A fugitive Mafia boss caught hiding in suburbia led a murderous gang that “spread terror in Sicily”, a court heard today.
Domenico Rancadore, 64, was denied bail at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on the grounds that he has evaded capture since coming to the UK 20 years ago by living under a false name.
In Italy he faces a seven-year jail term for his role as “a man of honour” in mafia group Cosa Nostra, collecting bribes from builders in Trabia near Palermo.
Prosecutor Benjamin Seifert said: “The information says that Mr Rancadore was one of the heads of an armed criminal organisation known as Cosa Nostra which is said to be one of the most powerful Mafia organisations in Italy, made up of thousands of members spreading terror in Sicily by imposing its rules and controlling the area and systematically murdering anybody who did not comply with the will of the members of the organisation.”
Concerns had been raised over the validity of the warrant for the former teacher’s arrest, but a new warrant was issued and Rancadore was re-arrested in the cells.
His travel agent wife Anne Skinner stood at the back of the court with their daughter Daniela, holding her arm throughout the hearing this afternoon.
Daniela blew a kiss to her father as he was taken down to the cells after being remanded in custody until August 22, when he will appear again at the same court.
District Judge Quentin Purdy told him: “It seems to be very clear that you have actively evaded apprehension for a significant period of time.”
Rancadore was convicted in Italy in his absence after he had come to live in the UK with his family in 1993. Italian prosecutors claim he received around £3,500 in bribe money and Mr Seifert said he had “ensured strict compliance with the rules of the organisation”.
He was found guilty of being part of the gang between December 1987 and April 1995.
Defending, Euan Macmillan told the court that Rancadore has a heart condition and had a stent fitted last year.
When he was arrested on Wednesday at his £300,000 semi-detached home in Manor Waye, Uxbridge, police said he had tried to flee through the back gate, only to come face to face with a waiting detective constable.
Mr Macmillan claimed he had only gone outside after the officer had kicked in the back gate, and it was “fanciful” to think he would have been able to make his escape over the garden fence.
He said: “There was very little likelihood that Mr Rancadore would have been able to climb over a five-and-a-half foot fence. He’s a 64-year-old man with a heart condition.”
Despite offering a surety of £10,000 and the assurance that he would be under “constant scrutiny” by police if released, Rancadore’s bail request was denied.
The court heard that he was acquitted of previous Mafia charges in 1993 after spending months in custody and more than two years under house arrest.
Joan Hills, 76, who lives in the same modest suburban street as Rancadore, said she knew him as Marc Skinner and his family had lived in the road for several years.
“I know him very well and he’s one of the best neighbours you could ever have,” she said.
“They have been here for years. I’ve seen the children grow up with my children.”
His semi-detached home has a CCTV camera overlooking the courtyard at the front, which is surrounded by tall hedges.