Benny Attard, 50, was yesterday jailed for 30 years after he admitted to killing local warden Fortunata Spiteri in 2001 saying the murder was motivated by excess fines issued by the victim.

Mr Attard was due to stand trial by jury for the murder of Mrs Spiteri who was stabbed six times while on duty in Għarb but he entered a guilty plea before the proceedings commenced yesterday morning.

In pleas on punishment, defence lawyer Anġlu Farrugia told the court, presided over by Mr Justice Caruana Demajo, that his client's life was in danger because John Attard, known as Il-Muħa, who is also due to stand trial for the same murder, had tried to contract another man who was in jail at the time to kill Benny Attard who is a star witness in the trial against him. John Attard is under house arrest awaiting trial.

Dr Farrugia said that at the time of the murder his client was living in an awkward situation with John Attard having complete control over him through fear. Describing his client's present state of health, Dr Farrugia said the man is suffering from peripheral vascular disease as a direct result of diabetes and is blind in one eye.

Police Superintendent Pierre Calleja said the evidence of Benny Attard is vital in the case against John Attard because of the very detailed police statement and account of the murder.

Dr Farrugia read out in court the statement Benny Attard had given to the police, occasionally stopping to consult with his client, seated next to him. Benny Attard confirmed his account of what had happened as contained in the statement.

The court heard how John Attard had met him on a bus and both of them had agreed to kill Mrs Spiteri that evening. John Attard, who at the time drove a bus, had wanted to kill her because she had started to pick on him by issuing too many fines.

"(John) Attard had picked me up in the evening and he knew that Mrs Spiteri would be in Għarb. In the car with us was another man known as Il-Ħaxxiex and Maria, my sister," he said.

He added: "We got out of the car and went over to her. She was standing on a street corner. Il-Muħa was wearing a mask and, while I held her, he stabbed her in the abdomen".

He said that, at first, she said nothing but, on recognising Il-Ħaxxiex and himself, she said: "You, as well," and uttered cries of pain.

The court had also heard that John Attard had promised the accused €11,650 for his involvement in the murder, which money he had never received.

The head of the Prosecution Unit at the Attorney General's Office, lawyer Anthony Barbara, said the case is one where a woman doing her duty was killed because she was helping society. Thanking the prosecuting officers, he added that thanks to the testimony of the accused, the truth had come out.

Dr Barbara said that the victim and her family as well as society at large need justice to be done, adding that Benny Attard's medical condition is no excuse for the punishment to be reduced.

Mr Justice Caruana Demajo noted that the murder was more likely to have been motivated by money than by fear. The court could not ignore the fact that the murder was premeditated, that the victim was a public official and that the accused had helped in uncovering the truth.

Making provisions for his medical condition to be treated and for the accused to be protected while in prison, Mr Justice Caruana Demajo jailed Benny Attard for the maximum prescribed by law.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us