An elderly man whose house was shot at in Zejtun on August 5 recalled in court on Wednesday how a series of threats led up to the incident which left him badly shaken and fearful of future violence.
George Baldachino was testifying against the accused, Errol Grech, a fellow Zejtun resident.
He said that just days before the shooting, Grech had mouthed death threats and damaged his car.
“I’ll kill you, ”Grech had allegedly threatened Baldacchino when he came across him on a Zejtun street, a couple of days before the shooting.
It was 6:30am and Baldacchino headed straight to the police station, driving his Alfa Romeo with Grech behind him driving his Honda “gas down.”
Once they arrived near the police station, Grech stepped out of his car, shouting and insulting Baldacchino, before speeding off, colliding with the Alfa as he drove past.
The commotion brought officers rushing out of the police station and the alleged victim recounted the incident before heading off to his fields, on the outskirts of town.
A padlock on a gate leading to those fields had been smashed some days previously, the court was told.
And before that, the Alfa Romeo had been damaged, Baldacchino said, recalling how the car windows had been smashed with sizeable rocks.
The roof and doors of the car had been kicked and dented.
Following that damage, Grech had gone up to Baldacchino saying, “I smashed your car and I damaged your gate,” the elderly victim testified.
“Now I want to kill you,” his alleged aggressor had added. The reason for the threats and violence was not given in court.
Baldacchino said he was taken aback by such face-to-face threats but had not reacted and had not initially reported the matter to the police, thinking that it might have been a bad day for Grech.
“I had sold him a Honda just a month earlier,” he recalled.
That Honda featured in the shooting incident which brought matters to a head.
In the very early hours of August 5, Baldacchino said he was asleep in his downstairs bedroom, a few metres away from the front door, when a loud bang shook him out of his sleep.
Thinking it might have been the bathroom window, he got up to check and then went back to bed.
But in the morning, his wife’s shouting soon brought him rushing to the front door.
The glass panes were shattered and shotgun lead pellets were sprayed across a sofa positioned behind the door where, just the day before, a young member of Baldacchino’s family had slept.
CCTV footage from security cameras showed a Honda vehicle which Baldacchino identified as the same one he had sold to Grech, stop opposite his door, hazard lights flashing.
A burst of fire suddenly rang out through the open window of the vehicle and then the driver sped off, “gas down,” testified Baldacchino.
Weeks had passed since the shooting but the elderly man said that he was not feeling “too well” and lived in constant fear.
Following his testimony, the court, presided over by magistrate Marse-Ann Farrugia turned down a fresh request for bail after hearing submissions by both parties.
Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri argued that the alleged victim had now testified and a balance could be struck between the need to protect society and the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused.
The prosecution rebutted that the charges were serious and the victim was an elderly, vulnerable person.
Parte civile lawyer Stefano Filletti remarked that the “unheard of violence had escalated in a matter of days,” and the shooting might have ended in “tragedy.”
The court finally delivered a prima facie decree, meaning that Grech had a case to answer and also placed him under a temporary supervision order so that the court could better evaluate a fresh request for bail.
The case continues in October.
Inspector Melvyn Camilleri is prosecuting. Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are defence counsel.
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