Updated 3.50pm

Murder victim Rita Ellul had reported her partner to the police over domestic violence and the case remains ongoing in court, her daughter told Times of Malta on Wednesday.

Georgina Grima said she and her siblings received a call from the Gozo police on Saturday at around 2pm, telling them their mother was found dead in an apartment.

"We didn't know the cause of death at the time, because there were no signs of violence on her body. But we did think of the worst, because they were in court over a report of domestic violence," Georgina explained.

"And I had a feeling something like this would happen."

Ellul, 49, was found dead in an apartment in Għajnsielem on Saturday. 

On Tuesday, an autopsy concluded that she had been murdered.

Sources said the cause of death is believed to have been asphyxiation, with Ellul's partner suspected of having suffocated her using a bed duvet.

The suspect, 30-year-old Lawrence Abina, has been charged with murder. He is pleading not guilty and is being held in police custody. 

Ellul lived in Iklin but would occasionally spend weekends at Abina's apartment in Gozo. Last weekend was one of those instances.

A mother and grandmother

Rita was a mother of three - Georgina, 31, Jessica, 26, and Glenn, 19. She was also the grandmother of eight-year-old Chanelle, Georgina's daughter.

Rita Ellul with her youngest son,19-year-old Glenn. PHOTO: Family.Rita Ellul with her youngest son,19-year-old Glenn. PHOTO: Family.

"My daughter knows what happened. I had no option but to tell her because she was with me when the police called, and she could sense that something was terribly wrong," Georgina recalled.

"She did not take it well, but now she is starting to accept that her grandmother has gone to a better place to meet her other grandparents."

Rita Ellul with her granddaughter Chanelle. PHOTO: Family.Rita Ellul with her granddaughter Chanelle. PHOTO: Family.

Georgina described her mother as fun, loving, bubbly and friendly with everyone.

"She would accept friend requests on Facebook, even from people she didn't know and she would reply to them when they sent her messages," she said.

"I would ask her why she bothered to reply to strangers who text 'good morning'. She would say that if people are nice to her, she wants to be nice back, even if she never met them. That's the kind of person she was."

On Wednesday, her cousin Sefora Tabone penned a poem as a tribute to her.

She is the second woman to be murdered this year, after Paulina Dembska. 

Dembska's January 2 murder sparked a national outcry and prompted the government to propose new legislation to further punish murders deemed to be femicides. 

Those proposed laws, which some lawyers have argued are discriminatory, had not yet been passed by the time parliament was dissolved for the general election. 

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