Google Street View has helped law enforcement collar an escaped prisoner, who has been on the run for nearly twenty years.
Investigators told Reuters that Italian police caught a mafia fugitive named as Gioacchino Gammino, 61, after he was spotted in a Google Maps Street View picture.
The spotting of Gammino on Street View, outside a fruit shop in Spain, was key in triggering a deeper investigation it was reported.
After a two-year investigation, Gammino was tracked down in Galapagar, Spain, where he lived under a fake name.
The town is reportedly close to the capital Madrid.
“The photogram helped us to confirm the investigation we were developing in traditional ways,” Nicola Altiero, deputy director of the Italian anti-mafia police unit (DIA), was quoted as saying.
Gammino was reportedly a member of a Sicilian mafia group dubbed Stidda, and Gammino was sentenced to life imprisonment for a murder.
But Gammino escaped Rome’s Rebibbia jail in 2002, and has been on the run ever since.
Deputy director Altiero said Gammino is now in custody in Spain and they hope to bring him back to Italy by the end of February.
Reuters was unable to locate a representative of Gammino to comment.
This is not the first time that Google Maps Street View has been involved in solving a crime.
In 2011 Google at first refused to hand over to British police unaltered images of a thief about to steal a homeowner’s caravan.
The Street View image the police were seeking was taken back in June 2009, and clearly shows a man standing by a 4×4 vehicle on the driveway of David Soanes and his wife Rebecca in the village of Linton in Derbyshire.
The suspect’s face and his car registration number had been captured by a passing Street View car, but as part of Google’s policy, his face and number plate were blurred out.
Their caravan was subsequently stolen and when the Google Street View images were posted online, their son Reuben saw the image of the unknown man and car.
When the police asked Google for the unaltered image of a 4×4 car which they suspect was involved in the theft of a caravan, Google reportedly cited privacy rules and said at the time it would not hand it over without a court order.
But it was reported in 2012 that after months of negotiations and the threat of a court order, Google eventually supplied clear images of the man to police investigating the theft.
Police then arrested the suspected caravan thief, alleged to be a man of 49 from Coventry, in conjunction with the case.
It is not known whether the man was eventually convicted of the crime.