(By Denis Greenan). Rome, March 20 - Italy on Wednesday mourned national police chief Antonio Manganelli who died in a Rome hospital from complications after a battle with cancer and an operation to remove a brain swelling three weeks ago. Manganelli, 62, rose through the ranks to investigate major drugs, kidnapping and mafia cases. He worked closely with late anti-Mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, helped catch Cosa Nostra bosses like Nitto Santapaola and collaborated with international forces including the FBI. Manganelli famously escorted the Sicilian Mafia's first major informant, Tommaso Buscetta, into the courtroom to give his groundbreaking evidence in 1986. On the day of his appointment to lead the Italian police force, June 25, 2007, he said: "I'm a beat cop who achieved his childhood dream, becoming a detective". Avellino-born Manganelli had a law degree from Naples University and a post-graduate degree in criminology from Modena University. He taught at Italy's top police academy and had a string of publications to his name, ranging from investigative techniques to kidnappings. His reputation helped him when he had to stand up and take the blame for police brutality at the Group of Eight summit in Genoa in 2001, even though he was on holiday at the time of the case that damaged the image of Italian police around the world. Manganelli, No.2 to Gianni De Gennaro at the time, apologised after convictions of several police officers last year for horrific beatings of peaceful protesters, some of whom were left in critical condition - an episode that judges called a "stain on Italy's name". Vowing that "such things will never happen again", he set up a new police training school outside Rome. Among the tributes Wednesday, Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri called Manganelli "a Number One as policeman and for his moral qualities" while outgoing Premier Mario Monti said he was "an example of a servant of the State". Pietro Grasso, former national anti-mafia chief and newly elected Senate Speaker, recalled the "very many years we worked together as colleagues and friends" and praised Manganelli's "uncommon investigative gifts". Italy's various anti-Mafia organisations said they had lost "a friend and ally" and said they would hold a rally to commemorate him Thursday. Gay groups praised his work to reduce discrimination, saying they would name an anti-hate crime observatory he set up in 2005 after him. Gaynet head Franco Grillini said he "established a positive dialogue between the police and the gay community, helping usher in a cultural revolution". Italy's watchdog for minors said he had "made the difference" in fighting crimes against children. The centre-left Democratic Party recalled Manganelli's "sensitivity, intelligence and professionalism" while former premier Silvio Berlusconi said "Italy has lost a servant of the State of great value". Former interior minister and Northern League leader Roberto Maroni tweeted "Ciao Antonio, life master and friend". The hashtag #Manganelli became the top topic on Twitter within hours of his death. Leftwing writer and journalist Peter Gomez tweeted: "Great policeman. Fought the Mafia, did not take part in the G8 and apologised for what happened. Respect, memory and emotion". Mafia reporter Lirio Abbate, who has police protection because of Cosa Nostra death threats, tweeted: "He was the Number One policeman. A great, decent person. A friend of mine, Ciao Antonio".
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