The husband of a woman who was shot dead in Corradino was arrested early on Wednesday in a raid on his residence after a standoff lasting 17 hours.  

Armed officers wearing protective clothing blasted their way into the house at 2.30am while firing a number of flash bangs.

Roderick Cassar, 41, was arrested unharmed but was still given a medical checkup on the scene, the police said. Police officers were also unhurt. 

The gun allegedly used in the murder was recovered.  

The operation followed several attempts to get Cassar to give himself up.

Following his arrest, Cassar was taken in for a medical examination and assessment. He is expected to undergo interrogation by police investigators on Wednesday. 

By law, the police have 48 hours from the time they arrest a suspect to charge him with a crime or release him.

Cassar is the prime suspect in the murder of Bernice Cassar, who was shot  on a road behind the MCAST campus in Paola as she was driving to work. Her body was found outside her white Nissan Qashqai.

The couple had two children and a troubled history.

Bernice Cassar had filed several domestic violence reports against her husband, leading to the police pressing criminal charges against him last May.

A court ordered Roderick Cassar to not approach his estranged wife, but he repeatedly violated that protection order. Times of Malta is informed that the murder victim had tried to get the police to act as recently as Monday.

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said that while the police had pressed charges against Roderick Cassar in May, the court case was not due to begin until November 2023.

A retired judge, Geoffrey Valenzia, has been asked to look into the circumstances leading to the murder and identify any systemic failings that may have to it.

A standoff in Qrendi

Shortly after Tuesday morning’s murder, police traced the suspect to the Qrendi neighbourhood where he lives. 

Armed officers from different tactical units spent the day outside his home, as a police negotiator spoke with him for several hours, trying to convince him to turn himself in. 

Cassar is understood to have briefly spoken to police and even posted on social media after the murder.

In one post, he apologised and wrote that he could not stand the thought of life without his two children.    

Interrogators were concerned about Cassar's safety and worked to coax him into giving himself up.

Following an hours-long standoff that stretched into the night, police decided to act. 

Special assignment unit agents made their move at around 2am, forcing their way into house and rapidly arresting Cassar. 

He was not hurt. A shotgun they believe he used as the murder weapon was seized during the operation.

Cassar is being represented by lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri.

Grief, and anger towards police

Meanwhile, distressed relatives of the victim visited the murder scene and needed to be kept back by investigators.

An aunt of the victim arrived at the scene at around 10am and shouted out that the victim had made reports as recently as Monday.

Her aunt, Sylvana, said: “Six months we’ve been living this nightmare and no one took him to court."  She accused police of being "too scared" to make an arrest. 

In a Facebook post, the victim’s sister said authorities had ignored her cries for help. 

"She reported and cried for help but the authorities never really cared. She was sad yesterday because Christmas was around the corner and she was fighting for her safety and that of her kids,” Alessia Cilia wrote.

The murder is the first since Malta introduced the concept of femicide in the Criminal Code.

Those amendments were made in the wake of the rape and murder of Polish student Paulina Dembska on New Year’s Day, which sparked a wave of calls for legislation to protect women. Another woman, Rita Ellul of Iklin, was murdered in Gozo at the end of February. 

Under the new law, judges are encouraged to dole out harsher sentences for murders committed with "femicidal intent". Defendants in such cases can no longer argue that they committed the crime out of "passion".  

Magistrate Noel Bartolo is holding a separate court inquiry into the killing.

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