A sister of murder victim Bernice Cassar has accused the authorities of ignoring her cries for help, saying she was "scared" and "fighting for her safety" before she was killed.

The mother-of-two was shot dead on Tuesday morning as she drove to her work in a factory in the Corradino industrial estate in Paola.

According to sources and family at the scene of the shooting, the 40-year-old victim made multiple reports of domestic violence to the authorities. 

Writing on Facebook, her sister, Alessia Cilia said the mother-of-two was "scared". 

"She reported and cried for help but the authorities never really cared. She was sad yesterday because Christmas was around the corner and she was fighting for her safety and that of her kids."

At the scene of the incident, devastated relatives of the mother-of-two said she had made a report about domestic violence as recently as Monday and accused the police of failing to act.

Her aunt, Sylvana, said: “Six months we’ve been living this nightmare and no one took him to court." 

She accused police of being "too scared" to make an arrest. 

She listed multiple incidents of domestic violence reports her niece had made.

“Six months we’ve been living this nightmare and no one took him to court," she shouted to police.

Times of Malta has contacted the police for comment. 

The murder is the first since Malta introduced the concept of femicide in the Criminal Code.

Those amendments were made in the wake of the rape and murder of Polish student Paulina Dembska on New Year’s Day, which sparked a wave of calls for legislation to protect women.

Another woman, Rita Ellul, 47 of Iklin, was murdered in Gozo in February

'Society has failed you'

The Labour Party's women's movement Nisa Laburisti was among the first to comment.

"Malta mourns the loss of another woman and mother of two children due to domestic violence," it said.

"Bernice, society has failed you. We lost you even though we were able to save your life. Even though we were able to protect you when you showed us that you were going through suffering."

The victim and her children had been "failed".

“A case such as this should spur us to fight domestic violence, to take action on time before it is too late. We urge the police never to close an eye to domestic violence reports. We call for action and for protection to victims of domestic violence," the Labour Party said. 

In a similar statement, the Moviment Nisa Partit Nazzjonalista said that "once again" the system had failed to properly care for a domestic violence victim. 

"Today, we need to urgently address daily challenges and be close to those who need help, including from the police. The authorities should act before it is too late," the MNPN said. 

Former President Marie-Louise Coleiro said the new law is clearly not enough to deter femicide, if the Paola murder is confirmed to be such.

"We need a complete revision of laws to ensure that all steps are taken when a police report is filed... It's no wonder that so many women are not feeling safe walking the streets at any time."

'Who will answer for Bernice Cassar's femicide?'

In a statement later on Tuesday, NGO Moviment Graffiti asked how many more women must die before "something changes".

"Police must offer continuous training to their front liners and officers across the hierarchy. Training is needed on what the law says as well as to change harmful attitudes and behaviours that persist," the NGO said. 

In the courts, there are "massive delays due to insufficient resources", it said, adding that there is only one magistrate dealing with cases of domestic violence.

"This is unacceptable. Training is also required to address damaging attitudes and stereotypes, and the gendered dynamics of intimate partner violence," Graffiti said.

It also called for political will in action, not talk.

Meanwhile, the Malta Women's Lobby said is is "extremely saddened" to hear of yet another femicide.

"We are angry that another woman has been lost to femicide. We are angry that the system appears to have failed her. 

 "The authorities concerned must take immediate and effective action to prevent, to protect, to prosecute in cases of Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. Additionally, it is high time that Malta fully and effectively implements the Istanbul Convention," the lobby said. 

More magistrates need to be appointed to deal with violence against women, saying it is not acceptable to have just one magistrate on such cases. 

'Stop killing women' - Roberta Metsola 

Later on Tuesday, European Parliament president Roberta Metsola said there should not be any more "excuses" and women should be protected "now". 

"Bernice Cassar should have arrived to work today. She should have been able to play with her children this evening. She should not have been forced to live in fear. She should have been safe. She should have been free from torment.

"She should not have been killed. Stop killing women," she said on Facebook. 


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