Joseph Harrington, the man found guilty of the shocking murder of bowling champion Sylvia King in 1993, died while receiving treatment at Mater Dei Hospital yesterday.
Veteran expert Anthony Abela Medici, who headed the forensic investigations at the time, remembers it as “one of the worst cases Malta ever had” because it involved a woman being burnt alive.
He was the one who pulled Ms King’s charred body out of the back seat of the car that was set on fire in Kunċizzjoni, limits of Rabat, on the night of April 3, 1993.
Some years later a memorial for Ms King, who was 36 years old, was erected in the area where she was killed.
“The car was still very hot when we arrived. It was totally burnt,” Dr Abela Medici recalled before recounting that the first clue about the victim’s identity was a gold pendant in the shape of a bowling pin. That year, Ms King had won the national bowling championships.
Since, at the time, DNA testing was still in its infancy, her identity had to be established through dental records that had to be obtained from Northern Ireland where she had lived for some years.
Evidence led the police to drug addict Tony Baldacchino, who told investigators he was involved in the murder together with Mr Harrington.
They had kidnapped Ms King when she left work because Mr Harrington wanted to know the whereabouts of his estranged wife. Back then, Ms King was involved in an organisation that supported people in need and had become friends with Ms Harrington, who feared her husband.
Forensic tests had proven that Ms King was still alive when the car was set on fire. Parts of the vehicle’s shattered window, that melted with the heat, were found underneath her head, suggesting she had moved after the fire started. This was proven when soot was detected in her body.
Mr Harrington was convicted of the murder in 2000 and was jailed for life. He was 43 years old at the time.
Mr Baldacchino had been convicted in a separate trial in 1997. Mr Baldacchino had given the police a detailed account of the murder and said he had wanted to stop Mr Harrington but feared he too would be killed.
Mr Baldacchino was released from prison in 2002 and was found dead the following year at his flat in Buġibba.
It was suspected he had died of a heroin overdose.
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