A spotter in Bidnija called a phone that was out at sea right before Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered, a court heard today, with whoever was on the other end of the line hearing the explosion that killed her.
Inspector Keith Arnaud told a court on Wednesday morning that all bar one of the SIM cards police were looking into as part of the murder investigation went silent once the fatal bomb went off.
That one remaining SIM card was tracked to a cell tower in Marsa, and matched the times with CCTV footage of Alfred Degiorgio’s boat, Maya, returning to the Grand Harbour.
Mr Degiorgio is one of three men charged with the murder of Ms Caruana Galizia on October 16, alongside his brother George and Vince Muscat. All three are currently at a pre-trial stage, with magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit tasked with assessing evidence against them and deciding whether to send them to trial.
In a three-hour testimony, inspector Arnaud walked the court through a maze of phone data investigators had amassed, laid out details of the December 4 raid during which all three suspects were arrested and told a court that forensic experts had found Alfred Degiorgio’s DNA on a cigarette butt at a key vantage point by tat-Tarġa Battery.
He told the court that two calls had been placed in the moments leading up to the explosion. The first lasted for some 44 seconds, and likely tallied with the moment Ms Caruana Galizia left her home, realised she had forgotten her cheque book, and then returned to fetch it.
The second call, a short while later, lasted 107 seconds and matched the time of the explosion - the length of the call was the precise length of time it would take to drive from the Caruana Galizia family home to the site where the bomb went off.
Inspector Arnaud told the court how data from cell phone towers had placed all three of the accused men in Bidnija in the days leading up to the murder, with Alfred and Vincent’s personal phones recorded in the area on multiple, consequent days leading up to the bombing.
He told a court how phone data indicated that the spotter, who investigators believe was Alfred Degiorgio, had spent the night ahead of the assassination in Bidnija, making contact with a seabound phone at the time the bomb went off.
His brother George, whose personal phone was already under police surveillance, was recorded telling people he was going fishing that day.
Shortly after the bomb went off, he texted his partner and asked her to “buy me wine, my love”.
Police who raided a Marsa shed on December 4 found all three accused there. They also found a number of Nokia 105 phones – the same model device data indicates was used to send the SMS which triggered the bomb detonator.
Armed Forces of Malta divers took to the seabed around the Marsa quay and found mobile phones dumped there They subsequently turned out to be George Degiorgio and Vince Muscat’s personal phones. In all, eight phones were confiscated.
Inspector Arnaud’s prosecuting colleague, inspector Kurt Zahra, also took the witness stand and explained how Ms Caruana Galizia’s car – a leased Peugeot – had been picked up by a car hire representative one month prior to her murder and taken to a mechanic for repairs. A mix-up led to the car’s spare key being left with the wrong mechanic, he said.
Peter Caruana Galizia
Ms Caruana Galizia’s husband, Peter, was the last person to testify on the day. He recalled the day leading up to the murder, when he and his wife had met in Naxxar and then visited a Floriana market together, and then the horrific afternoon on October 16 when one of his sons had entered his office “white as a sheet” and told him that something had happened and they had to return home.
Once they arrived at their Bidnija home, he spotted inspector Zahra, who he said he did not know.
"I asked, 'did she die?' and he said 'yes',” he recalled.
The compilation of evidence continues on Thursday morning at 10am.
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