A suspected arsonist was remanded in custody on Tuesday as he faces charges of having set fire to his ex-girlfriend's car over a custody dispute.

The man was identified as the person who approached a parked car in a Ħamrun alley, carrying a jerry can shortly before the vehicle burst into flames.

The incident took place in the early hours of June 6 when district police were alerted to the fire. Joint investigations by the arson unit and the Ħamrun police soon confirmed that this was indeed a case of arson.

CCTV footage from the suspected crime scene showed a person approaching the car with a jerry can in hand at around 3 am.

The suspect was soon identified as John Joseph Debono, a 35-year-old upholsterer from Naxxar, who was known to police.

The car in question was being used by Debono's former partner but was registered in another person's name. 

On Monday, police obtained an arrest warrant and Debono was taken into custody yesterday afternoon.

On Tuesday he was charged with setting the car on fire, wilful damage to third party property, wilful breach of public peace and disturbing the repose of residents.

He was also charged with negligent and dangerous driving on Monday, driving without a licence and insurance cover as well as breaching a number of traffic regulations.

He was further charged with harassing his ex, causing her to fear violence, insulting and threatening her and misusing electronic communications equipment.

Other charges related to allegedly breaching bail and relapsing.

The prosecution explained that prior to the arson attack, the accused had been engaged in some argument with his former partner.

Just a week before the incident, the accused had sent his ex a message concerning access to the former couple’s three-year-old daughter.

That message ran along the lines, “Are you going to keep up the farce, not letting me see the girl? Now we’ll see.”

More messages followed after the arson, the prosecutor explained, adding that the accused had also been outdoors when he had been previously bound by a curfew.

The accused pleaded not guilty.

A request for bail was objected to for various reasons including the fact that civilian witnesses including the victim and the car owner, were still to testify.

However, there were no eyewitnesses of the arson.

Defence lawyer Roberto Spiteri countered that evidence consisted mainly of messages and footage which were all preserved.

Moreover, a tainted record sheet was not a sufficient basis to deprive a person of his liberty.

On a humanitarian note, the accused had the sole care and custody of a 13-year-old child he had fathered with another previous partner.

After hearing submissions the court, presided over by magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace, turned down the request for bail.

AG lawyer Joseph Camilleri Azarov together with Inspectors Jeffrey Scicluna and Mario Xiberras prosecuted.

Lawyer Roberto Spiteri was defence counsel.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us