Giuseppe Setola, the suspected head of the Casalesi murder squad run by the Camorra mafia clan, was caught today in a small town northwest of Naples, Italy, two days after he dodged arrest by crawling through sewer tunnels underneath his hideout, Italian police announced.
Setola was found in an abandoned house on the outskirts of the small town of Mignano Montelungo betwen Caserta and Frosinone in southern Italy. He tried to escape over the rooftop when police entered the house but was captured and handcuffed.
Setola, who had a wrist injury believed to have been suffered during Monday's sewer escape, reportedly shouted at police that they had the wrong man, but the police were not convinced.
"He looked very similar to his 'wanted' photo, but was dirty and unshaven with some scars on his face," Captain Costantino Airoldi told ABC News.
"This is a great moment for the [Italian] state," Naples anti-Mafia prosecutor Franco Roberti told the Italian news agency ANSA after the successful conclusion of the manhunt. "We were certain [Setola] was in a situation of great difficulty. We promised all the citizens that he would be caught. We have kept that promise."
Roberti said when he was told of the arrast he felt "great joy, a great sense of pride, because the state has succeeded, the anti-Mafia apparatus has worked."
Two other men found in the house with Setola when the police arrived were also arrested. One is Paolo Gargiulo, from Aversa, a young man in his twenties who is a familiar name to mafia investigators. He is believed to be part of the infamous Bidognetti clan.
The other is an Italian-American nameded John Peram Loran from Naples with no police record. The two did not resist arrest, and it is believed now that they were both with Setola when he escaped via the sewers Monday morning in Trentola Ducenta.
Italy's interior minister, Roberto Maroni, expressed "great satisfaction" with the news. He said this was a "very strong blow for the Carmorra" and thanked all the magistrates and police forces working on this important case.
Capture After Several Close Calls
Setola, one of the country's most-wanted fugitives, had previously eluded police arrest for the third time earlier this week. Barefoot and dressed only in pajamas, he ducked into the underground sewer system through a trap door under a bed in his hideout near northern Naples early Monday morning. Hot in pursuit, a number of carabinieri, Italy's paramilitary police, clambered down after him after finding the trap door, but they were too late.
Press reports said Setola made his abrupt getaway into the sewers at 4:30 a.m. Monday morning. After crawling along for about 1.5 miles in the dank, foul-smelling tunnels, he emerged from a manhole in front of a cheese shop and stole a woman's car as she was about to drive off.
The car was later found abandoned in the area close to where another car was stolen shortly afterward in which he made his way to the Mignano Montelungo.
Setola, who has already been sentenced to life in prison, is the boss of the Casalesi clan in the Camorra crime organization. Prosecutors believe he is responsible for drug trafficking, extortion and multiple brutal killings in the area.
Setola is on Italy's list of the 30-most-wanted fugitives and is suspected of being responsible for the massacre of six West African immigrants who were murdered in the nearby town of Castel Volturno in September.
Soon after the murders and an ensuing immigrant protest, the Italian government sent in the army to help the local police. Italy's Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, said the Casalesi clan had "declared a war on the Italian state."
Setola No Stranger to Police Hunts
Setola had been on the run since last April, when he escaped the house arrest he had been granted based on a doctor's certificate that declared him virtually blind. Prosecutors are still trying to ascertain how he was let out of jail on an apparently fake infirmity.
In November police arrested a carabinieri officer suspected of tipping off Setola about police operations. The suspected "mole" commanded a carabinieri station near Casal di Principe -- the town in the area from which the Casalesi gets its name.
In the small, abandoned-looking house in the town of Trentola Ducenta from which Setola fled Monday, police found 12,000 euros in varying-size bank notes and Setola's wife, Stefania Martinelli, whom they arrested for possession of an undeclared pistol. She was questioned all night and will appear before the judge tomorrow.
The home was reportedly piled high with trash and appeared in squalid condition. Also found in the hideaway was an anti-anxiety medication, a bottle of Cartier perfume, a book by Pope John Paul II, "Rise, Let's Be On Our Way!" with an adoring dedication from a fellow clan member, and the book "The Gold of the Camorra," an investigative book written about the Casalesi clan.
Neighbors in Trentola Ducenta questioned on Italian state TV turned their backs on a television reporter. "I don't know anything and I haven't seen anything," said one unidentified neighbor.
"Why should I care? I don't even know who he is," said one young man who was interviewed.
Tipped Off by Video Cameras
Italian news programs aired video of Setola's hideaway, filmed after his escape that showed a bedroom furnished with a double bed and a wardrobe and another single bed in the kitchen. Police were seen shining flashlights down the trap door into the sewer, and a number of uniformed policemen were shown rather dejectedly on guard or searching the messy rooms in the house.
The humble home, however, was reportedly fitted with at least two-closed-circuit TV cameras on the outside walls, which were monitored in the kitchen and might have tipped off Setola to the police's imminent arrival.
The prefect of Naples, Alessandro Pansa, a long-time investigator of organized crime in Italy, told reporters today that "the police force's commitment to capture dangerous criminals is unquestionable. ... The capture of fugitives is a bit like a game of roulette: Sooner or later the winning number will be the one."
Monday, one of the magistrates on the Setola case received an envelope containing five bullets accompanied by an anonymous threatening letter, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. It was mailed from Marcianise, which is in the Casalesi-controlled territory.