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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 October 2007, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Mafia murder witness found dead
By Frances Kennedy
BBC News, Rome

Police in Italy have confirmed that a key witness in a Mafia murder case has committed suicide by hanging himself.

Bruno Piccolo had helped identify the men who are currently on trial for the murder of a politician in 2005.

Mr Piccolo was a member of the 'Ndrangheta, or Calabrian mafia, who had been disowned by his family after his co-operation with the police.

The 'Ndrangheta shot into the limelight after six of its members were massacred in Duisburg, Germany, in August.

'Shameful one'

The lifeless body of 30-year-old Bruno Piccolo was found in a secret flat where he had lived under police protection.

Mr Piccolo's evidence was crucial to the probe into the murder of a Calabrian politician, Francesco Fortugno, in southern Italy.

He was shot dead in Mr Piccolo's home town of Locri - exactly two years ago.

Mr Fortugno's local cafe was frequented by many local mafia bosses, and Mr Piccolo had helped identify the men who ordered and carried out the murder.

Though the state guaranteed him police protection, Mr Piccolo paid a high price for his co-operation.

His family cut all ties with him, and in his home town he was called l'Indegno, or the shameful one.

That sense of isolation and fear for the future took its toll.

Mr Piccolo's story gives some idea of why the 'Ndrangheta, a group still based on blood ties, has such a small share of Italy's Mafia informers.

A mafia family feud spills over
16 Aug 07 |  Europe

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