A police sergeant heard a woman screaming inside an Mrieħel diner and then found her inside covered in blood and doused in vinegar, he told a court on Friday.

The timely intervention saved the woman from a first date gone wrong that could have ended even worse, police sergeant James Azzopardi testified. 

“Had we not forced open the steel shutter, we could be here speaking about a different story,” Azzopardi told Magistrate Elaine Rizzo.

He was testifying during the first hearing of the compilation of evidence against 41-year-old chef and restaurant owner Keith Gravina, of Floriana, who stands charged with assaulting the woman, causing her grievous injuries by hitting her with a metal rod, holding her against her will, as well as unlawful possession and procurement of cocaine.

He is also charged with failing to obey police orders as well as breaching previous bail conditions handed down in June last year.

PS Azzopardi explained how the police received an anonymous tip-off about a woman’s screams for help coming from within a restaurant in Mrieħel.

He went there with some other officers from his team, where they found Rosie's Diner closed, with the steel shutter shut and locked.

They could hear the woman screaming inside saying “ajjut, ajjut” (help, help).

“We stood outside banging on the shutter. We identified ourselves as police, but no one opened. We could hear her screaming and things being broken inside. It was evident she was being beaten up. Some 10 to 15 minutes later, we managed to force open the shutter with the help of around six police officers,” the sergeant explained.

“As soon we entered, taser guns pointed at Keith, he told us: ‘Why are you here? It’s just a game’. He was not wearing a top and he was very sweaty. He cooperated and was arrested.

'As for the woman, she was bare-breasted on the floor, had her trousers and underwear down to her knees and had her face covered in blood. She told us she didn't know if she had been raped, but she was tortured for several hours, during which he doused her in vinegar,” he said.

“He was acting erratically so we suspected he was under the influence of something. In fact, we saw lines of white powder which seemed like cocaine," he testified.

"The woman confirmed its consumption. She told us he tried to penetrate her with an iron rod. It was their first date but after he consumed drugs, he started calling her by someone else’s name. Had we not gone in, it might have been a different story. It was a hostage situation,” he added. 

During Friday's sitting, the court accepted a request for the woman to testify via video conferencing and also upheld a request for a ban on the publication of her name. She also ordered that her testimony be heard behind closed doors.

Attorney General lawyer Etienne Savona said the woman had suffered a panic attack from just seeing him outside the courtroom. Lawyer Matthew Xuereb was defence counsel. Jose Herrera, Martina Herrera and Alex Scerri Herrera appeared parte civile.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us