Giuseppe di Matteo was 12 years old when the Sicilian Mafia kidnapped him in 1993. The Cosa Nostra members were disguised as police officers and promised Giuseppe that they would take him to his father Santino, who was in police protection at the time because he had agreed to testify against his former associates in the mafia.
The disguised Mafia members were Giovanni Brusca who had murdered up to 200 people and Salvatore Riina. The kidnappers tortured Giuseppe between 1993 and 1996 before they murdered him.
To begin with, the Mafia’s main goal was to get Santino to stop assisting the police after he was arrested for taking part in the murder of judge Giovanni Falcone. Following his arrest, Santino agreed to assist the police in their investigation by revealing all the details of the assassination and testifying against the Mafia in Falcone’s case.
Giuseppe di Matteo’s kidnapping was an attempt to intimidate his father into retracting the testimony given in his deposition. Giuseppe was kept in a cage, beaten and given very little food. The mafia would often send Santino photos of his son during the years of torture. Santino desperately tried to negotiate with them to save his child but to no avail.
Finally, after holding the boy for 779 days and with Santino’s legally-binding deposition still on the books, Brusca gave Giuseppe di Matteo’s captors the final order to “get rid of the puppy.”
The mobsters then strangled the young boy to death. He was said to be so weak and exhausted by this point that he didn’t even try to resist them. Afterwards, they dissolved his body in acid to ensure that the body would never be discovered.
Giovanni Brusca was arrested in May 1996 after being convicted the previous year for detonating the car bomb that killed judge Falcone.
For his cooperation, Giuseppe‘s father Santino was released from prison in March of 2002. Even after many people warned him that he was a “dead man walking” for betraying the Mafia but he still refused to go into hiding. Santino decided to return to his home just south of Palermo with his wife.
In a recent interview, Santino said he would never forgive himself for what happened to his son. “I think about it every day,” he said. “How can there be people so evil to treat a child this way?”
He continued, “I always thought that Guiseppe was going to be out of the Mafia circle. He loved animals and he always wanted to be a vet. He had a real passion.”
But after his son was kidnapped, he knew deep down the boy would never come home again.
He said, “When people get involved in stuff like this, it’s most likely they are never coming back.”
In July 2018 a court in Sicily ruled that Giuseppe di Matteo’s family will receive 2.2 million dollars in damages for his death from the Italian government’s fund that’s set up to compensate Mafia victims.
Giuseppe di Matteo’s death sent shockwaves throughout Italy, especially since the child was so young when he was murdered. It went against what many believed to be the Mafia’s “code of honour” that women and children should not be harmed.
Rest In Peace Giuseppe di Matteo.