A former Mafia boss wanted in Italy for extortion and other crimes has won his battle against extradition from Britain after a ruling in an unconnected case expressed concern over the conditions of Italian prisons.
Domenico Rancadore, 65, who has spent the past 20 years living in quiet obscurity in a west London suburb, was due to be sent back to his native Sicily, where he has been described as one of the country's "most dangerous fugitives".
But his extradition was unexpectedly halted yesterday after a judge said a ruling in a different case in the High Court meant he could no longer approve his removal from Britain.
Rancadore, a former teacher who was nicknamed The Professor, fled Italy in 1994 after allegedly spending years working for one of Palermo's most senior crime families.
He changed his name to Marc Skinner, moved to a dormer bungalow in Uxbridge and set up a travel agency with his British-born wife, Anne.
But in 1999 he was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted in absentia by a court in Sicily of Mafia links.
Last year the Italian authorities issued a European arrest warrant in an attempt to extradite Rancadore.
Officers raided his smart detached home and he was remanded in custody while the courts considered the case.
Senior district judge Howard Riddle initially approved the extradition, but at a hearing yesterday at Westminster magistrates' court was forced to reverse the decision and allowed Rancadore to walk free.
He explained that his hands had been tied by a ruling made last week in the High Court in which judges refused to extradite a Somali man, Hayle Abdi Badre, to Italy because assurances they had received about Italian prison conditions were "not sufficient".
Mr Riddle explained that while the two cases were entirely unconnected, the ruling of the higher court took precedence over this case.