The man accused of murdering his partner inside the couple’s Paola apartment in September has pleaded legal insanity, bringing about the suspension of the compilation of evidence in his regard.

Michael Emmanuel, the 28-year-old Ivorian national accused of strangling Maria Lourdes Agius, his 35-year-old partner and mother of seven children, three of them fathered by the accused, had been facing compilation proceedings, pleading not guilty to the murder.

The victim’s lifeless body had been discovered by the police in her bedroom, seemingly asleep, shortly after her partner had turned up at the local police station to report that the woman could not be roused from her sleep.

A police sergeant on site, aware of an earlier domestic violence report filed by the woman, had sensed that the young mother might have been dead, and his suspicion was soon confirmed.

An autopsy later certified that the cause of death had been strangulation, with the victim also bearing bruises on her neck.

As proceedings continued on Thursday, defence lawyer Dustin Camilleri, informed the court that he would be pleading legal insanity, adding that an application to this effect was to be presented in due course.

In view of this information, the court, presided over by magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo, declared the suspension of the compilation of evidence and sent the acts to the Attorney General in terms of law.

The matter will now be entrusted to a number of psychiatrists, usually three, who are to examine the accused and determine whether he was insane at the time of commission of the offence.

Should the experts’ report be contested by the Attorney General, the matter would be decided by a panel of jurors.

Should the allegation of insanity be determined, the court would order the accused to be kept in custody at Mount Carmel Hospital, to remain so detained in terms of the Mental Health Act.

In the light of this plea, the court ordered that the accused be temporarily transferred from the Corradino Correctional Facility to Mount Carmel Hospital, while sending the acts of the case to the Attorney General.

Inspectors James Grech and Sarah Zerafa were prosecuting. Lawyers Matthew Xuereb and Charles Mercieca appeared on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General. Lawyer Stephanie Caruana appeared parte civile.