Rome - A suspected member of Italy's notorious Calabrian mafia serving a life sentence for murder escaped Monday after accomplices staged a spectacular assault on a prison van outside a courtroom.
Domenico Cutri, a 32-year-old presumed member of the Ndrangheta, was being escorted out of a tribunal in Gallarate, near Milan, when the four policemen guarding him were attacked with guns and teargas by four assailants in two cars. One gunman was killed and a policeman lightly wounded in the gunfire that followed.
"At first I thought of carnival firecrackers," a local resident who was witness to the scene told the ANSA news agency. "Then I looked out of the window and I saw a lot of police pointing their guns. The shooting lasted for a long time and I was very afraid." After an exchange of 20-30 shots, the gunmen fled with Cutri in one of the getaway cars.
The fatally wounded gunman - identified as Cutri's brother Antonino - was found dead outside a nearby hospital, accompanied by his mother. The woman, who is being questioned by investigators, was believed to have been picked up by the attackers at her home and left with her dying son at the hospital while the rest escaped with the convicted brother.
Domenico Cutri had been appealing his conviction for the 2006 murder of a Polish man who allegedly offended Cutri by approaching his girlfriend.