One of Italy’s most feared mob bosses, who ruled the Neapolitan Camorra from a prison cell for most of his life, has died.
Raffaele ‘the Professor’ Cutolo, 79, was found dead on a prison bed in Parma on Wednesday morning after spending the last 42 years of his life behind bars.
From prison he founded the headquarters of the ‘New Camorra’ in the 1970s and organized a bloody war against the Sicilian Cosa Nostra in the 1980s.
He commanded a legion of 10,000 men who smuggled cocaine and operated protective thugs, conceived a child through artificial insemination, and inspired a 1986 film with Ben Gazzara while serving several life sentences.
The Campania farm boy was even sitting at the table with top politicians when he was asked to negotiate the release of the President of Campania, Ciro Cirillo, who was kidnapped in 1981 by the Red Brigades, communist guerrillas.
Raffaele Cutolo appears in court in 1983, surrounded by prison guards. The book was thrown to the professor that year when the bloody war with the Sicilian Mafia came to an end in Naples
Cutolo, also known as the Prince and the Monk, looks back on his followers during a court appearance in 1997
In 1980 he bought a mansion, the Medici Castle of Ottaviano, a former noble house, for 270 million lire (around 500,000 pounds in today’s money). The castle was later confiscated from him when his influence waned in the 1990s and its majestic halls have since fallen into disrepair. It’s not clear if Cutolo ever set foot inside the building, which has been locked in continuously since 1979.
He married his wife Immaculate Iacone in 1983 (picture 1986) and in 2007, after a lengthy legal battle through artificial insemination, he was able to have a daughter with her
“Cutolo was a piece of the Italian state,” said Gomorrah writer and author Roberto Saviano. “He was very powerful, more than a prime minister.”
In 1964, Cutolo, 22, was arrested for the murder of a man who attacked his sister.
He was taken to the Poggioreale prison in Naples, infamous for its torture chamber, where he was challenged by Camorra don Antonio ‘the Badman’ Spavone at the beginning of his 24-year stay.
The young Cutolo asked Spavone to arm himself with a flick knife and meet him in the courtyard.
But the boss never showed up and from that day on, Cutolo was feared throughout the prison.
Later, when Spavone was released, a killer believed to work for Cutolo fired a shotgun at his face.
Spavone survived but had plastic surgery after clumps of his face were blown off and immediately withdrew from his role as head of the Camorra.
Cutolo was worshiped by his men, who called him the Prince (‘o Princepe) and the Gospel (‘ o Vangelo), and inmates kissed his hand as if he were the Pope
In the 1970s, Cutolo founded the New Camorra Organization (NCO) with a group of capos around them who were supposed to forge criminal businesses and serve their commander on his release from prison.
He lived in luxury with a cell all to himself, he was allowed to use the governor’s phone to call anywhere in the world, and his cook and accountant lived in the next room.
It is even rumored that he once slapped the governor of Poggioreale Prison in the face for daring to search his cell.
The Don befriended younger prisoners and offered them protection, belonging, and worth, which added to his ever-growing network.
So great was their loyalty that they sent money hidden in bouquets of flowers and Cutolo used the money inside to gain more influence.
For example, he bought food for poor prisoners, thereby creating “debts” that he wanted to compensate – often in blood – when they were released.
Cutolo established a unique ideology that some have even called the “cult of death”, arguing that “the value of life is not its length, but its use”.
Cutolo looks out from behind bars when he appears in court in the 1990s
Cutolo speaks to a legal representative (left) and is managed out of court in the 1990s (right)
Cutolo fought his case in court in 1986. He received several life sentences for the hits he ordered in the bloody early 1980s
Hollywood star Ben Gazaara plays the role of professor in the 1986 film ‘Il camorrista’
He wrote a book called Poesie e pensieri (Thoughts and Poems) which was widely used throughout Campania and was known as the “Sergeant’s Bible”.
Behind bars, his writings and interviews with journalists cultivated a person whom his henchmen adored on the streets of Naples.
