Warning: Graphic content

A former prison inmate said in court on Wednesday he was tormented for weeks on end while sharing a room with Abner Aquilina who spoke openly about how he had murdered Paulina Dembska after originally planning to harm his former girlfriend. 

The man took the witness stand at the compilation of evidence of Aquilina who stands accused of murdering and raping the Polish student at Independence Gardens in Sliema in January 2022.

The former inmate had shared a room with Aquilina for a month or so at the Forensic Unit when he finally decided to speak out, saying that he could no longer bear to hear his roommate laughing and joking about how he had subjected “this poor girl” to such an ordeal. 

Although never mentioning her name, the witness knew very well who Aquilina was referring to since he had followed news about the murder.

Whenever someone new was admitted to the unit, Abner would repeat his account, going on and on about how he had strangled his victim with bandages, and then raped her when she lay dead. 

After breaking up with his girlfriend, Abner had originally planned to harm her but changed his mind, saying that he was “afraid that her father would kill him”.

So he then targeted another “girl who was feeding cats in Sliema”, went on the witness, recalling how the accused would relate details about the murder every single day, for weeks on end. 

Aquilina would tell his prison mates about how passersby who had unknowingly witnessed the rape thought that he was doing press-ups. 

“He used to laugh and joke about her, without referring to her by name.” 

Aquilina also spoke out in front of other prisoners, including the witness, about his intention to “kill his lawyer” as well as his own brother. 

He also claimed that his defence had struck a plea deal with the Attorney General.

“He also bothered me playing with his private parts,” went on the witness. 

“Finally, I couldn’t help but call the inspector.”

When asked for further details about “anything else” that had bothered him, the former inmate said that he could not remember anything else. 

Lawyer Stefano Filletti, representing the victim’s family, stepped in, pressing for further details. 

“What bothered you? Was it this that made you send for the inspector?”

“This woman sort of possessed me. He [Abner] repeated the story so often, hammering the story into my head that I couldn’t forget,” explained the witness, as the accused broke out in hysterical laughter. 

“Did he say whether he raped her when alive?” asked the lawyer.

“Only when dead,” replied the witness. 

Defence lawyer Mario Mifsud took over the questioning, asking whether the witness had informed the police about Abner’s death threats in his [the lawyer’s] regard.

“Were you equally bothered by the fact that Abner threatened to kill me? Did you tell the inspector so that precautions could be taken?” asked Mifsud. 

“I don’t recall,” came the reply. 

“You had better ask him [the inspector] about that,” added the witness. 

Asked by the lawyer whether he had known about that alleged threat, Inspector Wayne Camilleri replied: “No I did not.”

“And you weren’t at Sliema were you?” asked the lawyer, addressing the former inmate.

“No, I wasn’t,” he replied. 

The case, presided over by Magistrate Marse-Ann Farrugia, continues in August.

AG lawyers Darlene Grima and Anthony Vella are prosecuting together with Inspectors Wayne Camilleri, Jonathan Ransley and Shaun Pawney. Lawyers Mario Mifsud and Nicholas Mifsud are defence counsel. Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Lara Dimitrijevic are appearing parte civile. 

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