The entire country paid tribute on Monday to anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, killed by the Sicilian mafia 30 years ago in a car bomb murder that shocked the country.
Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese laid a wreath at the memorial at the site of the blast at Capaci, near Palermo, that killed Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort on May 23rd 1992.
Another ceremony in Palermo was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whose brother Piersanti, then Sicily’s regional president, was also murdered by the mafia.
In a statement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed the legacy of Falcone, saying that thanks to his “courage, professionalism and determination, Italy has become a freer and fairer country”.
He said Falcone and his colleagues – one of whom, Paolo Borsellino, was killed by Cosa Nostra two months later – “dealt decisive blows against the mafia”.
“Their heroism had rooted anti-mafia values in society, in new generations, in republican institutions,” he added, saying the “relentless fight against organised crime and […] the search for truth” must continue.
The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogramme (1100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.
Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend. At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.
The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.
On July 19th, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.
Falcone posed a real threat to Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by The Godfather trilogy, and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.
He and Borsellino were later credited with revolutionising the understanding of the mafia, working closely with the first informants and compiling evidence for a groundbreaking ‘maxi-trial’ in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.
“Thanks to Falcone and Borsellino, the Sicilian mafia became a notorious fact, not something that had to be proved to exist at every trial,” anti-mafia prosecutor Marzia Sabella told AFP.