When police arrested Gioacchino Gammino—one of Italy’s most wanted mafia fugitives—in a Madrid suburb last week, he asked how on earth they found him. Did someone rat him out or did he accidentally leave a clue?
Gammino insisted he had not called his family for more than a decade and had been living under a false name. “We saw you on Google Maps,” the police told him, showing him a fuzzy photo of himself standing outside a greengrocer store in 2018.
Gammino, 61, had escaped from Rome’s Rebibbia prison in 2002 and had been living under various names since. Most recently, he went by the name Manu and was married. He and his wife ran a series of businesses, including a hair salon, a restaurant, and a vegetable shop.
Gammino was a member of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra’s Stidda clan and was serving a life sentence for murder, drug trafficking, and mafia collusion when he escaped from prison during the filming of a movie. He was first arrested in 1984 and had been in and out of jail until his conviction for murder in 1998.
An anti-mafia investigator who had a suspicion he might be living in the town of Galapagar, Spain, after a random tip-off, decided to scour Google Maps’ Street View images to see if he could spot the vegetable store named El Huerto de Manu that the fugitive was thought to own.
But, when the investigator found the store, he also saw Gammino standing in front of it. The officer then traced the store’s financial documents and found that Gammino had also opened a restaurant in the town called Manu’s Kitchen, where he worked as a chef. The restaurant had since closed, but the officer was able to find a grainy image from TripAdvisor, which clearly showed Gammino in the kitchen. The images of the man in front of the vegetable stand and the chef were unmistakably the same person, police say, thanks to a prominent scar on his chin from a knife fight.
“The photogram helped us to confirm the investigation we were developing in traditional ways,” Nicola Altiero, deputy director of the Italian anti-mafia police, told reporters.
Gammino is now in custody in Spain and is facing extradition to Italy, where he will be imprisoned to serve out his life sentence.