Brutal mafia mob shot toddler in head and torched body to sink to all-time low

A mafia killer who spent 17 years on the run for murder was finally caught last month and below we take a closer look inside the barbaric mob he was a key player in.

Italian Edgardo Greco was earning his crust as a pizza chef in France and was exposed after he gave a newspaper an interview under a fake name about his recipes.

The dangerous fugitive, 63, was Italy’s most wanted mafia boss after escaping custody in 2006 after he murdered two brothers as part of a bloody feud.

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And the mob Edgardo answered to was the fearsome ‘Ndrangheta, which first originated in the 19th century but caused shockwaves in recent years with the murder of a toddler.

Here, we explore the historic and eerily powerful criminal organisation which is made up of around 150 families in the mountainous landscape of Calabria.

Describing the crime syndicate, Vittorio Rizzi, Deputy Director of Public Security in Italy, said: “It was born here in Calabria, in the lands of Southern Italy but today lives in 32 countries around the world.

“The ‘Ndrangheta is not an Italian folkloric phenomenon, it is a global threat.

“With Interpol we are promoters of a project aimed at attacking and destroying the 'Ndrangheta.”

This project is called ICAN (Interpol Cooperation Against ‘Ndrangheta) and it helps different countries collect information on the organisation.

Franco Gabrieli, Chief of the Italian State Police, said: “United we are going to fight, we are going to win. I can defeat ‘Ndrangheta.”

This legal battle is ongoing – and in 2019, more than 300 suspected members were arrested.

So far, 70 people have been jailed over murder, extortion and drug-trafficking charges.

The violent organisation, based in the “toe” of the country’s peninsula, is believed to be the only Italian Mafia with a tentacle on each continent.

It is described as “highly sophisticated” and “one of the most dangerous criminal groups in the world”.

They are prolific drug traffickers and also earned riches between 1970 and 1990 by kidnapping wealthy targets.

Gangsters carried out more than 200 abductions in that time including the 16 year old grandson of American oil magnate J. Paul Getty.

His ear was severed and delivered in the post during the disturbing ransom negotiation.

The group is today estimated to generate an eye watering £49billion every single year.

They also profited during the pandemic by loansharking cash to desperate businesses in Italy who could no longer make money.

And according to Italy’s parliament, the 'Ndrangheta controls more than 80% of the cocaine trade in Europe.

But the group reached a new low after committing an unimaginably evil act in 2014 over a drug-dealing territory feud.

This was when ruthless members torched a three year old to death before blasting the little boy in the head.

The toddler, called Nicola ‘Coco’ Campolongo, was sitting in a Fiat Punto when he – along with his drug-dealing grandad and his girlfriend – was murdered by the ‘Ndrangheta.

He was reportedly used as a “human shield” by his grandad before his body was found strapped in a car seat in the burnt out car.

This despicable murder of the tiny child in the town of Cassano allo lonio is regarded as one of the most heinous acts ever committed by the Italian Mafia.

Nicola Gratteri meanwhile is the anti-mafia prosecutor leading the fight to bring down the notorious organisation.

He has been described as a “dead man walking” but remains determined to get dozens more convictions.

Earlier this year he told BBC: "I've been living with this level of security since 1989, when my fiance's house was shot at, and someone phoned her in the night to tell her she was marrying a dead man.

“It's escalated to reach this suffocating level of control."

And describing what his day to day looks like, he revealed: "I don't have a life. To go into a café, we have to stop and discuss it with my protection team.

“Someone enters to pay and then we go in and drink the coffee. We have to stop and discuss where to use the bathroom.

“I haven't gone to a cinema or a restaurant in 25 years. My barber comes here to the office when I need a haircut. I hardly ever see my family.

“But inside my head, I'm a free man."

Despite this, he said his mission to bring down the ‘Ndrangheta was still “worth it” because thousands are relying on him as the “last resort” to finally bring about change.


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