Those who kill almost always shoot with Kalashnikov assault rifles, and they don’t skimp on bullets: 18 from a Russian-made AK-47 rifle and 14 from a 9mm gun hit Antonella Lopardo, 49, in the beginning of May. Her hands, abdomen and face were riddled. The killers were after her husband Salvatore Maritato, who was the real (missed) target of the execution.
The cruelty and modality of the crime led local prosecutors to pass the case to the Anti-Mafia Directorate of Catanzaro led by Chief Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri. According to the investigators' reconstruction, Antonella Lopardo ended up in the gunmen’s line of fire by accident: she heard a knock on the window and approached it to see who was there, but she barely had the time to move the curtain that the bullets hit her.
Her husband crouched behind an armored door, escaping the ambush.
Signs of escalation
Antonella is not the only woman to be killed recently. In April 2022, in the same area, Hanene Hendli, 38, was murdered alongside her partner, convicted criminal Maurizio Scorza: one shot in his head, seven against her while they were in their car.
It is not common for women to be killed during mafia clan wars. The last time this happened in Calabria was nine years ago, when Ibisse Taoussa was murdered and burned along with convicted criminal Giuseppe Iannicelli and his grandson “Cocò” Campolongo, who was three years old.
For this reason, investigators probing the case fear an escalation. On this stretch of the Calabrian coast, few things go unpunished, especially with murders like these.
The same thing happened in 2006 elsewhere in the region. In the town of San Luca, the heart of the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta, Maria Strangio was murdered on her doorstep on Dec. 25.
The murder of Antonella Lopardo, killed with 30 gunshots instead of her husband
The same dynamic was seen in the murder of Antonella Lopardo: gunmen were after her husband, local boss Giovanni Luca Nirta, who survived.
"No one, except investigators, seems to notice."
Her murder reignited the long-dormant feud between ‘ndrangheta families that led to the massacre of six people in Duisburg, Germany, when the world was introduced to the Calabrian mafia, at the time less well-known than Cosa Nostra (Sicily) and Camorra (Naples).
But it was precisely this spotlight that left the Forastefano-Abruzzese alliance in northern Calabria in the shadows. It was mistakenly written off as a second-class mafia. Instead, according to journalist and writer Arcangelo Badolati, the case shows the triumph of "the rule of ferocity of a real supercosca which has overcome the frictions of the past and merged into a single structure. It is impatient and intolerant of any attempt at criminal autonomy.”
This alliance doesn't deal exclusively with drugs and extortion: “They are trying to take over companies in the agribusiness chain, the leading sector of the territory’s economy," says Badolati. Peaches grown in the area are used by international juice companies. "No one, except investigators, seems to notice," Badolati says.
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