Gozitan bus driver John Attard has been sentenced to life imprisonment after he was found guilty of being an accomplice to the 2001 murder of traffic warden Fortunata Spiteri.

Jurors convicted Mr Attard by seven votes to two after a marathon 24 hours of deliberation, though they acquitted him of the more serious charge of masterminding the killing despite strong forensic evidence against him.

Handing down sentence, Mr Justice Michael Mallia said Mr Attard’s involvement in the murder was the “last straw” because the 64-year-old , known as Il-Muħa, had spent his life “challenging authority”.

The judge took into consideration a crime committed by Mr Attard i n 1975 in which he had caused injuries to his father which resulted i n his death . The defendant stood emotionless as the sentence was read.

Family members of the victim hugged one another , while her former husband, Joe Spiteri, said he was “content” with the outcome. He called his mother – whom he said had been praying all week – to inform her of the outcome.

Mr Attard was the second person to stand trial after Benny Attard was jailed for 30 years last year after admitting his involvement in the crime.

A third man, Giuseppe Farrugia, was also implicated but died while proceedings were still ongoing.

During his trial, which opened on Monday, Mr Attard admitted being on the scene but denied participating in the murder.

Lawyer Lara Lanfranco , from the Attorney General’s Office , told the court on Thursday the evidence produced was corroborated forensically , which validated the statements given by Mr Farrugia , Benny Attard and his sister , Maria, who all pointed their finger at the bus driver.

On the night of the murder, all three were picked up by Mr Attard who allegedly commissioned the murder after being booked on a number of occasions by the victim.

Ms Spiteri was murdered August 10, 2001, on a dark road which leads to Għarb. One of her aggressors, who was never identified due to conflicting versions, wore a glow-in-the-dark mask from the film Scream.

She was stabbed five times, two of the fatal blows almost severed her aorta and another principal vein , forensic experts had testified.

     
 
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