UK

Legal Blunders Could See 'Fugitive Mafia Boss' Walk Free

08/08/2013 22:43 BST | Updated 08/08/2013 22:44 BST

A fugitive Mafia boss discovered living in the UK as a suburban house husband could walk free tomorrow due to "significant deficiencies" in the warrant for his arrest.

Domenico Rancadore, 64, who is wanted by the Italian authorities, was arrested by British police at his home in Uxbridge, west London, last night under a European Arrest Warrant.

domenico rancadore

Domenico Rancadore's wife Anne (left) and daughter Daniela Skinner (right)

The father-of-two had been living as a house husband under the alias Marc Skinner since 1993 while his wife, Anne, ran a travel agency to support the family.

Today, as he appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court, District Judge Quentin Purdy said: "The warrant may be such it has to be discharged.

"There are concerns about the validity of the warrant that has come before the court."

Defending, Euan Macmillan agreed that there were "significant deficiencies" with the document.

The judge remanded Rancadore in custody until a hearing tomorrow at 2pm, when he will decide whether the Italian can be released on bail.

Wearing a pale blue shirt with dark trousers, Rancadore was helped by an Italian interpreter as he sat in the dock holding a copy of the arrest warrant.

The former teacher is wanted in Italy to serve a seven-year jail term for being part of a criminal organisation between 1987 and 1995, having been convicted in his absence in 1999.

He was "a man of honour" in Mafia group Cosa Nostra, controlling Trabia, near Palermo in Sicily, the court heard.

When police arrived at his home at around 7pm yesterday, he tried to flee through the back door of his home, but came face to face with a waiting detective constable.

He initially gave police his false name - Skinner is his wife's maiden name - but eventually came clean.

District Judge Purdy said he was "leaving via the back gate when police were at the front door of his home", and he "fled as soon as he discovered they were there, without further inquiry".

The court heard that Rancadore has a heart condition and was taken to hospital by police when he began suffering chest pains.

He had a stent fitted last year and has high blood pressure, high cholesterol and angina, Mr Macmillan said.

Rancadore, whose wife and daughter were in court, came to the UK in 1993, after being acquitted at the end of a three-year court case for Mafia allegations.

Mr Macmillan said he has lived "a blameless life" in Britain.

"He has been in this country since 1993, so 20 years. He came here as a free man on his own Italian passport with his family.

"He has led a blameless life in this country for the past 20 years.

"He has lived a quiet life and his family have grown up here. He was as surprised as one would be, understandably, when the police arrived at his property.

"It would be a shock to anybody to find the police at your doorstep after such a great period of time had elapsed.

"His life is here, his family is here, his community ties are here."

The European arrest warrant was issued by Italy in January last year but Mr Macmillan said: "He has done nothing to evade detection, he has simply been living his life."

Shocked friends on the outskirts of the capital described the Mafia bigwig as "one of the best neighbours you could ever have".

domenico rancadore

Neighbours were shocked by the arrest at his modest home

Joan Hills, 76, who lives in Manor Waye, the modest suburban street where Rancadore was living, 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.

"I don't know the ins and outs of this, but they are the nicest people that you could wish to meet."

A statement from the Italian Interior Ministry said he had been living " a comfortable life" in Britain.

"Accused of crimes of mafia-style association, extortion and other serious offences and sought since 1994, multiple previous offender Domenico Rancadore, 64, from Palermo, was arrested yesterday in London by British police.

"The operation was made possible thanks to the investigative data provided by the central operations service and the mobile squad, allowing British investigators, with the help of the service for International Police Cooperation, to locate where the fugitive was hiding.

"Rancadore ran a travel agency in the British capital and led a comfortable life. Several co-operating witnesses have referred to him as a leading member of the Palermo Mafia 'family', with a senior managerial role in the Caccamo 'commandment'.

"In particular, in the 1990s, he played the role of chief of the Cosa Nostra in Trabia, Palermo.

"The operation is the result of the important relationship of international police co-operation ensured through Interpol."

There was no answer at Rancadore's home this afternoon.

A black Jaguar car was parked on the drive of the semi-detached property.

All of the blinds were pulled down and curtains closed, while a CCTV camera overlooked the courtyard at the front, which is surrounded by tall hedges.

Tennis coach Terry Stidder, 53, who lives two doors down from Rancadore, said the family moved in about 13 years ago.

"As much as I could tell he seemed a nice guy, quiet, reserved, polite.

"He would always say hello or nod, but in all that time I don't think I ever spoke more than one or two words to him," Mr Stidder said.

He recalled that Rancadore argued with a neighbour when he planted the hedges soon after moving in.

"When he came in, he planted the bushes. He had a big row with a neighbour.

"He was saying 'Sorry, but I've got to have this'."

Mr Stidder said Rancadore drove a Mercedes as well as the Jaguar.

"They always appeared new and he would take a bit of pride in them. He would be out cleaning them," he said.

"We always thought he was a chauffeur because he had such nice cars and he would always go out dressed very nicely.

"He was always very well dressed. Most of the time he would be in a very sharp suit, which, if you think about it, that is your typical Mafioso type."

Mr Stidder added: "He looked in good shape for his age."

Another local resident, who did not want to be named, described Rancadore as a "hermit".

"He was very unusual and very quiet," he said.

"A very quiet guy really, like a hermit. Unusual for most people."

He added: "He was very well dressed, a polite guy. He always used to smile at me.

"I used to just see him when he was coming in or going out.

"As soon as he's in, the doors would be shut.

"I always wondered why he had a CCTV camera there."

Rancadore's wife and daughter returned to the family home at around 5.15pm.

They declined to answer questions from reporters as they entered the property and shut the gate behind them.

Rancadore's wife was wearing a blue and white striped top, while his daughter, who partly covered her face with a white jumper, wore a floral top and sunglasses. She also carried a designer handbag.