The tone is most definitely souring. It was never sweet to begin with. Daphne Caruana Galizia died four months ago. And while the stunning blast of the explosion was still ringing in everyone’s ears, the Prime Minister moved in to set the scene. He paid lip service to the idea of justice and claimed not to condone murder. He wanted to come across as a man of gravitas, but failed to pull it off with his refusal to condemn the killing unreservedly.

From the very first, the Prime Minister made a play for victim status. He re­minded everyone how he had been at the receiving end of Caruana Galizia’s criticism, denying her status as a murder victim even as her body parts lay strewn all over the road where she drew her last breath. The implication was clear: she could not be portrayed as a victim if others felt victimised by her.

After a day or two of moderate politeness (and some could not bear that pretence even in those early days), the celebrations started. Someone with access to the crime scene took photos of her torn limbs and spread them round in gleeful delight.

Others shared messages of satisfaction at seeing the end of her; claimed their only regret was that she may never have realised what was happening to her, though later they would learn she clearly had. I have seen some of these messages. I was not the intended recipient but I was shown them anyway.

Then the bolder, crueller ones moved from the relative safety of encrypted messaging to the declarative openness of Facebook. At first, these messages shocked those of us with a heart. Then they angered us. And now that they’re getting louder and louder, we have resigned ourselves to the fact that this kind of cruelty – an example set by the Prime Minister himself an hour or two after the assassination – is just what we must accept as a given if we still want to live here.

Daphne Caruana Galizia had to live with it. Why shouldn’t we?

Last week, the Valletta council debated a motion to remove the flowers, candles and messages left by sympathisers across the road from the Law Courts. This debate is exhausted, although someone is sure to bring it up again like a recurring cholera outbreak.

I’m not about to defend the basic right of paying tribute all over again.

Following in Joseph Muscat’s footsteps is a marching army of soulless zombies claiming victimhood even as they still tear at the journalist who stood up to them

But I’m still shocked by the Labour Party’s ability to corral its gang for a council meeting. I’m not complaining because they booed David Casa or Karol Aquilina or Marlene Farrugia. Or me. For politicians, heckling is a fact of life. And, though I hold no political brief, I acknowledge that since my blog is not exactly honey-tongued, I am a perfectly legitimate target for name-calling.

What I cannot get is how Labour, who may or may not be responsible for her death, are now replaying her assassination by defiling her memory again and again, and again.

What I cannot get over is the treatment Labour is meting out to Daphne’s relatives. Her widower and two sisters were at the meeting to witness the outcome of a discussion that they must find extremely painful. They and other members of the Caruana Galizia family have attended all sorts of events held in her honour since her death. And they have maintained a dignified silence in the face of all sorts of misbehaviour, and spoken only infrequently and then only to pay tribute to her.

I was sitting in court last week right behind the three men accused of executing her. And behind me were Daphne’s mother, father and two of her sisters. I could not see their faces. But I was acutely aware of their presence as the court heard a witness describe Daphne in those brief moments between the first detonation and the second definitive one.

Everyone in that Valletta council meeting knew what happened to Daphne Caruana Galizia. They must have the humanity to imagine how it feels to suffer such a brutal loss. And yet they insulted her relatives. They taunted them, harassed them, mock­ed them, booed them, heckled them, gesticulated in their face, and heartlessly qualified any appreciation they may have had of the significance of their loss.

A man who introduced himself as a pros­pective candidate to the mayorship of Valletta said he “did not altogether agree with Daphne’s killing” but a memorial of flowers in Valletta was offensive to his constituents.

Another man pretended to squeal in agony because one of Daphne’ sisters pointed at his phone. He did not seem to appreciate the irony of playing victim in front of the real victim’s family, and how ridiculous he seemed to play frightened of a woman half his size.

It seems incredible to me that these two men could walk out of the room and straight to the comfort of their Facebook pages to describe themselves as victims and, in the case of one of them, attracting a statement of solidarity from the association of State-funded propagandists that calls itself the Institute of Maltese Journalists.

Following in Joseph Muscat’s footsteps is a marching army of soulless zombies claiming victimhood even as they still tear at the journalist who stood up to them.

It started with secret WhatsApp messages. It then went on to Facebook. And now the outrage is perpetrated by Labour Party councillors, Labour Party employees, Labour Party candidates and Labour Party officials, volunteers and activists in public meetings before a restricted audience. Their next steps will be uglier still.

This is where democracy goes to die.

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

Support Us