HENRY Hill, the renowned mafia “rat”, who was immortalised in the gangster film Goodfellas, has died in Los Angeles aged 69.
“He had been sick for a long time … his heart gave out,” Hill’s girlfriend told the celebrity news website TMZ.
A notorious mobster, Hill took part in the 1978 Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport, which netted $5 million (£3.2 million) – what was then a record.
Hill was the inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s 1990 seminal gangster movie Goodfellas.
The film was the story of Hill’s wild life in the Mafia and featured an assorted bunch of real life capos, hit men and psychopaths, most of whom now lie in unmarked shallow graves, or died of old age in prison cells.
Hill, who was played by a young Ray Liotta, told The Daily Telegraph in 2010 he was surprised that he was not “whacked” himself. The Mafia has a notoriously long memory for betrayal and the price on his head was reputedly more than £1 million.
“There’s nobody from my era alive today,” Hill said. “But there’s always that chance that some young buck wants to make a name for themselves.
“It’s surreal, totally surreal, to be here. I never thought I’d reach this wonderful age. I’m just grateful for being alive.”
Hill was born to an Irish father and Sicilian mother in New York in 1943 and joined the Lucchese crime family, one of the city’s Five Families. He excelled at his chosen profession, hijacking trucks, fixing basketball games, collecting gambling debts, dealing drugs and “breaking heads”.
Goodfellas, based on Nicholas Pileggi’s book “Wiseguy”, details how following the 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK airport, then the largest cash robbery on US soil, he “turned rat” and sent a string of Mafia figures to jail.