The Italian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro was on the run for more than three decades – now he has died just eight months after his arrest: The 61-year-old succumbed to the effects of cancer in a prison clinic in the central Italian city of L’Aquila, according to the Ansa news agency reported on Monday night. The boss of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra was only arrested in mid-January. At that time he wanted to be treated in a private clinic in the island’s capital Palermo under a false name. He never made a confession. There was no further trial.

The criminal’s health, who was suffering from colon cancer, had deteriorated drastically in the past few days. On Friday evening, the treating doctors announced that the multiple murderer had fallen into a coma from which he would no longer wake up. At his own request, life support measures were discontinued. Relatives were able to say goodbye to Messina Denaro. According to media reports, his daughter, who was born during his years in hiding, was with him in the last few hours.

According to the investigation, as a member of Cosa Nostra, the native Sicilian committed or organized dozens of murders – including the bombings of the two mafia hunters Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992, which made headlines around the world. At that time, several bodyguards and other companions also died. He is also said to have helped plan the kidnapping of little Giuseppe Di Matteo in 1993: the boy was kidnapped so that his father would not testify in court. After 779 days, the mafiosi strangled him shortly before his 15th birthday and dissolved the body in acid.

At that time, Messina Denaro began to rise to the position of boss of the Cosa Nostra. He was considered a confidante and then successor to the former godparents Salvatore “Totò” Riina and Bernardo Provenzano. The brutal and ruthless Riina was called the “boss of bosses”. He was arrested on January 15, 1993, almost exactly 30 years before Messina Denaro. Riina and Provenzano died in prison in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

Messina Denaro had known for a long time that he had cancer. He had already been receiving treatment for several months at the private clinic where he was finally arrested. There he was known as a patient named Andrea Bonafede, was operated on and also came for follow-up checks. When he was arrested, he also had an identity card under that name and even a tax number for the tax authorities.

To this day, the public never knew how exactly he managed to stay hidden for so long. It is assumed that he also had supporters on the state side. The anti-Mafia writer Roberto Saviano, who himself lives under constant police protection, said on the day of the arrest: “Like all bosses, he stayed exactly in the place where everyone knows he can be found.” When he was arrested, he immediately admitted: “I am Matteo Messina Denaro.” Other patients who were present at the police operation applauded.

According to investigators, Messina Denaro was never willing to cooperate with authorities even after his arrest. During an interrogation he was quoted as saying: “I don’t want to be Superman or sound arrogant. You got me because I’m sick.” During her time in prison, Messina Denaro had to undergo two operations, most recently in August. He also received chemotherapy. According to the doctors, in his last hours he only received painkillers.