Updated 6pm with police reaction
A claim by the police that rape and murder victim Paulina Dembska was not targeted because of her sex has been met with outrage.
In a crime conference on Thursday, police said the January 2 murder was not premeditated.
"There was no specific target, no particular sex was targeted, nor was the victim specifically targeted," Brandon Pisani, Information Officer for the Malta Police Force said.
When asked about the conclusion that the murder was not linked to the victim's sex, despite the rape, police said evidence submitted in court would support their assertion.
Abner Aquilina was charged with murder and rape on Thursday.
The Malta Women's Lobby said the statement raised serious questions about the lack of knowledge and sheer lack of sensitivity around the issue of violence against women on the part of the police.
“The fact that the victim was violently raped is in itself a clear indicator that she was targeted because she was a woman,” it said.
The lobby continued that the police's statement that no gender was targeted implied that if a man happened to be feeding the cats on the day instead of the victim, he too risked being violently raped, strangled and murdered because he randomly happened to be there.
“If the police are unable to see violence against women for what it really is, how can women feel protected in this country?” the lobby asked.
Moviment Graffitti, which campaigns against the explotiation of people, said it was shocked that the police would state there was no connection between the murder and the sex of the victim.
They pointed out that several women had come forward in the aftermath of the alleged murderer's arrest to report his history of online sexual harassment.
"In a country where the vast majority of rape victims are women and where the number of women killed by men continues to increase, it is surreal and nonsensical to deny that there is a link between the murder of Paulina and the fact that she was a woman killed by a man, because she was a woman," they said.
Dembska, 29, was found dead at Independence Garden in Sliema in an apparently random killing that has shocked the country and led to calls for the better protection of women.
Police insist act was not 'motivated by gender'
Answering questions by Times of Malta on Friday, a police spokesperson reiterated that according to evidence, the murder was not premeditated and did not target a specific person or gender.
"The investigation also confirmed that there was no link between the aggressor and the victim. As stated during Thursday's crime conference, the alleged aggressor is being charged with homicide and rape, however, investigations show that the acts committed were not motivated by gender.
"As you can understand, this case is sub-judice and no further comments can be made at this stage. All details will be given in due course during the court proceedings."