Statements made to the police by a man who stands accused of murdering his estranged wife will have to be discarded after three judges rejected an appeal by the Attorney General for them to be admitted as evidence despite being taken in the absence of a lawyer.

Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti and judges Edwina Grima and Giovanni Grixti ruled against a request by the Attorney General to overrule a previous court order for the removal of the statements which, it said, could prejudice the overall fairness of the proceedings.

Mangion, 45, is awaiting trial by jury, with a potential life sentence, for his alleged involvement in the murder of his estranged wife, Eleonor Mangion-Walker, whose body was found by the police dumped under wooden pallets in a Qormi warehouse on July 3, 2016.

Mangion turned himself in a few days after the murder. He stands charged with killing the mother of his young daughter.

The court heard how Mangion consulted a lawyer of his choice prior to his interrogation. The law at the time only allowed suspects to consult their lawyer for up to one hour before their interrogation. At a later stage, the lawyer’s presence was made mandatory.

The court noted that Mangion’s statement to the police during his two interrogations on July 12 and 13, 2016, was “quite voluminous” and although he did not admit to having murdered Mangion-Walker, there were several instances where he incriminated himself.

The first court had quoted a raft of jurisprudence, including rulings by the European Court of Human Rights, which observed that the concept of fairness enshrined in the European Convention requires that the accused be given the benefit of the assistance of a lawyer already at the initial stages of police interrogation.

Although this right was not part of Malta’s law at the time of Mangion’s arrest and interrogation, the court could not discard the fact that anything he could have said during the police questioning would render unfair the judicial process against him.

The Appeals Court agreed, although it noted that according to recent rulings given by the Constitutional Court, statements released without the right to legal assistance during interrogation did not automatically result in a breach of the right to a fair hearing.

The court noted said that it was premature, at this stage of the proceedings, to declare that any breach had occurred as the entire judicial process had not yet been concluded and therefore it rejected the Attorney General’s appeal.

According to media reports of the compilation of evidence, police superintendent Keith Arnaud told the court how Mangion claimed under interrogation that two armed men had grabbed his wife when she was leaving his Swieqi garage and murdered her before his very eyes.

He told police that the two men held both of them at gunpoint. He claimed that one of the men got a plank of wood out of a shoulder bag and repeatedly bashed Mangion-Walker on the head with it.

He said he panicked once the two men fled as he feared he would be blamed for his wife’s murder.

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