Nikola Abdilla picked up his black nylon wallet, pulled open its Velcro fastening and took out identity cards, a holy picture and two Lm10 notes.

The wallet belonged to his son Marco, who almost four years ago died in Malta's worst traffic accident which claimed the lives of another four of his friends.

"We left it as it was the last time he used it," Mr Abdilla said, as he lifted the wallet to his lips.

He opened the compartment where Marco kept his small change, and took out a key. "I am still waiting for this key to turn the door lock," he said.

It was just after 3 a.m. on October 1, 2005, when a knock at the door jolted Mr Abdilla and his wife Antoinette, who were concerned that their 17-year-old son had not yet returned.

When Mr Abdilla opened the door, the policemen expressed surprise as the two knew each other: "So it's your son", he said, before he started to sob.

Initially, the police did not tell the family that Marco had died, only saying that they should rush to hospital because he had been seriously injured. But Mr Abdilla threw his arm around the officer, held him tight and repeatedly asked for the whole story.

Last Tuesday an appeals court confirmed a three-year jail sentence handed to Antoine Cassar, who was driving the van in which Marco, 13-year-old David Sacco, 16-year-old Fabio Magro and 16-year-olds Oswaldo Emanuel Vella and Christian Camilleri were riding when the tragedy occurred. Mr Cassar lost control of the van after overtaking a Subaru on the inside lane as he sped along the new Zebbug bypass, smashing into a wall.

Mr Abdilla was shocked at what he believes to be a very lenient sentence. "They gave him a present. We do not want vengeance, just justice," he said.

Emanuel's father, Anthony Vella, had already expressed disappointment that an appeal court had not extended the jail term, and called for the law to be amended so that when more than one person was killed, the driver faced a consecutive jail term for every person who died.

The grieving parents suffered another blow just over two years ago, when the plaque they had placed on the spot where their children died was smashed, and the five photos taken.

"It was another dagger in our hearts," Mr Abdilla said.

When the accident happened, Gabriel Camilleri had not yet turned three. Four years on, he still has vivid memories of his brother, Christian.

His mother, Marcelle, often catches six-year-old Gabriel talking to his brother's photo.

"Gabriel begs Christian to come back, telling him that he would buy him whatever he wants if he does," she said.

The young boy, who is the spitting image of Christian, said he loved to tickle his older brother. "He used to take me out, lift me on his shoulders," he remembered.

The day of the accident Christian had just found a job. "The phone rang and it was for him. After he hung up, he came running and told me that he had been accepted. We hugged each other so much," his mother said.

It was the last time she hugged her son and in the middle of the night the police went to deliver the bad news.

"I got up quickly and when I did not see Christian's shoes, which he used to leave at the foot of the stairs, I immediately realised that something had happened to him."

She too believes that justice was not done and that Mr Cassar was let off too lightly.

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