A number of relatives and close acquaintances have painted a positive image of the young man currently accused of having raped his young cousin - describing her as difficult and manipulative.
The 25-year-old man is charged with subjecting her to seven years of sexual abuse.
An 82-year old female neighbour of the family, who visited daily the grandmother’s home where the abuse allegedly took place and who has known the accused for the past nine years, ever since he moved in with his maternal grandmother, described the small flat as a “club. Always filled with people”.
The elderly lady claimed that the alleged victim “did not have such a fine character. Was too ambitious, did not talk much and ordered her mother about, even when she wanted a drink”.
Moreover, the girl appeared to be jealous of her younger sister. “If her mother bought a €5 item for the younger daughter, the elder one would want something worth €20 or €25,” the witness explained, adding that the alleged victim wanted to put “everyone beneath her".
Asked about the accusations at the centre of the trial, the witness emphatically declared: “I don’t believe it. I’m almost certain that he did not do it.”
Next to take the witness stand was an uncle of the accused, a bird breeder who claimed to spend his days up inside the washroom of the residence where he kept his prized possessions, the birds that were like his “children”.
The washroom was the place where the rape of the then-10 year old girl had allegedly taken place, yet the witness claimed that the key to the room was always in his possession, pulling out a bunch of keys and indicating a particular one to all those present in the courtroom.
He had never seen his niece on that floor, he said, claiming that he would spend from dawn to dusk in the room, going down just to buy cigarettes, occasionally accompanied by the accused.
As for the victim, the man described her as “a bit of a duttura”, who did not talk unless spoken to.
The accused’s girlfriend for the past nine years took the witness stand, explaining how she knew the family well and describing the alleged victim as standoffish, the jealous type who was difficult to get along with.
Leafing through some printed copies of posts taken from Facebook, the witness explained how the alleged victim had posted comments on her page and that of her boyfriend, dating back two years.
‘Lovely couple!’, ‘perf couple,’ ‘Keep the cute couple up,’ were among the posted comments read out by the witness.
Asked about the accusations faced by her boyfriend, the young woman replied “At first I was shocked. But after some reflection I concluded that it was not true. I have no doubt, otherwise I would not be here.”
An uncle-in-law of the accused gave similar insight into family relations, shedding light on the character of the victim. “If she wants something she’ll persist until she gets it.”
As for the accusations, the man stated “I’m not convinced that this boy did this. I believe him not her. Now the family lives apart. We can no longer trust anyone.”
Tuesday evening’s long session came to a close with the testimony of a 16-year old cousin of the parties who gave evidence via video conference.
“She has a very proud character (supperva). I didn’t speak to her much, only addressing her when she asked me about school. After the arrest, I blocked her on Facebook to break off all contact. I was afraid she might make up something else,” the young man said.
The witness explained how the alleged victim would fight with her mother, shouting at her when she did not get what she wanted and attempting to steal attention away from her younger sister who was lactose intolerant and thus got more attention from her mother.
The girl would also lie about school grades, saying she did well when her sister would later give away the fact that her sibling had spent the whole night crying when she failed an exam, the court was told.
As for the accusations, “It cannot be true. We used to be a lot of people at granny’s home which is very small,” the witness concluded, adding that a mirror right opposite the kitchen revealed the bedroom opposite where most of the abuse allegedly took place.
After the series of witnesses, the defence informed the court that it had no further evidence to put forward.
The trial is continuing on Wednesday as the prosecution makes it submissions.
Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Anita Giordmaina are defending the accused.
Lawyers Matthew Xuereb, Nadia Attard and Charles Mercieca from the Office of the Attorney General are prosecuting.