Sicilian mafia boss arrested at Uxbridge semi to surprise of neighbours

Domenico Rancadore, one-time head of Cosa Nostra in Palermo district, had been living as Mark Skinner for 19 years in London

A Sicilian mafia boss was arrested at this house in Uxbridge, London. But an administrative problem with the way the Italy drew up his European arrest warrant could mean it is legally meaningless.  Photograph: Tal Cohen/EPA

A Sicilian mafia boss was arrested at this house in Uxbridge, London. But an administrative problem with the way the Italy drew up his European arrest warrant could mean it is legally meaningless. Photograph: Tal Cohen/EPA

After 20 years living anonymously as Marc Skinner in a north-west Londonsuburb, the past suddenly caught up with a man known in Italy as "the professor" and named as one of the country's most wanted mafia bosses.

Officers from the Metropolitan police's extradition unit knocked on the door of his semi-detached home in a residential street in Uxbridge on Wednesday evening with a European arrest warrant alleging that he was Domenico Rancadore, one- time head of the Cosa Nostra in a district of Palermo in Sicily.

Rancadore, 64, attempted to leave via the back door but ran straight into a detective posted outside. At first he gave his name as Marc Skinner but when the officer said "I know who you are," Rancadore admitted his true identity. He was arrested and held overnight in a police station before appearing before Westminster magistrates court on Thursday.

But as his future liberty hung in the balance it emerged that an administrative problem with the way the Italian authorities had drawn up the European arrest warrant could mean it was legally meaningless. There were, Westminster magistrates'the court heard, "significant deficiencies" with the warrant, such that its validity was questionable, and district judge Quentin Purdy said it might have to be discharged.

Domenico Rancadore, who is now 64.  Photograph: Ufficio Stampa Polizia di Stato/EPA

Domenico Rancadore, who is now 64. Photograph: Ufficio Stampa Polizia di Stato/EPA

As the proceedings opened against Rancadore, the Italian authorities issued a statement stating he was "a prominent representative of the Palermo mafia family" who had led a comfortable life in London since going on the run in 1994. The Metropolitan police said he had been arrested over an outstanding seven-year jail sentence in Italy.

But for the neighbours who have lived alongside him for years in Manor Waye, a post war cul-de-sac in Uxbridge, and knew him as Skinner, this description was far from what they knew of the man. The family home is a modest whitewashed property with smart rose beds in the drive.

Joan Hills, 74, a neighbour, said: "He is one of the best neighbours you could ever have. They have lived here for years and their children were brought up here. I love those two kids like I love my own. When I lost my husband, Marco hugged me and cried with me. They were just an ordinary family living in just an ordinary house."

Outside the house, however, a new CCTV camera was clearly visible pointing directly at the entrance. Just out of sight a new Jaguar XJL with blackened windows – worth an estimated £55,000 – was parked under a wooden carport.

Both Rancadore's children, Daniela, 33, and Giuseppe, 36 were born in the UK in the seventies and registered with his surname. They grew up in the area, and went to university from there, according to Hills. Rancadore's wife, Anne, who runs a travel company from their home address, Executive Travel, is a UK citizen who for the last few years has been the main breadwinner in the family. She and her daughter Daniela were in the public gallery when he was brought up from the cells to hear the case against him. Tanned and smartly dressed, he smiled at his daughter as she blew him a kiss.

He confirmed his true identity and when asked if he would consent to his extradition back to Italy for what the warrant said was a 1999 conviction for "participation in a criminal organisation", he replied emphatically: "No."

Benjamin Siefert, appearing for the Italian authorities, said the warrant accused Rancadore of being the leader or "man of honour" of the mafia family in Trabia, a province of Palermo between 1987 and 1995. He had been convicted in 1999, he said. Siefert said Rancadore was a "man of considerable means" who presented a flight risk and was a fugitive from justice, and as such he would oppose an application for bail made by Rancadore's solicitor.

Euan Macmillan, representing him, told the court that he had been tried in 1993 in Palermo with others for membership of the mafia, but had been acquitted after a three year judicial process. He came to the UK in 1993, Macmillan said, a free man with his Italian passport and his family.

"He was married in Italy in 1976, his children were born in the UK, his wife is a UK citizen, he returned here following the proceedings in Italy."

The court heard that Rancadore was a former teacher and after the proceedings had decided to take his pension and come to the UK. "He has led a blameless life in this country for 20 years," Macmillan said. Rancadore, he said, now suffered from heart problems and had a stent fitted within the last year.

"He is on a cocktail of drugs for that heart condition and related problems," said Macmillan.

The lawyer said overnight in custody the police had taken Rancadore to Hillingdon hospital after he complained if chest pains. He said he would be applying for bail as Rancadore had no identity documents and no means to flee the court's jurisdiction.

But Purdy, remarked that Rancadore had tried to flee via the rear door of his home when officers arrived on Wednesday and had managed to remain hidden from the British police who have been looking for him since January 2012.

"That is a man who takes flight as soon as he sees the police are there," said Purdy. "He clearly wasn't found with ease. He has now been found but that doesn't mean he won't disappear again. It's taken a great deal of effort to find him."

The Italian interior ministry said that the arrest had taken place after the British police acted on information from the Italian authorities and police in the southern city of Potenza, which enabled them to identify where he was after 19 months of seeking his whereabouts.

Neighbours remained in disbelief when they heard Rancadore would not be returning home. "I just thought he was a taxi driver or a chauffeur," said Maurice Maitland. "Mind you, you don't know do you? You can't look at a person and say they are a mafia boss."

