One of three man charged in connection with a murder that took place 16 years ago revealed crucial information that led the police to solve the killing of a baron, a court heard yesterday.

Police Inspector Chris Pullicino said that two years ago, while investigating a murder that took place in 1989, Michael Vella, known as Il-Fixx, told him he had information about the murder of Baron Francis Sant Cassia in 1988.

This led to the arrest and arraignment last week of Carmelo Camilleri who, the inspector recounted, eventually admitted to shooting the baron in the head in exchange for Lm11,000 - of which the accused said he had received Lm6,000.

Inspector Pullicino took the stand before Magistrate Lawrence Quintano in the compilation of evidence against Mr Camilleri, 51, of Mosta who is pleading not guilty to the murder of 68-year-old Baron Sant Cassia.

The officer said that on October 27, 1988, at about 6.30 p.m. Baron Sant Cassia was found dead on the ground outside his residence, Kastello Zamitello, in Triq Il-Kbira, Mgarr. This had set in motion a series of investigations that did not lead anywhere - until last week.

The inspector said he took over the investigations into the case in 2003. Then, the following year, as he was probing another murder, Mr Vella, who was one of three men investigated, told him he had information about the murder of Baron Sant Cassia. Mr Vella told this to the inspector just before his arraignment but refused to divulge further information.

(Mr Vella, who has since passed away, was one of three men charged with the murder of 66-year-old Nazzareno Ebejer in April 1989. The other accused were Carmelo Sant, 53, known as Karmnu Harbat, and George Pace, also 53, known as Il-Berqa.)

Some time after Mr Vella was arraigned, the inspector called him to his office and asked him to tell him more about the baron's murder. "He told me that, if I wanted to get to the man who killed Baron Sant Cassia, I was to look for a man who cleaned roads. He gave me a description of him and said his name was Carmel or Charlie," he said.

Following investigations, the inspector showed Mr Vella a photograph of Mr Camilleri and he recognised him to be the man who told him he had shot the baron.

So, in October 2004, the inspector sent for Mr Camilleri who went to his office willingly. One of the first things Mr Camilleri told him was whether Il-Fixx had told him anything.

That day, the witness said, he only spoke to the suspect for a short while as an urgent case had cropped up. Mr Camilleri had denied killing the baron but knew who had. A certain Joey, who worked as a carpenter or driver at Vassallo Group, had told him he killed the baron when he met him in a Mosta bar.

Inspector Pullicino said he was not convinced that Mr Camilleri was saying the truth and when he checked at Vassallo Group it resulted that there was no Joey who worked as a carpenter or driver there.

Then, on April 6 this year, the officer summoned Mr Camilleri to his office again. "I asked him if he remembered what he had told me in 2004. He got stuck. He kept staring at me and gave me a completely different story.

"I cautioned him and told him I was not believing him as the police were informed that he had shot the baron... Then, following several questions, he admitted his involvement in the murder of the baron."

Inspector Pullicino went on to explain how Mr Camilleri recounted what had happened on the day of the murder.

He said that in 1988 he was approached by a certain Joey who offered to pay him Lm11,000 to kill the baron. Soon after the murder, Joey gave him Lm6,000 but never gave him the balance.

"He also gave details about what happened on the scene of the crime. When he arrived there he jumped behind a rubble wall and waited there with a side-by-side shotgun which Joey gave him. Then, when the baron walked out of his house, he fired one shot."

After referring the case to a superintendent, the following day, Mr Camilleri took them to the scene and showed the police how he had shot the victim.

"The description he gave matched the facts and we told him we believed him but were sceptical about Joey.

"Then he said he wished to come clean as there was nothing better than the truth. He admitted that he had invented Joey."

Mr Camilleri told the police that it was Anglu from Mgarr who paid him Lm6,000 of a promised Lm11,000 to pull the trigger. He paid him in Lm10 bills. He also said that Anglu was with him on the scene of the crime when he shot the baron. After that Anglu took the gun.

The inspector then checked the files of the case and found that, the day after the murder, the police had investigated an Anglu Muscat who Mr Camilleri recognised as the man who paid him to shoot the baron.

The police then called in Mr Muscat for questioning. He is still being investigated.

The magistrate also heard psychiatrist Joseph Spiteri say that, after being ordered by the court to examine Mr Camilleri, he believed the accused was capable of understanding what was said to him.

Lawyer Anglu Farrugia and Edward Gatt appeared for Mr Camilleri.

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