A man who stabbed his flatmate over €45 that had gone missing from his wallet has been given a suspended jail term for grievous bodily harm.
Neil Andrew Vella, 40, had been accused of the attempted murder of Sandro Mifsud at a Birkirkara apartment in November 2012. Mr Vella had also been charged with grievously injuring his flatmate and with being in possession of a knife.
During proceedings, the court presided by Magistrate Josette Demicoli heard that the accused had been living with the victim for several months, as the former had no place to stay and was going through a rough patch.
The accused had told police inspector Elton Taliana and prosecuting Police Inspector Priscilla Caruana Lee that Mr Mifsud used to steal his unemployment benefits, mistreat him and keep a ledger listing the accused’s debts to him.
On his part, the victim testified in court that he couldn't remember what led to
the incident as he was on methadone at the time. He remembered suffering a blow to the back of his head and falling unconscious. He could not say where his other injuries had come from. Mr Mifsud told the court that he had forgiven the defendant.
The police had also questioned Fabian Sciriha who was at the scene of the crime as he was staying at the apartment for some days. He testified that the accused and Mr Mifsud had already been involved in an argument on the eve of the stabbing.
Mr Sciriha said that he had been awoken from sleep by disturbances from another room and saw the accused stabbing the victim, who had been holding a pair of scissors. After dragging Mr Mifsud out of the room he called an ambulance as the victim was covered in blood.
The accused told the court that he had been sent to buy tobacco and had returned with just two cigarettes and no change. The victim had sent him to look for the money he had left behind and upon his return, the accused said that Mr Mifsud was waiting for him armed with a knife and scissors.
The accused said that he headbutted Mifsud, causing him to drop the knife, with which he stabbed the victim out of fear that he was going to retrieve a gun from his bedroom.
However, only fingerprints belonging to the accused had been found on the knife.
Lawyer Lucio Sciriha, who appealed for Mr Vella, argued that the accused had acted in self-defence, but the court did not accept this argument, pointing to the lack of fingerprints on the knife.
The court concluded that the defence’s argument did not hold water and neither did the explanation of the accused who claimed of having been in a state of mental excitement. Consequently, he was found guilty of grievous bodily harm with arms proper.
For the purpose of punishment, the court was asked to take into account the fact that the accused had been a drug addict at the time and that he had since overcome this addiction, found employment and started a family.
It also noted that the victim had forgiven him and for these reasons felt that a jail term sentence would not be ideal. For these reasons, the court abstained from passing judgement on the attempted murder and knife possession charge.
Mr Vella was handed a two-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, also ordering him to pay €6,000 in costs.
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