A man bought a shotgun specifically to defend himself from the man and wife living next door and shot them in the head in order to ensure they were dead after having felled them with a first shot, police commissioner John Rizzo said in court yesterday.

Mr Rizzo was testifying in the compilation of evidence against Paul Bonnici, 56, who is pleading not guilty to killing Joseph and Carmela Dalli outside their home in Santa Marija Street, Ghaxaq on May 13, 2000.

Bonnici also stands charged with causing less than Lm500 in damage to the victims' property and with four counts of illegal possession of a firearm.

Mr Rizzo said he was assistant commissioner in charge of the CID department at the time and had gone to the scene of the crime when informed about what had happened.

He said he saw a woman with two shotgun wounds, one to the head, sprawled face down on the floor beneath the pavement. A man was lying face down in the front garden of a house.

He said neighbours informed the police the accused and the victims had long standing problems. When the police went to Bonnici's house next door, they found him waiting. A shotgun containing two spent cartridges and another two spent cartridges were on a table at the entrance of the house.

Mr Rizzo said it was Bonnici himself who phoned the police to inform them about the shooting. He had told the police he had had a shower and changed into decent clothes when the police called on him.

Mr Rizzo said that together with Inspector David Saliba he had spoken to the accused for about two hours during which time the accused released a five-page statement giving details of what had happened. He said the accused told the police he had just returned from his field when his wife told him she had just had an argument with the couple next door. Arguments used to arise about clothes which the victims allegedly stole from the washing lines at the accused's house.

Mr Rizzo said the accused told him he lived in fear of Mr Dalli, whom he considered dangerous as he had once brandished a shotgun in an argument. Subsequently, the accused told the police he had purchased a shotgun which he carried with him around the house so that it would be handy if an argument arose. He also told the police he used to carry a large knife in order to be able to defend himself.

On the day of the shooting, the accused said he went straight to the garage where the shotgun was and had rushed out when he heard Mrs Dalli telling her husband "to go and fetch something".

"He said he shot Mrs Dalli and saw her fall down and then turned his gun on the husband, who was rushing to go indoors, and saw him fall following the shot.

"He then reloaded his twin barrelled shotgun and shot both the woman and the man in the head at point blank range in order to ensure they were dead so that they will no longer cause him or his family any problems," Mr Rizzo said.

The case continues.

Police Inspectors David Saliba and Walter Spiteri prosecuted.

Dr Giannella Caruana Curran appeared for Bonnici.

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