An Italian mafia boss on the run for murder was arrested by police after Google Street view confirmed investigators’ suspicions that he was hiding in Spain working as a grocer under a fake name.
One of Italy’s most infamous fugitives, Gioacchino Gammino, 61, was photographed after 20 years on the run by a Google Street View vehicle – chatting with another man in front of the grocery store he ran in Galapagar, outside Madrid.
Investigators already suspected Gammino was living in Spain, where he’d been previously arrested in 1998 before escaping from prison in 2002, but said that the Google image of him and another man in front of El Huerto de Manu, or Manu’s Garden, a fruit and vegetable shop, was a close enough likeness to warrant further investigation.
That led to the discovery of a photo of Gammino under the name of Manuel on the website of a now defunct website for “La Cocina de Manu,” or Manu’s Kitchen, a nearby restaurant. From there police had little trouble finding the 61-year-old.
“How did you find me? I haven’t even called my family for 10 years!” Gammino, who also worked as a chef, was reported to have said to his arresting officers.
Palermo prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi told the Guardian that Google Maps and Street View were able to confirm a lead on Gammino’s location almost immediately but did not in itself lead to his discovery.
“It’s not as if we spend our days wading through Google Maps to find fugitives,” he said. “There were many previous and long investigations, which led us to Spain. We were on a good path, with Google Maps helping to confirm our investigations.”
The Sicilian-born Gammino was accused of the murder of a rival member of Sicily’s La Cosa Nostra mafia in 1984 during a local gang war and evaded capture until 1998, when he was arrested in Barcelona and sent to Italy to serve a life sentence. He escaped in 2002 – during the filming of a movie in the prison – and spent the next two decades free until his arrest last month.
In August last year Domenico Paviglianiti, 60, a former “boss of bosses” of the 'Ndrangheta, the world’s most powerful mafia clan based in Calabria, was also arrested in Madrid, two years after he was mistakenly released from prison in Italy.