A notorious Mafia boss who created a criminal empire in prison and ordered a raft of killings has been found dead in his cell.

Raffaele Cutolo, a former leader of the Italian Camorra crime organisation, spent most of his adult life in jail.

Cutolo died on Wednesday, February 17, aged 79, after suffering from pneumonia in Prama prison.

Known as “The Professor”, he was first sent down after killing a young man who’d made advances on his sister.

Cutolo was sentenced to 24 years in Poggioreale prison in Naples after committing his first murder in 1963.

While inside, he earned the respect of more powerful inmates and challenged the then Camorra boss, Antonio Spavone, to a duel.

After he failed to show up, one of Cutolo’s friend blasted Spavone in the face with a shotgun.

Having established himself as a force to be reckoned with, Cutolo set up the New Organised Camorra [NCO] with a small group of trusted inmates.

Once released, they were able to carry out his orders outside of prison.

Isaia Sales, an essayist and professor of the history of the mafia at the Suor Orsola Benincasa University of Naples, told The Guardian: “Cutolo turned the Camorra into a mass organisation, inciting young people to violence.

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“Many bosses have commanded from prison, but they were already Mafiosi when they entered.

“Cutolo entered prison as an ordinary criminal and from there founded one of the most powerful criminal organisations in the world.”

His gang could eventually rely on 10,000 members, and a conflict with the original Camorra led to hundreds of deaths – including dozens of civilians.

Cutolo was given an additional four life sentences for the murders.

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In 2007, he was given the right to father a child through artificial insemination.

It was a first for Italy, where mob bosses are expected to serve “hard time” once they are brought to justice.

“I’ll die in prison. My last wish is to give my wife a child,” Cutolo told newspaper La Repubblica the previous year.

Cutolo married his wife, appropriately named “Immacolata” or “Immaculate” in prison in 1983, but the two never consummated the marriage, according to news reports.

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She eventually delivered their daughter, called Denise.

Cutolo may also have been carrying a “mountain of secrets” on the Italian state itself, il Fatto Quotidiano reports.

In 1981, Christian Democrat politician Ciro Cirillo was kidnapped by the Red Brigade, a guerrilla group who sought to create a revolutionary state using terror tactics.

He was released three months later, and Cutolo claims he met several CD members to negotiate in prison.

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