A 51-year-old man from Mosta was yesterday charged in court with a murder that took place 17 and a half years ago.

Carmelo Camilleri was accused of killing Baron Francis Sant Cassia and with carrying a firearm without a licence. The accused was just over 33 at the time.

Superintendent Pierre Calleja, who prosecuted together with Inspector Christopher Pullicino, said in court that the police had received confidential information about the involvement of the accused on September 5, 2004. But when arrested, the accused had denied any involvement.

However, when he was rearrested on Thursday, the accused admitted it was he who had shot Baron Sant Cassia and when the police took him to the place where the murder had taken place, he explained to them how the murder was carried out and this description matched exactly what the police had found on the scene of the crime at the time.

The defence team, composed of Dr Anglu Farrugia and Dr Edward Gatt, asked the court to appoint a psychiatrist to examine the accused's state of mental health shortly before his arrest and his present state. The prosecution did not oppose the request and the court appointed Dr Joseph Spiteri to carry out the examination.

The prosecution objected to a request for bail. Magistrate Giovanni Grixti denied it.

A second person, who is believed to have commissioned the murder, is being detained by the police. It is understood the accused had received a substantial sum of money for shooting Baron Sant Cassia, who was 68 when he was killed by a single gunshot in front of his residence, Kastell Zamitello, on the outskirts of Mgarr on October 27, 1988.

At the time of the murder, it was believed that someone had called Baron Sant Cassia on his phone shortly before he was shot at 6.30 p.m. by someone who was waiting for him outside his house. The Baron was shot in the back from quite a close range as he was trying to get into his car. At the time, it was suspected that the murder could have been related to land ownership and transfer of large tracts of land, but this does not appear to be the case.

The murder is the fourth old case to be solved by the CID homicide squad.

In September 2003 the squad had solved a murder case that had taken place in April 1989. Three men were charged with killing 66-year-old Nazzareno Ebejer of Birkirkara: Mikiel Vella, 65, known as Il-Fixx, Carmelo Sant, 53, known as Karmnu Harbat and George Pace, also 53, known as Il-Berqa. Mr Vella, one of the accused, has since died.

In May last year, the police solved the case of Rozina Zammit, who was killed on February 9, 1984. They then solved the murder case of Maria Stella Magrin, who had been killed almost 19 years earlier. She was found dead on October 28, 1986, in her Cospicua home. Both murders were practically carbon copies of each other. Both women lived on their own and were killed in the same brutal manner, by being repeatedly stabbed.

Silvio Mangion, currently serving 21 years for the murder of Frenc Cassar, 74, of Zejtun, and the attempted murder of Guza Cassar on August 18, 1988, is currently facing compilation proceedings after he was charged with killing the two women.

A man in his early 40s from Zejtun had tried to hang himself when he was called in for questioning in connection with the murder of Ms Magrin and subsequently died in hospital. A third person, also suspected to have been an accomplice, had died.

The police homicide squad solved a number of other murders after the lapse of quite some time. They include the murders of Alphonse Ferriggi, solved after two and a half years, and Gozitan lawyer Michael Grech, solved after a year.

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