- Benito Mussolini was not killed by Italian partisans
but by two secret agents acting on orders from Winston Churchill. That
is the startling conclusion of a new investigation into the death of Il
- Britain's wartime Prime Minister was desperate, an Italian
documentary claims, to prevent secret letters coming to light in which
he had tried to induce Italy to make a separate peace with the Allies.
This was in defiance of his agreement with President Franklin Roosevelt
at Casablanca that the war could end only with the unconditional surrender
of the Axis powers. The programme, co-produced by a veteran American journalist,
Peter Tompkins, and to be broadcast on RAI, Italian state television, tomorrow
alleges that it was to prevent these embarrassing letters coming to light
that Churchill ordered the murder of Mussolini and his mistress, Clara
- The film's credibility hinges on the evidence of former
Italian partisan Bruno Lonati, who says he was one of the two-man team
given the task of getting rid of the couple. The history books say Mussolini
and Petacci were executed by partisans at the gates of a villa near Lake
Como at 4.10pm on 28 April 1945. Subsequently their corpses were exhibited
hanging upside down in a piazza in Milan.
- But according to Mr Lonati, the secret assassination
actually took place more than five hours earlier. He claims that he acted
in tandem with a British Special Operations Executive agent codenamed Captain
John, a Briton of Sicilian descent, real name Robert Maccarone, who had
been sent to Italy with the specific mission of eliminating Mussolini.
- Mr Lonati says that they went to the house near Lake
Como where the couple had been held since their arrest, escorted them down
a lane that led to the lake, stood them against a fence and opened fire
with Sten guns. When they were dead, he claims, the British agent took
out a camera and photographed them with Mr Lonati besides them. "Captain
John" also referred to "very important documents" that he
was ordered to retrieve from Mussolini.
- Mr Lonati first advanced his claims to be Mussolini's
assassin more than 10 years ago. He found few takers for the story. Peter
Tompkins, who was himself a secret agent with the Allies in Rome in 1944,
insists the account checks out. But a key piece of evidence - the photo
of Mr Lonati with the bodies - is missing. Mr Tompkins believes that it
may be in the possession of the British Embassy in Rome. The programme
also repeats an old claim that the trips Churchill made to the Italian
lakes after the war, supposedly to paint landscapes, were actually for
the purpose of retrieving the letters.
- But Mussolini's most recent biographer, Nicholas Farrell,
says: "All the letters that have emerged are crude forgeries. The
only genuine letters that exist between Churchill and Mussolini are two,
written just before the war, in which Churchill begs Mussolini not to go
into the war."
- © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd