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Borsellino's Last Glance: 20 Years Later, We Know Anti-Mafia Hero Was Marked Man

Manfredi Borsellino still has many questions about how his father, anti-mob magistrate Paolo Borsellino, was allowed to die just three months after his colleague, and fellow crusading hero Giovanni Falcone had been killed. Now you can see it in his eyes.

The last known photo of Borsellino alive
The last known photo of Borsellino alive
Laura Anello

PALERMO - The picture dates to July 6, 1992, a Monday evening, when the countdown has already begun. The Italian anti-Mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino, portrayed in the snapshot, looks like he can almost hear the ticking away of his final hours. In Palermo, the rumors had silently turned into certainty. Everyone whispers, and everyone knows that he is the latest dead man walking: the Mafia's next target.

The photograph was taken in the magistrate's house, in Villagrazia di Carini, a small town only few miles away from Palermo, during a quiet evening spent among friends. It was one of the last attempts at a normal existence, which for Borsellino had ended for good 44 day earlier, when his colleague and close friend, the magistrate Giovanni Falcone, had been killed by the Mafia in a huge blast along the motorway heading into Palermo, close to the town of Capaci.

And 13 days after this picture was taken, Borsellino, 52, was killed too, in another mammoth car-bomb blast, in a parking lot in Via D'Amelio, in the Sicilian capital. Today, 20 years later, Borsellino's son Manfredi shows the last picture taken of his father alive. Afterwords, the only images would be those showing a sheet covering his corpse.

In the final family photograph, a family friend sits between the magistrate and his wife, who hints at a smile. But Borsellino cannot seem to smile anymore, no peaceful moments remain. A sunken face, a cigarette in his lips, an anguished expression, he looks towards the camera with an almost absent expression.

Those days, the magistrate was feverishly writing his memoirs in a red agenda, which later disappeared. Those days, he was fighting against his boss, the attorney general Pietro Giammanco who had cut him out from the most important investigations and the management of the informants. Those days, according to the latest discoveries of a new investigation, Borsellino had gained knowledge of a negotiation between the State and the Mafia to stop the terrorist attacks. He saw it as a repugnant pact.

Good faith?

The previous investigation on Borsellino's death were reopened based on lingering suspicions that members of the Italian intelligence services might have played a role into the plot which lead to his assassination. Manfredi Borsellino calls the first investigation and trial "a joke."

The red herring of the investigations was proved, says Borsellino's son. "I want to believe that everyone has always been in good faith, and simply misled by the false results of the investigations," he says.

But the doubts, the investigations are all part of what came after. In this picture there is the pain before the epilogue, when the end is already written. On Sunday, July 19, after a last swim, Borsellino left the house in Villagrazia di Carini to go to his mother's house in Via D'Amelio, to bring her to an appointment with her cardiologist.

The doctor was supposed to visit her at home, but the previous day, mobsters had set fire to his car. When Borsellino arrived in Via D'Amelio, 100 kilograms of Trinitrotoluene in a Fiat 126 car exploded, ripping a crater in the street and shaking the surrounding buildings. Together with Borsellino, five agents of his round-the-clock police escort were also killed. The 24-year-old Emanuela Loi had just come back from her vacation in her hometown of Cagliari, Sardinia. Walter Cosina was a huge man from the north Italy city of Trieste, which he had voluntarily left to fight the crimes on the frontline in Palermo. Claudio Traina was on his first day of service with Borsellino. Fabio Lu Muli had asked his sister to remind him the words of the prayer Ave Maria, just a few days before.

Today, some people speak about martyrdom. Manfredi Borsellino smiles bitterly. "The last thing he wanted was to make a widow of his wife and orphans of his three still young children. But he knew that it could have happen. Instead, he really wanted his family and his escort not to be involved in an attempt on his life. He succeeded with the former, but sadly not with the latter," he said.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo - La Stampa/Manfredi Borsellino

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