Bernice Cassar's father told a court on Thursday that his daughter's alleged killer had threatened to behead her in front of him.

Testifying in the compilation of evidence against Roderick Cassar, Joseph Cilia also said that a few days before the murder, the victim's daughter requested a birthday party in August, to which she replied: "I would probably not be around by then".

Bernice Cassar was shot dead on November 22 in Corradino, with her estranged husband becoming the first person ever charged with willful femicide, an aggravated version of the homicide offence. He is pleading not guilty. 

On Thursday, Cilia recounted how Roderick Cassar had called him on his phone twice after fatally shooting Bernice to inform him he had murdered his daughter.

To make sure he had not misunderstood, Cilia called his daughter's phone.

Roderick Cassar took the call, asking him: "Didn't I already tell you that I killed her?" That was when he fainted with shock.

In his testimony, Cilia said Roderick and Bernice's relationship deteriorated over time, taking a turn for the worse at the beginning of 2022.

The father received a call from his daughter on New Year's Day of 2022 during lunchtime.

"She was crying and told me to go for her as soon as I could," he recalled.

'He used the son as a weapon'

When he arrived at the couple's house in Qrendi, Cilia found a big mess, with broken plates and food spread across the floor. 

When Roderick Cassar appeared and he asked him what had happened, the man replied: "I'm not like you... I'm a volcano", before grabbing his son and taking him into the bedroom. 

The father said Roderick told Bernice she could go with her dad if she wanted to, but the son was staying with him.

"He always used the son as a weapon to ensure Bernice returns home," the father said. 

Afterwards, she told him the argument erupted when she passed a comment that she was fed up. She said Roderick had grabbed a knife and told her he'll use it to kill her. 

"She spent the day with me and then went back home because of her son as she didn't want to leave him with Roderick," he said. 

'Drunk or high on cocaine'

Cilia said that in March or April, Roderick started going out in the evenings,  returning home drunk or high on cocaine. 

On Mother's Day in May, his wife told him that Bernice had not called for two consecutive days.

She called her sister and while they were on the phone, Bernice turned up at her aunt's house crying because there had been another argument, this time because her husband wanted to go to Gozo with his family.

When Bernice said she did not want to go to Gozo, he started to hit her in the head and pull her hair. 

"He placed a knife against her neck. She urinated out of fear when he told her he'll slit her throat," Cilia recalled.

After that incident, together with their children, she had gone to live with her parents. The first two weeks were quiet but then Roderick started calling her father to send her back home. 

One day, Roderick turned up outside the parents' house, saying he wanted to apologise to her and to Cilia. However, Cilia told him he did not want to risk sending Bernice back because if something were to happen to her, it would weigh on his conscience, the man told Magistrate Joe Mifsud. 

'If I don’t get to enjoy my kids, no one will'

Matters escalated as Roderick Cassar did not want the children to live with the grandparents. He wanted Bernice to rent her own place but when she asked him to pay the rent, he told her he would pay for a stay at Mater Dei hospital. 

In July, Roderick was hospitalised and when Bernice took the children to see their dad, there were some incidents outside the hospital. During one of the arguments, Roderick told her: "If I don’t get to enjoy my kids, no one will", the father testified. 

"That statement preoccupied me a lot and we never let her go anywhere alone except to the therapist and to work - where he eventually killed her."

'Roderick would hit the car instead of Bernice'

Cilia added that Roderick often drew the sign of the cross on his wife's car windows and "would hit the car instead of hitting her".

On the insistence of her lawyer, Marita Pace Dimech, Bernice Cassar had requested a protection order.

"Towards the last week of her life, she was very scared. She reported him but nothing happened.

"He posted 'revenge is a must' on the eve of the murder. He had told her he'll behead her in front of me," Cilia said.

The father said his daughter had taken up her lawyer's advice to start compiling an affidavit with her life story.

She had not managed to conclude it as her life was cut short, he said.

Defence asks for public inquiry report

At the end of the sitting, defence lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Franco Debono asked the court to order the prosecution to present a full copy of the public inquiry into the death of Bernice Cassar.

The inquiry was conducted by retired judge Geoffrey Valenzia.

The prosecution asked for some time to file a reply to the request and was given 10 days.

Footage captured beating - expert

Earlier, court expert Martin Bajada told the court he had been appointed to gather CCTV footage from cameras in Corradino and Qrendi.

He said he also downloaded footage shot by a person who happened to be passing by on November 22.

Bajada said the footage showed that the accused's car had stopped Bernice's car before he assaulted her violently and then shot her. 

The case continues next month.

Attorney General lawyers Angele Vella and Darlene Grima assisted Inspectors Wayne Camilleri, Shaun Pawney and Paul Camilleri.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Arthur Azzopardi, Marion Camilleri and Jacob Magri were defence counsel.

Lawyers Stefano Filletti, Marita Pace Dimech, Ann Marie Cutajar and Rodianne Sciberras appeared parte civile.

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