonies Di Matteo and another pentito Salvatore Cancemi described the victory celebration that followed the Capaci bombing. Totò Riina ordered French champagne and while the others toasted Cancemi and Santo Di Matteo looked at one another and exchanged a gloomy assessment of Riina and their future: "This cuckold will be the ruin of us all."[9]

In popular culture[edit]

The story of Di Matteo's son Giuseppe's kidnapping and murder was turned into a film, Sicilian Ghost Story.[10][11]


  1. ^ Jamieson, The Antimafia, p. 98-99
  2. ^ a b c d Freed mafia grass a marked man, The Guardian, March 14, 2002
  3. ^ Jamieson, The Antimafia, p. 217
  4. ^ (in Italian) "Uccisero il piccolo Giuseppe Di Matteo", La Repubblica, January 16, 2012
  5. ^ (in Italian) La madre del bimbo sciolto nell'acido: «Giuseppe ha vinto, la mafia ha perso», Corriere della Sera, November 10, 2008
  6. ^ a b (in Italian) Di Matteo assale Brusca: "Animale, ti stacco la testa", La Repubblica, September 15, 1998
  7. ^ Jamieson, The Antimafia, p. 109-10
  8. ^ (in Italian) Tornano in libertà i killer di Falcone, La Repubblica, March 13, 2002
  9. ^ Stille, Excellent Cadavers, p. 404-05
  10. ^ Paternò, Cristiana. ""Sicilian Ghost Story": from Sicily to Argentina". Cinecittâ News. Cinecittâ News. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  11. ^ McLaughlin, Katherine. "Thelma LFF film review: "exquisitely crafted depiction of oppression"". Sci-Fi Now. Sci-Fi Now. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  • Dickie, John (2004). Cosa Nostra. A history of the Sicilian Mafia, London: Coronet ISBN 0-340-82435-2
  • Jamieson, Alison (2000). The Antimafia. Italy’s fight against organized crime, London: MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-80158-X
  • Stille, Alexander (1995). Excellent Cadavers. The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic, New York: Vintage ISBN 0-09-959491-9

External links[edit]