Underworld rituals through the lens of autopsy

An upcoming article for the Journal of Forensic Sciences gives a fascinating insight into the rituals and methods of the Sacra Corona Unita (United Holy Crown) Mafia group from Southern Italy through the post-mortem examination of the bodies of their victims.

Many of the victims are members of the Sacra Corona Unita themselves, giving an insight in the organisation’s “mystical approach to all ceremonies among members. Tribal rituals, secret codes, and theatrical punishments transformed the ‘onorata societ√†’ into a kind of distorted Masonic lodge”.

The article recounts the oath of the criminal fraternity and the significance of their tattoos, as well as describing a study on 83 murder victims. Strikingly, each of the victims who were Mafia victims themselves had a ritual object left with them.

As usual in mafia organizations, each member had a nickname, and ritual symbolic objects were found beside the buried bodies that referred to the member’s lifetime. For instance, the horns of a bullock were found beside the body of the son of an SCU member named the “Bull” and a mouse beside the body of a member known to be a police informer, known as the “Prostitute.

The murder and burning of the bodies of the victims conformed to the symbolic code understood by all the members. It made explicit reference to the membership ceremonies that warn that the unfaithful will be burned to ashes (just like the holy picture burned during the ceremony).

This technique, obviously, also has some strategic advantages because it makes the possibility of identifying the victim more unlikely and eliminates any traces left by the executors. This mode of operation is called “lupara bianca” (white lupara): “lupara” is a gun with a sawn-off barrel with a high lacerating power at short distance, “white” means a “murder with disappearance of the body.”

Link to article.
Link to DOI entry for same.

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