They called him the Prince (o Princepe) and the Gospel (o Vangelo), and the inmates kissed his hand as if he were the Pope.
Cutulo even invented an initiation ritual that contained the sentence: “The day on which the people of Campania understand that it is better to eat a slice of bread as a free man than to eat a steak as a slave is the day on which Campania will win. “
In 1986, Cutolo was chained by the police outside a courthouse. He died in Parma on Wednesday at the age of 79
In the rural villages of Campania, Cutolo – a farm boy himself – met the unemployed youth who struggled to find work when Italy’s economy stalled.
The Italian Ministry of Justice estimates that in 1980 he was assisted by 10,000 men.
It was then that he started his gruesome internal war in the Camorra that claimed the lives of hundreds of gangsters and dozens of innocent people.
In Naples there were two distinct branches of Camorra: Cutolo’s non-commissioned officer, who mainly dealt with cocaine and protective rackets, and the rival clans that sold heroin and cigarettes, some of which had alliances with the Sicilian Cosa Nostra.
It was the latter connection that would spell disaster for Cutolo.
The sergeant’s violence and ruthlessness was overwhelming for the smaller Camorra clans, who couldn’t resist when Cutolo’s mob demanded a “sales tax”.
In the late 1970s, these smaller clans merged to form the Nuova Famiglia, which was closely linked to the Cosa Nostra.
The following war, which ran from 1980 to 1983, was so bloody that the police were forced to intervene in Mafioso’s affairs.
However, the Cosa Nostra were able to use their pervasive influence to ensure that when the dust settled, non-commissioned officers were rounded up and arrested.
The abandoned castle of the Don was bought in 1980 and confiscated by the local community in 1991
The shabby interior of his castle. It’s not clear if he ever set foot in it
The Medici Castle of Ottaviano, which the mob boss owned for about a decade – while he was in prison
Ben Gazzara appears in the 1986 film as Cutolo
Cutolo reportedly dubbed his hand in taking over Cosa Nostra and his former political allies have turned against him.
When his chief outside military general, Vincenzo ‘the Big Black’ Casillo, was shot dead in 1983, it marked the beginning of Cutolo’s decline.
Many left the sergeant to join the ranks of his enemies, and his sister, who ran the sergeant from outside the prison, was arrested in 1993.
Cutolo was taken to a prison on the island of Asinara far from Naples and could no longer communicate with the outside world.
He married his wife Immaculate Iacone in 1983 and was able to have a daughter with her through artificial insemination in 2007 after a lengthy legal battle.
“I will die in prison. My last wish is to have a child for my wife, ”Cutolo told the La Repubblica newspaper.
He had fathered another child, Roberto, from a previous marriage.
The 28-year-old was shot dead in Varese in 1991 by enemies Cutolo made of his war in the 1980s.
The murderers were later discovered dead themselves, their faces torn by bullets.
In 1980 he bought a mansion, the Medici Castle of Ottaviano, a former noble house, for 270 million lire (around 500,000 pounds in today’s money).
Last year he fought another legal battle, arguing that he should be released because of his illness and spend his final days under house arrest. The state refused, arguing that Cutolo was still a powerful symbol that would strengthen criminal gangs who still pay homage to the Don and the sergeant (pictured 1997).
Cutolo looked out from behind bars in 1986 when he made one of the many court appearances he has faced in his life
Cutolo protested behind bars when he appeared before the authorities in 1990
The castle was later confiscated from him when his influence waned in the 1990s and its majestic halls have since fallen into disrepair.
It’s not clear if Cutolo ever set foot inside the building, which has been locked in continuously since 1979.
Last year he fought another legal battle, arguing that he should be released because of his illness and spend his final days under house arrest.
The state refused, arguing that Cutolo was still a powerful symbol that would strengthen criminal gangs who still pay homage to the Don and the sergeant.
This week when he suffered from pneumonia his condition worsened and he was reportedly diagnosed with septicemia.
His lawyers had issued new legal statements for his release on Tuesday, but he died the following day.