Italian murderer and fugitive Giuseppe Mastini, 60, nicknamed
This photo taken and handout on September 15, 2020 by the Italian State Police shows a police officer (L) escorting Italian murderer and fugitive Giuseppe Mastini, 60, nicknamed "Johnny the Gypsy", following his arrest in Sardinia. Image Credit: AFP

Rome: An Italian murderer who escaped from prison for the seventh time earlier this month was caught Tuesday hiding in a sheep pen, police said.

Giuseppe Mastini, 60, nicknamed “Johnny the Gypsy”, took advantage of a temporary release from a high-security jail in Sardinia to flee on September 6, failing to return to his cell.

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“The fugitive was found at a countryside property near Sassari,” in the island’s northwest, police told AFP.

Officers searched dozens of houses in the area and found Mastini hiding in a sheep pen next to a blacksmith’s forge.

Mastini had dyed his hair platinum blonde in a bid to disguise himself.

“We always escape for love,” he told the policemen that found him, according to the Corriere della Sera daily, though his partner was not in the pen with him.

The blacksmith was arrested on charges of harbouring a known fugitive, police said.

Originally from Bergamo in northern Italy, Mastini moved to Rome in the 1970s with his family and committed his first murder aged 11, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

He was also cited in the investigation into the unsolved 1975 murder of filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Mastini first escaped from jail in 1987, when he failed to show up after a temporary release from prison.

He was on the run for two years, during which time he committed robberies, murdered a police officer, injured another, and took a young girl hostage.

Caught and jailed again, he was given another temporary release in 2014 during which he fled. In June 2017, he once again escaped from a prison in northern Italy, following the same method. This year’s escape was his seventh.