inside the sad final days of Al Capone

In his last two years, Capone was given shots of penicillin but they did little good as his condition was so advanced. The man who once ruled over a criminal empire that spanned North America now had, in Bair’s words, “a brain so riddled by syphilis that he had the mentality of somewhere between seven and 12 years”.

A 1998 report in the Florida Historical Quarterly detailed the agony of his final days, when he was “breathing continuously through an oxygen mask, and pneumonia filled both of his lungs”. He was having convulsions and was sedated with large doses of Demerol, codeine and morphine. Amid reports of his deteriorating health, a ghoulish death watch commenced on the street outside the mansion, which was filled with newspaper reporters, policemen, FBI agents and curious onlookers.

Capone died in his bed on 25 January 1947, aged 48. His death certificate cited “bronchopneumonia, due to apoplexy”. The family refused a request by Dr Kenneth Phillips to hold an autopsy on Capone’s brain. He was finally laid to rest near Chicago with a gravestone that read My Jesus Mercy.

Did he leave $10 million in cash hidden in underground vaults and secret containers? Deirdre Capone believed that her great uncle had stashed away a secret treasure. In Capone, FBI agent Crawford (Jack Lowden) tells the gangster’s attorney that he has “reason to believe your client may have tucked away a very large sum of money”.

Capone’s loyal wife, a woman who knew every terrible thing he had done and loved him unreservedly, did not seem to know about a missing fortune. She ran out of money, and was forced to sell the Miami mansion in 1952 and move into a smaller home. Mae died in a Florida nursing home in April 1986, aged 89, but not before she burned Capone’s letters and her own diaries. Some of the mysteries of Scarface’s life will never be solved.

Capone is available on demand in the US today and in the UK later in the year

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