ROME — Ever since he broke out of Rome’s Rebibbia prison 20 years ago where he was facing murder charges, Gioacchino Gammino had managed to evade capture. He fled to Spain, changed his name and cut off ties with his family, creating a new life for himself, at one point working as a chef in an Italian restaurant.
But last month, Italian investigators finally tracked down Mr. Gammino, 61, in a town northwest of Madrid, thanks in part to an unlikely tool: Google Maps.
“They say that fortune favors the bold,” said General Nicola Altiero, deputy director of Italy’s Antimafia Investigation Department, which carried out the operation with prosecutors in Palermo, explaining how investigators used Google Maps and Street View to help them track down Mr. Gammino, a Sicilian who was on Italy’s most dangerous fugitives list.
Investigators in Palermo declined to say how they had traced Mr. Gammino to Galapagar, a town near Madrid, saying that aspects of the case were still part of an ongoing inquiry.
But General Altiero was more forthcoming, explaining how investigators had used the Google tools to look up a fruit and vegetable store — “El Huerto de Manu” — that they believed could have ties to the fugitive, and happened upon an image of a man standing in front of the store.
The man in the image had the same size and build as Mr. Gammino, General Altiero said, and investigators noticed that the store shared the same telephone number as a nearby restaurant — “La…