A man who stands accused of murdering his partner inside a Gozo apartment will be held in police custody after pleading not guilty to the crime. 

Lawrence Abina, a 30-year-old from Ghana, was arraigned in the Gozo law courts on Wednesday and charged with the murder of 47-year-old Rita Ellul. 

Ellul was found dead inside the Għajnsielem apartment on Saturday. There were no signs of violence on her body, but an autopsy concluded on Tuesday that she had been killed by asphyxiation. 

Sources say that Ellul was most likely killed using a bed duvet. 

One of Ellul's daughters has claimed that her mother had filed a domestic violence report against Abina recently. 

Around 12 police officers filled the Victoria courtroom as Abina pleaded not guilty to the murder charge filed by prosecutors. Ellul's three children as well as other relatives were also present. 

TVM reported some commotion aboard the Gozo Channel Ferry that Abina was brought to Gozo aboard, after some of Ellul's relatives apparently realised that the murder suspect was aboard. 

Abina did not request bail at this stage and magistrate Bridgitte Sultana ordered that he be kept in police custody. 

Lawyer Joseph Grech represented the accused. 

Anthony Vella and Nathanial Falzon from the attorney general's office and inspectors Kurt Zahra, Josef Gauci and Wayne Camilleri prosecuted. 

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri appeared on behalf of the victim's family, parte civile. 

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