Dark life of Mafia kids who are taught to be assassins by watching horses being slaughtered and even kill their own MUMS

Dark life of Mafia kids who are taught to be assassins by watching horses being slaughtered and even kill their...

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IT should be a blissful time in life – but for children raised in the mafia, childhood is more likely to mean dealing drugs and collecting protection money.

It could even mean murdering your own mother, while education might consist of watching animals being slaughtered and learning how to shoot guns.


Matteo Messina Denaro, known as the ‘last godfather’, was born into the Mafia and first killed for them aged 14[/caption]


Assunta Maresca was a beauty queen turned mob boss who gunned down her husband’s killer aged 18[/caption]


Italian judge Roberto Di Bella has pioneered a scheme to help children of the Mafia break free from the underworld[/caption]

Now authorities in Italy are extending a ‘Free to Choose” scheme that seeks to break the brutal bloodline staining generation after generation, by placing kids into foster care.

Catania judge Roberto di Bella is credited with saving 150 children in the Calabria region of Italy, home to the feared Ndrangheta – one of the most powerful organised crime groups in the world.

Last week, officials announced the policy is to be expanded to Sicily, where the Cosa Nostra operate, and also to the Campania region, base of the Camorra mafia group. Di Bella calls the advance a “historic day.”

Speaking to The Sun, he said: “Unfortunately, we have seen terrible situations such as 14-year-olds ordered to murder their mothers.

“This happened because these women decided to separate from their mafia boss husbands, who were detained or fugitives or had engaged in extra-marital affairs.

“Then, according to the mafia code, the dishonour must be washed away within the family.

“Therefore, family members such as parents, fathers, mothers and uncles pushed these children to carry out these terrible crimes.

“We had a 16-year-old boy accused of six murders. He was a fully-fledged mafia killer.

“We have tried 16 and 17-year-old boys who killed representatives of the carabinieri (police) for example.

“We try to avoid all this, to intervene earlier, but this is the sort of criminal indoctrination that these children undergo from childhood.”

The ISTAT website shows there were 315 homicides in Italy in 2019 and 9.2 per cent involved organised crime.

Di Bella says he has seen 50 children in court accused of murder – and says mafia kids are inducted in a similar manner to Isis terrorists.

He has heard of little ones being made to watch horses being slaughtered to get them accustomed to witnessing and smelling death.

However, he has met kids “who still have light in their eyes, who hope for a different life”.

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Thanked by mob boss

Those that are saved are placed in the care of foster families many miles away in other regions of Italy.

Since the scheme began in 2012, a total of 30 mafia mothers have decided to follow their children to state-run retreats to avoid life as a subservient housewife under the mob.

Seven later turned state witness against the crime bosses.

One jailed boss actually thanked Di Bella for sparing his four grandchildren, aged between four and 14, from a life of crime.

Emanuele Mancuso was schooled from the Mafia from a young age before turning state witness

Protestors in Rome remember victims of the Mafia last month[/caption]


Hundreds were jailed in a landmark Mafia ‘mega trial’ last year[/caption]

Di Bella wrote the ‘Free to Choose’ book about his work that was also made into a film, which can be streamed on Netflix.

He said: “The Sicilian mafia has lost some of its power, but it is still there.

“The Ndrangheta is the most powerful global drug trafficking organization after the Mexican Sinaloa cartel.

“The cartel imports cocaine from Central and South America and distributes it throughout Europe. It has enormous economic power and it has a family-based structure in that all the members are related.

I remember a 10-year-old being used to look for police cars at a port while his family waited for a container of cocaine

Roberto di Bella

“We have seen children as young as seven and eight years old used as pushers or lookouts for drug trafficking gangs in drug dealing squares.

“We have had children aged 12 to 14 – and some even younger ones, aged 10 or 11 – told to shoot guns to get used to using weapons.

“I must say that we are also having important results because, after interventions on their children or even their grandchildren, some bosses have decided to change their lives and become a collaborator with justice, a repentant.

“We tell these bosses: ‘You are suffering in prison, help us to spare your children from your suffering.’

“The most beautiful thing for me is seeing the happiness in the eyes of the children and mothers we have helped – those who have managed to emancipate themselves from the culture and contexts of the mafia.”

