“Heqq, m’hemmx x’taghmel!” (There was nothing one could do) was the phrase repeatedly uttered by Liam Debono when questioned shortly after having run over and severely injured traffic policeman Simon Schembri in the hit-and-run incident in May.
His comment came to light as a number of police officers took the witness stand during the compilation of evidence against Mr Debono, the 17-year old driver of a silver Mercedes currently facing charges of having grievously injuring PC Schembri.
The officer lost an arm and had been in danger of dying following the incident, but is now recovering well.
I tried swerving left and right but he could not be dislodged
Upon being arrested after crashing his vehicle, a sergeant from the Rapid Intervention Unit had asked the young driver “Was it possible that you did not see or sense the officer under your car?”
“Yes, I saw him and felt him. I tried swerving left and right but he could not be dislodged,” Mr Debono had replied.
“Couldn’t you just have stopped instead of driving on over all that distance?” Inspector Chris Debrincat had asked the driver as he stood handcuffed after his arrest.
Yet, the only reply proffered was once again “M’hemmx x’taghmel,” the teen apparently showing no sign of emotion, Inspector Debrincat explained in court.
A number of other officers from the Rapid Intervention Unit also testified as to how they had reached the site next to the Ħal Farruġ industrial estate where the victim lay bleeding profusely on the ground after having been dislodged from beneath the silver Mercedes driven by Mr Debono.
One young officer said that he “could not bear to look at the victim.”
At one point, during the hearing, defence lawyer Franco Debono was seen approaching his client seated at the dock. The latter was observed keenly speaking to his lawyer, showing his wrists and conversing animatedly.
As one officer at the witness stand ended his testimony, Dr Debono promptly began his cross-examination, asking the constable whether he had been alone with the accused at any moment during the arrest.
Getting a negative reply, Dr Debono asked whether the officer had threatened his client with the words “Naqflek go kamra u noqtlok,” (I will lock you in a room and kill you) later twisting the handcuffed hands of the teenager in such a manner as to inflict slight injuries, leaving marks which were still visible.
The officer denied this, denying further that the young man had been tasered when already handcuffed after being rounded up by the RIU search party.
As the sitting drew to a close, another RIU officer who had accompanied the young driver to the health centre shortly after his arrest, explained that he had manifested several scratches, certified as slight injuries by the doctor.
The same officer had been present when Mr Debono had allegedly told the doctor that he had been injured with the handcuffs.
During Monday’s sitting, forensic expert Dr Mario Scerri testified how he had examined the critically injured officer in hospital as he lay sedated, with widespread friction burns across his chest.
As he was dragged beneath the vehicle, not only his protective gear but also the skin and tissues beneath had been burnt through friction, the expert explained, adding that even the ribs had borne signs of friction burns.
The victim’s injuries had been compatible with friction burns and blunt trauma, Dr Scerri explained, pointing out that the deeper the burns, the greater was the mortality risk.
The victim had also suffered blood loss through his severely injured arm, an injury which necessitated an above-wrist amputation. Dr Scerri had also examined the amputated limb in the hospital mortuary, the court was told.
Earlier on in the sitting, the defence made a fresh request for bail in view of the fact that the prosecution had filed additional charges related mainly to earlier traffic offences and simple possession of cannabis, to which the accused pleaded not guilty.
This request for bail was turned down by magistrate Joseph Mifsud who is presiding over the compilation which continues tomorrow.
Inspectors Fabian Fleri, Inspector Pier Guido Saliba and Chantelle Casha prosecuted.
Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia were defence counsel.
Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Andy Ellul appeared parte civile.