Sicilian mafioso who lived incognito in Britain for 20 years to be extradited

Domenico Rancadore faces seven years in jail after Westminster court decides he should face justice in his native Italy, after hiding out in west London since 1993

Domenico Rancadore arrives at Westminster magistrates’ court in central London.  Photograph: Peter Nicholls/REUTERS

Domenico Rancadore arrives at Westminster magistrates’ court in central London. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/REUTERS

A high-ranking member of the Sicilian mafia, who spent two decades living incognito in the UK, will be extradited to Italy after Westminster magistrates court overturned a previous ruling that prison overcrowding there could breach his human rights.

Domenico Rancadore, 65, faces seven years in jail in Italy after senior district judge Howard Riddle ruled in favour of extradition.

Rancadore, a former teacher nicknamed “U Profissuri” (The Professor) in Sicilian dialect, had been arguing since his arrest that conditions in Italian prisons were so bad they would breach his human rights. But Riddle said in his judgment: “I am satisfied your ... rights will not be breached by your extradition to Italy.”

Rancadore, wearing a grey suit and striped tie, shook his head slowly and looked down as the judgment was delivered, while his wife sobbed in the public gallery.

Rancadore had left Italy with his British wife and two children in 1993 and established a new life under the name Marc Skinner in a modest house in Uxbridge, west London.

He was sentenced in his absence in Italy for his membership of Sicily’s Cosa Nostra from 1987 to 1995, and is on Italy’s list of most wanted criminals.

He was discovered and arrested in August 2013 and faced an extradition hearing in March 2014, but a previous ruling by Britain’s high court that overcrowding in Italian prisons could be a breach of his human rights meant he could not be extradited.

At the time, Italy held around 62,000 prisoners in jails built for fewer than 48,000, according to official data. It has since reduced the number of inmates.

Rancadore, who suffers from a heart condition, was arrested again in April last year on a European arrest warrant issued by Italy, and released on bail pending Friday’s hearing. His bail conditions were renewed after the latest judgment.

Rancadore, is the son of Giuseppe Rancadore, former head of the mafia clan in Trabia near Palermo, Sicily’s capital, who is serving a life sentence in jail.

He cut all ties with his Italian family and took his mother-in-law’s maiden name as his surname when he arrived in Britain. The family home was in his wife’s name and he had no passport, national insurance number or work records.

British police have not said how they caught up with Rancadore. His daughter told the court in the 2014 hearing that she believed an ex-boyfriend had told them who he was.

Long-Time Fugitive Captured

Juggler Was on the Run for 14 Years 

Former New Mexico resident Neil Stammer was captured in Nepal earlier this year after 14 years on the run.

Former New Mexico resident Neil Stammer was captured in Nepal earlier this year after 14 years on the run.

How do you catch a fugitive who has been on the run for 14 years, has traveled extensively overseas, speaks a dozen languages, and could be anywhere in the world?

The answer to that question, as Special Agent Russ Wilson learned, is a lot of hard work—and a little bit of luck.

Neil Stammer, a talented juggler with an international reputation, was recently arrested in Nepal and returned to New Mexico to face child sex abuse charges. The events that led to his capture are a testament to good investigative work and strong partnerships, and also to the strength of the FBI’s fugitive publicity program.

Here’s how the case unfolded:

Stammer, who once owned a New Mexico magic shop, was arrested in 1999 on multiple state charges including child sex abuse and kidnapping. He was released on bond but never showed up for his arraignment. New Mexico issued a state arrest warrant in May 2000; a federal fugitive charge was filed a month later, which allowed the FBI to become involved in the case.

Stammer, who was 32 years old when he went on the run, told investigators that he began juggling as a teenager to make money, and he was good at it. Before his 1999 arrest, he had lived in Europe as a street performer and had learned a variety of languages. At the time of his disappearance, it was reported that Stammer could read or speak about a dozen of them.

Given his overseas travel experience and his language skills, the juggler could have been hiding anywhere in the world. With few credible leads, the case against Stammer went cold.

Fast forward to January 2014. Special Agent Russ Wilson had just been assigned the job of fugitive coordinator in our Albuquerque Division—the person responsible for helping to catch the region’s bank robbers, murderers, sex offenders, and other criminals who had fled rather than face the charges against them.

“In addition to the current fugitives, I had a stack of old cases,” Wilson said, “and Stammer’s stood out.” Working with our Office of Public Affairs, a new wanted poster for Stammer was posted on FBI.gov in hopes of generating tips.

At about the same time, a special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS)—a branch of the U.S. Department of State whose mission includes protecting U.S. Embassies and maintaining the integrity of U.S. visa and passport travel documents—was testing new facial recognition software designed to uncover passport fraud. On a whim, the agent decided to use the software on FBI wanted posters. When he came upon Stammer’s poster online, a curious thing happened: Stammer’s face matched a person whose passport photo carried a different name.

Suspecting fraud, the agent contacted the Bureau. The tip soon led Wilson to Nepal, where Stammer was living under the name Kevin Hodges and regularly visiting the U.S. Embassy there to renew his tourist visa.

“He was very comfortable in Nepal,” Wilson said. “My impression was that he never thought he would be discovered.” Stammer had been living in Nepal for years, teaching English and other languages to students hoping to gain entrance into U.S. universities.

Although Nepal and the U.S. have no formal extradition agreement, the Nepalese government cooperated with our efforts to bring Stammer to justice. “We had tremendous assistance from DSS, the State Department, and the government of Nepal,” Wilson said. “It was a huge team effort with a great outcome.”