The Messina Brothers
were a Sicilian-based criminal organization which dominated London's underworld during the inter-war and post-WWII years.
Born to a Sicilian father and Arab mother in Alexandria, Egypt
, the Messinas were involved with their father in white slavery
during the early 1900s. As far back as 1908, Egyptian authorities reported the Messinas as known traffickers of women who, convincing local women with promises of marriage, were eventually forced into prostitution upon arriving in London's West End.
The Messina Clan & London's Underworld
Eventually relocating to London in 1930s (taking the name of the Sicilian province of Messina
in favor of their surname DeBono prior to their arrival), the Messina brothers Salvatore
and Eugene Messina
quickly became involved in their father’s former trade and, during the years following the Second World War
, the Messinas were importing women from Belgium, France and Spain. With a steady and highly profitable prostitution operation and adequate protection from the Metropolitan Police officials, the Messinas ran unchecked with a free rein in the city and, by the late 1940s, were operating thirty houses of prostitution along Queen
and Stafford Streets
. Prosecution against the Messinas proved difficult as many of the girls working for them had legitimate passports and made deportation difficult. Attilio Messina reportedly stated to the press "We Messinas are more powerful then the British Government. We do as we like in England."
During the time, crime journalist Duncan Webb
of The People
newspaper began accusations regarding information from Scotland Yard
being leaked to Alfred Messina. In 1950, Webb wrote a front page expose appearing in the September 3rd issue of People
on prostitution in the West End and compiled a large list including interviews with over 100 prostitutes which revealed names, dates, photographs and other information crucial for a police investigation.
However, their activities soon gained the attention of Scotland Yard
who formed a special investigative task force under Superintendent Guy Mahon
to engage in an aggressive campaign against them and, by the end of the 1950s, the Messina clan had been forced to flee the country (with Alfredo Messina being imprisoned on bribery and prostitution charges, as well as Attilio Messina who was sentenced to four years imprisonment after being caught attempting to illegally reenter the country in April 1959).
Eugene and Carmelo Messina eventually resurfaced in Belgium
, where the two were imprisoned after their conviction on prostitution and pimping charges (including testimony from Scotland Yard detectives). Eugene would be sentenced to six years imprisonment while Carmelo would be banned by the Belgian government from entering the country and deported to Italy where he died in 1959. The remaining brother, Salvatore Messina, who went into hiding, was the sole brother never to be apprehended by authorities.
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- Humphreys, Rob and Judith Bamber. The Rough Guide to London. London: Rough Guides Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-84353-093-7
- Wilson, Colin. The World's Greatest True Crime. Barnes & Noble Publishing, 2004. ISBN 0-7607-5467-5
- Devito, Carlo. Encyclopedia of International Organized Crime. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. ISBN 0-8160-4848-7