Last days on the lam: Fugitive Mafia boss Domenico Rancadore is seen in this screen grab from Google Street View image captured in October, 2012.
LONDON: One of Italy's most wanted Mafia bosses has been discovered living in a quiet west London suburb after 19 years on the run.
Domenico Rancadore, who had changed his name to Marco Skinner, was arrested at the detached bungalow in Uxbridge from where he had been running a small travel agency with his British-born wife.
Nicknamed "The Professor" in Italy, the 64-year-old former PE teacher and father of two children had been on the run from the Italian authorities since 1994, having been convicted in his absence of Mafia association and extortion.
Domenico Rancadore insisted with neighbours that he needed a high fence and hedge. Photo: AFP
A leading member of a Palermo crime family, Mr Rancadore was described by Angelino Alfano, Italy's deputy prime minister, as one of the country's most dangerous fugitives.
Yet despite being on Italy's most wanted list, it emerged on Thursday as Mr Rancadore appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court for an extradition hearing that he could walk free as early as Friday because of problems with his arrest warrant.
Judge Quentin Purdy said there were serious concerns about the paperwork and the arrest may be invalidated.
"He had security cameras around the house": The street in which the Sicilian mafia boss Domenico Rancadore was found. Photo: AFP
Back in west London, Mr Rancadore's neighbours said they would not have guessed they were living next door to one of the Mafia's most senior bosses.
Terry Stidder said he had assumed Mr Rancadore was a chauffeur. "He always seemed like a nice guy. He was very well dressed and had nice cars on the drive," he said.
Mr Stidder added: "He had a large fence and hedge surrounding the property. He planted the bushes when he first arrived and had a big row with one of his neighbours. He was saying, 'Sorry, but I've got to have this'.
"He always seemed like a nice guy": Mafia boss Domenico Rancadore in an undated photo. Photo: AFP
"I always assumed that he just enjoyed his privacy, but now of course we know why."
Naveem Seth, 45, an IT consultant, said: "He wasn't much of a conversationalist, but he would smile and say hello.
"He had security cameras around the house and never, ever, left his gate open.
"Sometimes I would see people sitting outside his house in cars reading newspapers, but I never thought it was suspicious until now."
Officers from the Metropolitan Police arrived at the family home on Wednesday evening as Mr Rancadore returned. According to sources, he made an attempt to flee but was quickly subdued and arrested. It is understood that a short time later he began complaining of chest pains and was taken to hospital, where he was kept in overnight for observation before being transferred to Westminster Magistrates' Court.
During the short hearing, Mr Rancadore appeared relaxed. He was supported by his wife, Ann, 60, and daughter Daniela, 33, in the public gallery.
Prosecutor Benjamin Seifert said: "The requested person was head of a Mafia family and known as 'a man of honour' controlling the area of Trabia."
But Mr Rancadore's lawyer, Euan Macmillan, described his client as living a "quiet" and "blameless" life adding: "His life is here, his family is here, his community ties are here."
Mr Macmillan complained that there were "significant deficiencies" with the European Arrest Warrant.
The judge remanded Rancadore in custody until 2pm on Friday when he will decide whether to allow bail.
Italian police extended their search for Mr Rancadore overseas in 1998.