One of bullets fired at a car by the former driver of then Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia lodged itself in a pipe that leads to the fuel tank, a court heard today.

Ballistic experts testified that the Vauxhall Insignia driven by Stephen Smith was speeding away from constable Paul Sheehan when the shots were fired. 

The first bullet went through the rear bumper and came to a halt in the pipe that leads to the fuel tank. The second hit the roof of the Insignia. It had a different direction, indicating it was fired when the car was turning around the corner into another street. 

Brigadier Maurice Calleja, Police Inspector Charlot Casha and Police Sergeant Jesmond Cassar were testifying in the compilation of evidence against Mr Sheehan,40. 

An inquiry set up to investigate the shooting incident had concluded that Mr Sheehan had fired twice at Mr Smith’s Vauxhall on November 19 last year and that there was an attempt to cover up the incident. This led to Dr Mallia’s dismissal. 

Mr Sheehan is pleading not guilty to attempted murder, using violence against Mr Smith, causing voluntary damage to a vehicle, firing a firearm in a public place and exceeding the limits of his authority as a police officer.

The experts said that they could not determine the distance from where the shots were fired because the spent shells  were never found. They also did not examine the Insignia when it was under the Tal-Qroqq tunnels because it was already on the low-loader when they arrived. 

They said they had found the officer's Glock firearm in the centre console of the ministerial car. It was already on safe mode when they found it and the magazine with 15 bullets was outside the weapon. The magazine takes 17 bullets. 

They said that when they opened the Insignia's tailgate when it was in the forensic lab, a bullet fell into the boot. The other bullet could not be found and the car had to be taken to the car's agents where it was established that the other bullet was in the pipe that leads to the fuel tank. 

"Considering the trajectory of the two bullets, we have concluded that the first bullet hit the bumper and was angled downwards. The second bullet hit the car while it was turning to the left into another street," they said. 

The experts said they could not establish where the shots were fired from but added that the first was from close range while the second shot was from 30 to 40 metres away. 

Asked by the prosecution whether the bullets could have killed someone, the experts said they could not give a definitive reply to this question "because when a bullet hits something, it changes direction". 

Defence counsel Edward Gatt objected to the fact that one of the ballistic experts was a serving police officer and therefore questioned the admissibility of such evidence. 

Another expert, Mario Buttigieg, testified that the minister's Mercedes car had an estimated €4,418 in damage while the Insignia suffered damages estimated at €885. The Mercedes mirror costs €1,060 alone. 

The case, before Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, continues next month. 

Police Superintendent Alexandra Mamo and Inspector saviour Baldacchino prosecuted while lawyers Michael Sciriha, Lucio Sciriha and Edward Gatt appeared for Mr Sheehan.

Lawyers Joe Giglio and James D'Agostino appeared parte civile for Mr Smith.

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