A young man who had probably unknowingly witnessed the brutal murder of a young Dutch woman in Santa Venera last summer gave a chilling account of his experience in court in compilation proceedings against the accused.
“I just heard shouting. It was like the woman was possessed. No words. I heard screams… subsiding slowly until it was replaced by a gurgling sound,” said the son of the landlady who, merely days before the incident, had leased her studio flat in Triq l-Istampaturi to the accused.
His testimony had to be momentarily suspended when the witness claimed to be feeling unwell.
Mr Jelle Rijpma, a 22-year old Dutchman, stands accused with murdering Shannon Mak, his former girlfriend and work colleague, in the course of a violent row in the early hours of August 3, 2018.
Upon resuming the testimony, the young man recounted how on that night, at around 2.30am, he had removed his headphones and ventured out onto the balcony of his family flat so as to smoke a cigarette.
In the darkness, he heard noises and a female voice shouting, the man recalled.
“I didn’t see anything. Just heard shouting. It was a woman like sort of possessed.”
At that point of the testimony, parte civile lawyer Stefano Filletti stepped in, asking questions to elicit further details from the witness.
“Was it words or a noise you heard?” asked the lawyer.
“No words. It was screaming and I cannot explain,” came the reply.
“How long did it last?” was Dr Filletti’s next question.
“I’ve no idea how long but it went on for some time… It seemed to be coming from behind. There was a sort of echo because of the close proximity of the buildings across the street,” the young man said, assisted by an interpreter who translated his testimony to English for the benefit of the accused who sat listening attentively at the dock.
There’s a dead woman lying next to your car, the neighbour told me
“How did it stop? Was there one abrupt stop or did it subside gradually?” Dr Filletti went on.
“It continued for some time, getting lower slowly until it stopped. It was not on and off. Then there was like a gurgling sound. Like bubbles,” the witness explained, concluding his account.
“Did you hear any noise or voice of another person?” was the final question.
“No,” came the reply, before the young man presented in court the lease agreement which his mother had concluded, just days before the murder, with Jelle Rijpma, whom the witness identified in court before taking his leave.
During the same sitting, a resident living at Triq il-Mastrudaxxi, recounted the shocking experience of spotting the murder victim lying close to the rear wheel of her car on that August morning.
It was close to 6.30am when the lady ventured out of her home to set off on a normal day’s work.
“There’s a dead woman lying next to your car,” called out one neighbour across the road.
“I was in shock,” recalled the witness as she explained how she had caught sight of the victim’s body lying between the rear left wheel of her vehicle and a garden wall.
“I saw her clearly. She had smudged make-up, blood, her legs fully exposed since her skirt was pulled up. It was as though someone had left her there on the road.”
Police officers had then asked the witness to move away since the scene of crime had to be preserved.
The witness next recalled how she had spoken to the inquiring magistrate who shortly arrived on site, explaining the layout of the area and the various CCTV cameras monitoring the streets in the vicinity all the way to St Joseph High Road.
Shown photos taken by forensic experts at the scene of crime, the witness identified the victim and her own car which had also been searched at the time of the incident, confirming “It was exactly what I saw.”
Inspectors Kurt Zahra and Robert Vella prosecuted. Lawyer Leontine Calleja was defence counsel.
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