Mafioso on trial over killing mother who had affair with rival
Prosecution hears of killing that might not have come to light but for brave witness
Two years ago, Barone caught his mother, Francesca Bellocco, “in flagrante” in the family summer home in Calabria with Domenico Cacciola, member of a rival ‘Ndrangheta crime family
The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Reggio Calabria this week served up a chilling reminder of mafioso methods and mindset when it revealed that 22-year-old Francesco Barone, member of an ‘Ndrangheta family in Rosarno, Calabria, had been arrested on charges that he had killed his own mother.
Two years ago, Barone caught his mother, Francesca Bellocco, “in flagrante” in the family summer home in Calabria with Domenico Cacciola, member of a rival ‘Ndrangheta crime family. At the time, Barone’s father, Salvatore, was serving a sentence of “limited detention” based near Brescia, northern Italy.
Investigators claim that Barone junior decided to defend the family honour by killing his mother because of her adulterous relationship. He immediately summoned two other clan members who arrived at the summer home early on the moring of August 18, 2013 heavily armed and wearing balaclavas. Investigators believe that the woman’s body was taken away in a Fiat Panda that was seen entering the garage early in the morning.
Having killed his mother, Barone junior then travelled north to inform his father of what he had done. Three or four days after the killing, both Barones, father and son, reported Francesca Bellocco as a “missing person” who had left the family home of her own volition. Since then, there has been no sign or trace not only of Francesca Bellocco but also of her lover, Domenico Cacciola.
The true nature of the disappearance of Francesca Bellocco might never have come to light were it not for the courageous testimony of a traffic policeman who just happened to have a summer house close to that of the Barone ‘Ndrangheta family. He had been witness to events on the night of the killing. After an understandable initial hesitation, he opted to tell his story to the investigating magistrates. Since then, he has been forced to enter a witness protection scheme which entails both a change of identity and moving to a secret location.
The witness claims to have not only seen people coming and going on the night of the killing but also to have overheard much shouting and screaming. In particular, investigators believe that Francesca Bellocco tried to save herself by phoning her husband, Salvatore, to ask his forgiveness. The phone call did not last long, however, before her son Francesco pulled the phone out of her hands.
This week, Reggio Calabria prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho praised the courage of the witness, saying:
“This is a wonderful example of how “omerta” (silence) can be broken by someone with a strong sense of the state. It was a very difficult decision but this witness has decided what is more important. The killing of Francesca Bellocco is a matter of unprecedented gravity because it illustrates how the ‘Ndrangheta stranglehold is so strong that it can prompt an unthinkable killing like this...”
Another Calabria prosecutor, Ottavio Sferlazza, based in Palmi, echoed his colleague’s words, saying:
“The investigation which has led to the arrest of (Francesco) Barone illustrates perfectly the basic DNA of the ‘Ndrangheta - archaic rules that induce a son to kill his mother because she has betrayed his father...”
Ironically, the risks run by those who choose to collaborate with the state in mafia investigations were brutally underlined by the horrendous death of Maria Concetta Cacciola, the daughter of a Calabrian godfather also from Rosarn and a relative of Domenico Cacciola, the lover of Francesca Bellocco.
A mother of three children, Maria Concetta Cacciola died in August 2011 after drinking muriatic acid. Investigators believe that members of her own family, furious with her decision to collaborate with investigating magistrates, forced her to drink the acid in order to stage a “suicide”.