Letizia Battaglia, Italian photographer who documented the Mafia, dies at 87

Italy mourns fearless photographer who documented Mafia crimes for decades.

Letizia Battaglia, the legendary Italian photographer best known for her shocking images of Mafia murders and arrests in Sicily, died in her native Palermo on Wednesday aged 87.

Her career as a photojournalist began in 1969 when she began working for the left-wing Palermo newspaper L'Ora.

She would go on to take some 600,000 images for the paper, many of them the documenting the vicious internal war of the Mafia and its bloody assault on civil society.

Child with gun in Palermo, 1982. Photograph: Letizia Battaglia.

Battaglia photographed countless murder scenes, once stating that she had an "archive of blood".

Celebrated for her courage as well as her entirely self-taught skill with a camera, Battaglia lived under the threat of death threats for two decades.

In 1993 prosecutors used two of her images from 1979 to show that Italy's former seven-time prime minister Giulio Andreotti had links to organised crime, as they showed him with senior mafioso Nino Salvo, whom he had denied knowing.

Murder of Piersanti Mattarella in Palermo, 1980. Photograph: Letizia Battaglia.

Battaglia also stood up to the infamous Corleonesi clan and, on 6 January 1980, she was the first to arrive and photograph the murder of the president of the Sicilian region Piersanti Mattarella, brother of Italy's current president.

The recipient of multiple international awards for photography, Battaglia was also involved in politics and was an advocate for women's and environmental issues.

A documentary film based on her life, Shooting the Mafia, was released in 2019.