The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - January 5

The Italian partisan who captured Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini at the end of WWII has died. Urbano Lazzaro, whose 'nom de guerre' was Bill, died Tuesday night in a Vercelli hospital aged 81. Lazzaro, a member of the partisans' Garibaldi Brigade, took Mussolini off a truck at Dongo near the Swiss border on April 27, 1945.

The dictator, who ruled Italy for over 20 years from 1922, was disguised as a German soldier. Mussolini was trying to flee to safety after Italy's defeat in the war and the collapse of his puppet regime in northern Italy. The partisans shot the dictator the day after they caught him. In a controversial act, his dead body was later trampled and disfigured by a Milan crowd.

Lazzaro later moved to Rio de Janeiro but often came home to his birthplace, a small town near Vercelli. He wrote several books on Mussolini's capture and contradicted an official Resistance version according to which a partisan 'colonel' shot the dictator.

Lazzaro was one of a number of partisans indicted after the war in a trial that sought to establish the whereabouts of the fabled 'Dongo gold' - a huge haul of bullion Mussolini was believed to be taking with him. According to some accounts, it ended up in the vaults of the Italian Communist Party (PCI).

The file on the case is still open.