Italy police catch serial fugitive on ‘most wanted’ list

An Italian police car pictured in a park.
Mesina, who has already spent over 40 years behind bars, is known for his escapes. Miguel MEDINA / AFP
Italian police Saturday caught serial jailbreaker Graziano Mesina, who was on the country's top eight most dangerous fugitives list, the interior ministry said.

The 79-year old, who is famous in Italy for multiple escapes from prison, has to serve a 24-year sentence for international drug trafficking, according to Italian media reports.

Police captured him in a house in the hillside town of Desulo in Sardinia, not far from Orgosolo in the centre of the Italian island, where he grew up, the last of 11 children, born to a Sardinian shepherd.

Mesina had skipped bail last year.

He has served over 40 years in jail for attempted murder and a kidnapping spree, and is known in Italy for his escapes — jumping from a moving train during a transfer on one occasion and disguising himself as a priest on another, media reports said.

In 1970, he reportedly watched his football team Cagliari play, while dressed as a woman.

Mesina would later “reform”, according to the Repubblica daily, and play a key role in the release of a kidnapped child, Farouk Kassam. That prompted Italy’s then-president to grant him a pardon.

He worked for a while as a tour guide. But in 2013 he was arrested again on charges of setting up an international drug trafficking network and his pardon was later revoked.

Mesina’s lawyers told ANSA news agency he had spent “a difficult year” on the run, during which both his sisters had died of coronavirus.

Asked why he escaped last year, he told his lawyers: “I have already spent too long in jail, over 45 years, and the idea of going back in to die scares me”.


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