Hundreds of family and friends bid goodbye in Montreal to Nick Rizutto

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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MONTREAL - Nick Rizzuto's gold coffin was carried out of an old church in Montreal's Little Italy to the solemn sound of bells and the steady gaze of police, journalists and curious onlookers.

Hundreds of mourners packed the Renaissance-style church for the funeral of the eldest son of Canada's best-known mafioso.

The younger Rizzuto was gunned down early this week.

Vito Rizzuto, who is serving time in the United States for racketeering related to three Mafia murders, was not spotted at the funeral. But the victim's grandfather and namesake - Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. - was there, wearing a dark cashmere coat and his trademark fedora.

During the service at Notre-Dame-de-la Defense church the priest, dressed in fuchsia robes, addressed the sombre crowd in Italian. The crowd completely filled the pews, forcing many mourners to stand during the ceremony.

One burly man with a shaved head and a cut nose angrily booted journalists outside after they entered the church to witness the funeral.

Most mourners were tight-lipped as they filed out, refusing to speak to reporters assembled outside.

But family friend Ricardo Padulo said he remembered the younger Rizzuto as "a gentleman."

"This turnout shows respect," he said. "In the eye of God he's a great person."

Padulo said the Italian community united to pay its respects to the grieving family.

"It was a beautiful service, there was beautiful music," he said.

"The priest is a very honourable priest. Everybody was very emotional, very saddened by this day. No one likes to lose a son."

Henri Padulo knew Rizzuto from around the neighbourhood, and recalled meeting him in local restaurants.

"He was a very polite boy, he never harassed anybody," he said. "Sometimes these things happen. Unfortunately, that's life. It's a sad day. He was young, 42 years old."

Many bystanders also clammed up when reporters asked them questions. But some said inquisitiveness brought them there.

"I'm here to see, out of simple curiosity, for no other reason," said Giovanni Raviele, who was standing across the street from the church.

It was a sentiment echoed by Jean Fournier, who lives in the neighbourhood.

"It's tourism," he said. "I'm here to see what it's like, who these people are."

Rizzuto was standing next to a black Mercedes on Monday when at least one gunman approached and fired several shots in broad daylight on a west end Montreal street.

Witnesses said the victim crumpled into the fresh snow. Police arrived within minutes to pick him up and take him to hospital. He was pronounced dead and became the city's 31st homicide victim of 2009.

Montreal homicide detectives are continuing their investigation into the slaying.

Organizations: La Defense church

Geographic location: Montreal, Little Italy, United States

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