Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Life and Times of the Sicilian Robin Hood


Captain Antonio Perenze, second in command of the "get Giuliano" task force, gave the official account of the death of the Sicilian Robin Hood.  The task force had trapped Giuliano in the lawyer's house, he tried to shoot his way to freedom, and they had killed him in a fierce gun battle.  Colonel Ugo Luca, several miles away from the action, waited for word from his deputy that the mission had been accomplished.

An astute reporter noted some strange inconsistencies in the official report.  The blood that had seeped into the courtyard appeared fresh, although it had been two hours since the gun battle had taken place.  They couldn't find any witnesses who had heard the tumult of a prolonged gun battle.  Indeed, two witnesses reported hearing only a brief report of machine gun fire.

Prime Minister Gaspari
Prime Minister Gasperi

Nonetheless, the report stood.  Prime Minister Gasperi, in Rome, announced the immediate promotion of Colonel Luca to General. 

Some months later, when the trial of the accused from the Portella della Genestra massacre was in progress in the mainland city of Viterbo, Pisciotta confessed that he had been the one who had shot Giuliano.  A few days later, he testified that he had killed Giuliano on the orders of the Minister of the Interior, Mario Scelba, the creator of the Luca-Perenze task force.  Scelba insisted that the official account was true, even after Captain Perenze recanted his initial description of the death of Giuliano.

Minister of the Interior Mario Scelba
Minister of the Interior Mario Scelba

It seemed clear to Italian journalists that an effort had been made to glorify the work of the task force, and, initially, to protect their informant, Pisciotta.  The hapless Pisciotta had been promised much, and had even been given an official identity card in the months leading up to Giuliano's death, so that he could travel to planning sessions with Colonel Luca and Captain Perenze.  The significant meeting had been hosted by the mafia boss of Monreale.  The desire of the government, whose involvement at various times with Giuliano, and their continuing corruption by Sicilian mafia, was, of course, to rid themselves of this popular and charismatic bandit.  The mafia, as well, were finding that Giuliano was more than a nuisance, having defied them by killing four of their own.

Despite assurances to Pisciotta that he would be given amnesty for his services, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.  He obviously knew much more than he had blurted out during the Viterbo trail, because he was poisoned while in prison in 1954, probably by the mafia, who had free entry into the prison.  Despite his constant vigilance, Pisciotta drank his strychnine-laced coffee, unsuspecting that the mafia had achieved their goal of silencing him.

Strangest of all were the accounts that Giuliano had written a memoir, and that it contained damning information about the government.  The young lawyer denied ever seeing this mysterious document, although there was testimony that he had burned it.  He admitted burning some papers, but not a memoir.  He said it had disappeared, and that he could say nothing further of it for fear of his life.

A draft of Giuliano's autobiography was published a few years after his death, edited by his sister, Marianina.  The memoir, however, was thought to be different, and it has long been assumed that it was a document that could do great damage to the central government and its partner, the mafia.  If it is ever unearthed, then the story of Salvatore Giuliano would undoubtedly be even more astounding.


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