VSL:SCIENCE // Forsenic science takes on the Cosa Nostra

In the 1980s, a Mafia group called the Sacred Corona Unita (or SCU) took over the Apulian region of southern

In the 1980s, a Mafia group called the Sacred Corona Unita (or SCU) took over the Apulian region of southern Italy. This paper, by forensic scientists at the University of Bari, describes how the autopsies of 83 of the SCU’s murder victims led to the group’s eventual downfall.

Some autopsies revealed key aspects of the group’s culture and established that the SCU often killed its own — a habit that inspired many wise guys to leave and become police informants. Others lent support to specific claims by those informants: In one case, the SCU attempted to discredit a police source by moving the body of one of its victims. But the positive identification of a left-behind kneecap served only to corroborate the informant’s account — as a result, investigators pursued his other claims so vigorously that they toppled the group’s leadership. Now, that’s forensics.

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