A WOMAN born into one of Italy’s most notorious families today paid tribute to the mother who was “always there for her”.
Marisa Merico said she loved her mum Patricia Di Giovine “dearly”, and still felt guilty about everything she had put the 66-year-old through.
Mrs Di Giovine died after a three year battle with cancer on December 27, and Ms Merico spent the last years of her life caring for her.
But before that Ms Merico, 42, served almost four years in prison for the role she played in her father’s mafia gang and fought a long battle to stop the Italian authorities extraditing her.
The mum-of-two said: “I loved my mum dearly, she was a massive part of my life and she was there for me all the time.
“I felt a lot of guilt because of everything she went through and the upset it caused because of what happened with me.
“My mum stood by me throughout everything and I could never thank her enough for everything she did for me in those years when I needed her the most.
“She looked after my daughter for four years and she was like a mum to her.”
Mrs Di Giovine married Ms Merico’s dad, mafia boss Emilio, after she met him working as an au pair in Italy.
But the marriage broke down when Ms Merico was nine, and Mrs Di Giovine returned with her daughter to live in Poulton.
It was not until she was 18 that Ms Merico left to live with her father in Italy, before marrying one of his mafia henchmen – Bruno Merico – and becoming embroiled in laundering the family’s drug money.
Ms Merico’s daughter, Lara, was born in 1991 and the pair returned to Poulton two years later when her marriage broke down, and lived there until Ms Merico’s arrest.
She served two years in Durham prison for money laundering offences and then a further 18 months in Milan before being released.
Since then, despite repeated attempts by the Italian authorities to extradite her, Ms Merico has lived in Poulton with Lara, now 21, son Frank, 10, and Lara’s five-month-old son, Lucas.
And it meant she was able to be closer to her mum as she fought breast cancer and then bone cancer.
Ms Merico said: “She has been my rock.
“We had a mother-daughter relationship and we didn’t always see eye to eye. She had a very fiery Italian temper because she lived there for 13 years, so it was part of her life.
“She loved her family in Italy and her family here.
“In a way my life has stopped in the last two years to look after but I would not have it any other way.”
Mrs Di Giovine was in remission from breast cancer when the disease returned in her bones, but she fought it for three years and lived long enough to see her first great-grandchild born to granddaughter Lara last year.
Ms Merico added: “Lucas was a little miracle.
“When my mum first held him you could see the smile and sparkle in her eyes, and how happy he made her.
“She will be really missed by us and everyone who knew her. She was one of a kind.”