A suspect mugger’s arrest was declared invalid by a court that ordered his immediate release following his arraignment on Friday evening.

Simon Leyton Rachid, a 20-year-old Santa Venera resident, landed under police custody on Thursday when he voluntarily went to the police station shortly after the early morning mugging. 

On Friday evening, the man was escorted to court to face charges over his alleged complicity in three armed hold-ups, the last of which took place at around 4am on Thursday when a male caller booked a taxi ride from the Mrieħel Industrial Estate to Psaila Street in Birkirkara.

The passenger later asked the driver to drop him off at Triq il-Palazz l-Aħmar, Santa Venera.

But as the taxi reached that spot, another man emerged from the shadows of some nearby trees and asked the driver to small change a €50 note.

The stranger then got into the taxi, sat at the back near the accused and ordered the driver to hand over his cash, while holding him at knifepoint. 

As the vehicle moved on, the stranger suddenly grabbed the driver’s wallet and ran off together with the accused.

The mugging victim filed a report at the Ħamrun police station where the accused also turned up some time later.

Investigations placed the accused as the accomplice in two other aggravated thefts which took place in August and September, also at Santa Venera.

However, when the arraignment got underway, the man’s lawyers, Michael Sciriha and Matthew Xuereb, contested the validity of the arrest, arguing that at the moment of arrest Rachid had not been informed about the reason for it. 

Since the prosecution was unable to produce clear evidence in this respect, the court, presided over by magistrate Leonard Caruana, upheld the defence lawyers’ arguments and declared the arrest invalid. 

The accused was immediately released from police custody while proceedings continue.

Meanwhile, the court warned the accused not to approach the alleged victim, placing him under a five-year protection order to that effect. 

Inspectors Lydon Zammit, Stephen Gulia, Stacy Gatt and Roderick Attard prosecuted. 

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