|Palermo|  Leonardo Vitale

Born:  June 27, 1941

Dead:  December 2, 1984

Leonardo Vitale was a member of the Sicilian Mafia who was one of the first to become an informant, or pentito, although originally his confessions were not taken seriously. He was shot to dead after his release from prison in 1984.


He walked in to a Palermo police station one night in 1973 and declared that he was a member of the Mafia and confessed to various acts of extortion, arson and two homicides. Vitale said he joined the Mafia at nineteen at the behest of his uncle. He proved his willingness to kill by shooting a horse and subsequently he murdered a rival mafioso. He went on to take part in extorting and intimidating landowners and shopkeepers, and later carried out a second killing. In explaining why he had turned himself in, something that was unheard of from a mafioso at that point, Vitale claimed to have had a spiritual crisis and wanted to unburden himself. Whilst held in custody he smeared excrement on himself and practised self mutilation as his own act of contrition.

His testimony lead to a number of alleged mobsters being indicted, but all were acquitted when their defence lawyers cast doubt on Vitale's mental state by pointing out his self mutilation and other odd habits. In the end only Vitale and his mafioso uncle were imprisoned, and Vitale spent most of his time in a mental asylum. The picture above shows Vitale arrested and laughing.


In early 1984 Tommaso Buscetta became an informant and gave a vast amount of information on the Mafia in Sicily that subsequently backed up a lot of Vitale's own testimony. In the light of this, Vitale was declared sane and released in June 1984. In December that year he was shot dead as he left a church after attending Mass with his mother and sister. No-one was convicted of his murder but there remains little doubt the Mafia were behind it. Vitale's original written testimony was used in the Maxi Trial several years later, where Magistrate Giovanni Falcone declared that "it is to be hoped that at least after his death Vitale will get the credence he deserved."

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