The head of the Sicilian Mafia, Bernardo Provenzano, nicknamed "The Tractor" for the way he once mowed down his rivals, was arrested without a struggle yesterday after 42 years on the run.But today's paper reveals that he has nominated his sucessor:
The 73-year-old was found in a small farmhouse near his home town, Corleone. A small earthquake shuddered through the hills minutes before the police arrived.
At first he denied being the world's most wanted Mafia fugitive. But after an on-the-spot DNA test, he confessed: "Yes, it's true, I am Bernado Provenzano."
He was a good deal changed from the photograph on his wanted poster and the only picture of him in circulation until yesterday - one of the reasons for his success in eluding capture.
An assertion in a recent film that he had been in the Corleone area all the time, protected by the omerta code of silence and possibly friends in high places, was proved correct. He may have left only once: for a clandestine prostate operation in the south of France three years ago.
His arrest, on the day Silvio Berlusconi lost power, provoked a storm of speculation across Italy.
Some people suggested that his capture was a signal that his protection by the establishment was at an end. Others saw the arrest as an attempt to improve the standing of the outgoing interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, a possible leader of the opposition.
Police said they tracked Provenzano down through a trail of pizzini - typed messages on bits of paper through which he controlled the Mafia's multi-billion-pound empire.
Provenzano, the subject of the Godfather novel and films, had been on the run since 1963 after being involved in the killing of a rival, Michele Navarra. He became No 2 to Toto "The Beast" Riina and they presided over hundreds of killings in the 1980s.
Provenzano was sentenced to life in jail in absentia for a string of crimes, including the 1992 murder of anti-Mafia magistrates.
After Riina's arrest in 1993, he became the godfather and is believed to have stamped out the gang warfare he had once excelled at, allowing Cosa Nostra to get on with making money. Another of his nicknames is "The Accountant".
Two weeks ago his lawyer, Salvatore Traina, said his client had been "dead for years," a claim interpreted by some to mean that he no longer posed a threat.
The recently arrested head of the Mafia has appointed as his successor a trigger-happy playboy who has been on the run for 13 years.
The promotion of Matteo "Diabolik" Messina Denaro, 43, was revealed in a letter written by Bernardo Provenzano, the 73-year-old former ''boss of all bosses'' who was seized by police two weeks ago at a farmhouse near Corleone, in Sicily.
"Matteo, the head of the Mafia will be you," Provenzano wrote a week before he was discovered. It is not certain that the instructions were received.
Denaro, who once boasted that "I filled a cemetery all by myself", was born in western Sicily and by 14 had learned to use a gun.
He later sealed a reputation for brutality by murdering a rival gang leader and strangling his pregnant girlfriend.
Denaro and Provenzano were long thought to be enemies. However, in recent times they have been reconciled.
The letters found at Provenzano's hut reveal the inner workings of the Cosa Nostra. Many are banal.
One details arrangements over the opening of a new supermarket chain. Another is from a man asking Provenzano to speed up the paperwork so he can open a filling station.