Inside an Italian prison. File photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Giuseppe Mastini, 60, nicknamed Johnny lo zingaro or “Johnny the Gypsy”, had been missing for a week.
He took advantage of a temporary release from a high-security jail in Sardinia to flee on September 6th, failing to return to his cell – not for the first time.
“The fugitive was found at a countryside property near Sassari,” in the island's northwest, police told AFP.
Officers searched dozens of houses in the area and found Mastini hiding in a sheep pen next to a blacksmith's forge.
Mastini had dyed his hair platinum blonde in a bid to disguise himself.
“We always escape for love,” he told the policemen that found him, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper – though no one else was in the pen with him.
The blacksmith was arrested on charges of harbouring a known fugitive, police said.
Originally from Bergamo in northern Italy, Mastini moved to Rome in the1970s with his family and committed his first murder aged 11, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
He was also cited in the investigation into the unsolved 1975 murder of filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Mastini first escaped from jail in 1987, when he failed to show up after another temporary release from prison.
He was on the run for two years, during which time he committed robberies, murdered a police officer, injured another, and took a young girl hostage.
Caught and jailed again, he was given another temporary release in 2014 during which he fled. In June 2017, he once again escaped from a prison in northern Italy, following the same method.
This year's escape was his seventh.
Italy's police union was angered by the escape, saying such episodes give criminals a “feeling of impunity”.
Vincenzo Chianese, president of the ES Polizia union, told Italian media these escapes had to stop, “not only to prevent families of victims having to be warned every time this happens, thus renewing their pain, but also because the feeling of impunity in our country deeply undermines the credibility of the state.”