Most chilling case

Asked to describe a case that stands out in his mind, he said: “I remember a 10-year-old being used to look for police cars at a port while his family waited for a container of cocaine to arrive from Latin America.

“We have had kids aged 14 collecting protection money on behalf of their parents in prison.

“I have seen many, but there was one involving a 10-year-old child.

“He went to the countryside with a crime boss who wasn’t his father.

The mafias feed false myths of the man of honour, of the boss

Roberto di Bella

“At a certain point the child had fallen asleep in the car when the boss was met by two killers, who shot and killed him.

“The child, hearing the shooting, got out of the car and saw the assassins, who shot him because he had become an eyewitness.

“They wounded him but he did not die. The child was hospitalised, and the bullets removed.

“Then it was necessary to hide him, to make him leave the mafia territories, because he was a witness and the killers were looking for him.

“With the project, we made this child go away as soon as he left the hospital and we saved him. And he then testified against the two killers.

“The mafias feed false myths of the man of honour, of the boss. But by going to schools we make children understand that organised crime only causes suffering, a lot of suffering, inside and outside for families of mafia.”


Matteo Messina Denaro being escorted from a Carabinieri police station shortly after his arrest last year[/caption]


A child stands on a street of the old center in the town of Cinquefrondi in Calabria[/caption]

Assunta ‘Pupetta’ Maresca pictured in 2000

Born to be killers

One man who knows just what it’s like to grow up inside a Mafia family is Emanuele Mancuso, whose uncle Luigi is the ‘Godfather’ of the Ndrangheta.

He was schooled in the family business from a young age, working his way up from petty crime to extortion and was first jailed at 17 for a violent assault on a business owner who refused to pay protection money.

Arrested in 2018, he shocked the world by tuning evidence on the family – resulting in last year’s “Mafia Mega Trial“, which saw 200 members of the Ndrangheta jailed for a total of 2,200 years.

At the time, his wife Nency was pregnant and Emanuele was determined his own child wouldn’t be forced into a life of crime.

The decision to testify against them left him with a bounty on his head of €1million Euros (£860,000) and Nency and the baby girl were taken to a state foster home for their own protection.

Sadly, for the children, their destiny is often already written for them – so if they follow their families they will be in jail or dead

Anna Sergi

Other notorious figures who were raised as ‘Mafia kids’ include Matteo Messina Denaro, who was the son of a mob boss and is said to have committed his first murder at 14.

Dubbed ‘The last godfather’ and ‘The Devil, he was arrested last year after 30 years on the run, before dying in September following a cancer diagnosis.

Assunta Maresca – known as Pupetta, meaning little doll – was 18 years old and six months pregnant when she gunned down Antonio Esposito, her husband’s killer.

The former teenage beauty queen, who was the daughter of notorious Camorra member Vincenzo Maresca, went on to become the head of the powerful Camorra mafia clan, and died in 2021 aged 86.

‘Not all Mafia are the same’

Italian criminologist Anna Sergi of the University of Essex says the Free to Choose scheme represents an important step forward.

She said: “The program is to show alternatives are possible.

“Of course, when you give people choices, they might not take the one you want. There have been cases where the children, once they turn 18, went back to their original family.

“This is the problem with Free to Choose. The support of the state mostly stops at 18 and this is unfortunately not good enough.”

She added “Not all mafia families are the same. Some of the most orthodox ones are more dogmatic. In this case children will have a rather deterministic lifestyle – the sons will support and learn from the father, the daughters from the mothers.

“Daughters will marry in a way that is approved by the family to support alliances and cooperation across the families, sons will try to find a place in the family business.

“Mafias are organised crime groups that are interested in both power and profits.

“But the life of average mafia members is less glamorous than we think.

“Most mafia families are trying to reach stability and wealth, but they are constantly attacked by the state.

“Only one to three per cent of mafia families in Italy we can estimate to be really wealthy and powerful enough that they can be immune from prosecution.

“The life of a mafia member is oftentimes a matter of avoiding jail or surviving jail while not losing their possessions to the state.

“Sadly, for the children, their destiny is often already written for them – so if they follow their families they will be in jail or dead. It’s not grooming, it’s the way they live.”

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