The mysterious disappearance and gruesome murder of an accountant whose clients were involved in shady property dealings 37 years ago resurfaced on Thursday when his wife and son asked the court for compensation.
Although nobody has ever been charged with his violent death in 1982, during the turbulent years of political upheaval, the case has always been widely considered to have had political connotations.
This mainly emanated from the fact that his clients had included people involved in the corridors of power and having connections with the late public works minister Lorry Sant.
The heirs of other political murders had been compensated
In a judicial protest, a first legal step leading to a proper lawsuit, filed Thursday against the Prime Minister, lawyer Peter Fenech argued that the government was discriminating against Anna Cassar and her son Paolo since the heirs of other political murders had been compensated. The son was born just a few months after his father’s disappearance.
Legal sources told the Times of Malta that although the ‘political murders’ during Dom Mintoff’s era remained unsolved, most of the heirs of the victims were compensated by the State. These included the heirs of Karen Grech killed by a letter bomb in 1977 during an ongoing doctors’ strike, and of Raymond Caruana, a Nationalist Party activist who was fatally wounded when shots were fired at the Gudja PN club in late 1986.
Holding the State responsible for the ‘political’ murder, perpetrated by a tense political climate, rampant corruption and the failure of institutions, Mr Cauchi’s heirs noted that informal talks on compensation were never concluded.
Accusing the government of never really investigating the brutal murder in a proper manner, thus breaching the Constitution, Ms Cassar and her son called upon the Prime Minister to proceed in granting them compensation they were eligible to.
The brutal murder of Lino Cauchi
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mr Cauchi was among the handful of accounting practitioners on the island. At the time, the island was experiencing very turbulent political times, dominated by rampant institutionalised corruption.
Among Mr Cauchi’s clients was a group of people connected to Mr Sant, the only high-profile Maltese politician ever to be found involved in corruption by the Permanent Commission Against Corruption.
In December 1981, days before a tense general election, Mr Cauchi was called for a meeting at the office of the late Joe Pace, owner of the Magic Kiosk in Sliema, when, according to court evidence, the accountant was instructed to draft various promises of sale agreements on the transfer of land to members of Mr Sant’s clique. The evidence also indicated that Mr Cauchi had objected to what was being done and, after he had left the meeting, one of those present had remarked Mr Cauchi was a problem.
Two months later, in the morning of February 14, 1982, the 32-year-old accountant left his home in Santa Venera for his office in Valletta and never returned.
At the time, Mrs Cauchi, pregnant with their son, believed her husband had been kidnapped.
Mr Cauchi was last seen in Old Bakery Street, Valletta, at 6.30 pm but his car, for some unknown reason, was found parked outside his residence at about 4pm, when he was in Valletta.
A suitcase he carried when he last left home was found empty at Chadwick Lakes two days later. It was forced open.
It later resulted that Mr Cauchi had a similar suitcase at his home and had warned his wife not to let go of it should anything ever happen to him. The day after his disappearance, a man identifying himself as Inland Revenue Department official appeared at Ms Cauchi’s door asking for the suitcase. The distraught woman handed it over to him. The department later denied ever sending anyone to pick the suitcase.
More than three years later, on November 15, 1985, the remains of a human body were found by the police in a shallow well in the area known as Il-Bosk, near Buskett Gardens in Rabat. They were later identified as Mr Cauchi.
According to forensic expert Anthony Abela Medici, who had studied the case at the time, although it was difficult to establish when Mr Cauchi was killed, forensic evidence indicated his body was dismembered, packed in plastic bags and dumped in the well within 30 minutes of the murder.
It was established Mr Cauchi had been killed with a blow to the right hand side of his head by a mallet, which was also found in the well. According to Dr Abela Medici, the strong blow fractured the skull in 28 places and could have been fatal. Forensic evidence suggested that more than one individual could have been involved in the killing because of the short time span it took for the body to be cut up, packed and dumped. Both a manual and an electric saw were used to cut up the body.
Court evidence on a number of corruption cases in the 1980s had indicated that Mr Cauchi was privy to corrupt dealings by a number of businessmen, including Mr Sant’s right-hand man and works manager, Pio Camilleri.
He was identified by at least two court witnesses as Mr Camilleri’s accountant. However, Mr Camilleri has consistently denied ever knowing Mr Cauchi.
Although the murder remains a mystery, it is widely believed it could have been linked to the late accountant’s knowledge of corrupt dealings.
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