A doctor who treated both Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech testified on Tuesday that he had served as a go-between for the two men while Fenech was being investigated in connection with the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Adrian Vella told a court that he had gone to Schembri's house at Fenech's request, collected some papers from the former chief of staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, and handed them to Fenech.
Fenech grew very agitated, Vella said, and began scribbling on the papers. The doctor confirmed that he heard Fenech exclaim “If I go down, I'll take everyone down with me" ['Ninżel jien, jinżel kulħadd miegħi'] and also acknowledged that he had received a call from Schembri at that point.
The papers in question are believed to be a plan for Fenech to pin the murder of Caruana Galizia on former minister Chris Cardona. Vella repeatedly insisted in court that he had never looked at the documents and did not know what they contained. He however confirmed that scribbles on them matched Fenech's handwriting.
Vella's testimony contradicts Schembri's statement, made under oath in June, that he had "certainly not" given Vella any papers to hand to Fenech.
Vella was arrested shortly after the plan came to light but was released without charge. On Tuesday, he recalled how he had deleted his WhatsApp chat history on the night before his arrest and switched off his phone.
When police came banging on his door, Vella said his first reaction was to call Schembri.
Trip to Gozo
Vella also testified about a trip to Gozo he had been on with Fenech, one week before Fenech was arrested. He told the court how Yorgen Fenech and his brother Franco had discussed the possibility of going to different countries.
Vella recalled how Franco Fenech had made outlandish suggestions involving "rockets and submarines" which his brother had dismissed.
More undiscovered recordings
At the very start of the hearing, a court-appointed expert said that, following further investigation, he had discovered several other, previously undiscovered voice recordings made by murder middleman Melvin Theuma.
Theuma claims Fenech ordered the assassination of Caruana Galizia and investigators have relied heavily on voice recordings he made to bolster their case.
A psychiatrist is to assess Theuma's mental health, the court also said on Tuesday, after Theuma was found with cuts to his neck, arm and abdomen which police say were self-inflicted.
Times of Malta photographer Matthew Mirabelli also testified on Tuesday, after the captain of Fenech's boat had said last week how Mirabelli had showed up at Portomaso on the night before Fenech was arrested.
Mirabelli testified that the boat captain had told him that he had gone to the boat to reset it after the power went off, but that they planned on taking the boat out later that week".
The case resumes on August 25 at 10am.
As it happened
Court hearing over
2.12pm Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca says inspector Keith Arnaud was due to present some clarifications in court today.
Arnaud says he doesn’t have the information yet but will provide it by the next sitting.
Fenech’s lawyers ask the court to order that any papers related to the case be served to them, and not just their client. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they say, it can be difficult for their client to hand over documents to his lawyers.
The court obliges and orders that Fenech’s lawyers be notified of any decisions or events.
That’s all for today. The next hearing is scheduled for August 25 at 10am.
2.08pm Mirabelli: “The first time he looked at me in such a way as to imply, “would I go out in this weather!?”
“Then when he returned to tell me they would be going out later that week, he left and went out through exit. He didn’t go back onto the boat. I called my editor and conveyed the message.”
Mirabelli says his editor told him to leave.
“I was there for some 45 minutes. I was the only media person except for Jacob [Borg], who turned up. But Logan had left when Jacob arrived. I have all my messages saved on my mobile. I then went home.”
That's all from the witness.
Chat with the captain
2.05pm Some minutes later he saw lights on the boat.
“The boat’s captain [Logan Wood] got off. He knew me. I asked, ‘are you planning on heading out this evening?’ The weather was not good,” Mirabelli says.
“He told me that he had come to the boat because the power had gone out. At the time I didn’t know he was a captain. I know Logan through a common hobby. He probably knew I worked for the paper.”
Mirabelli says the two chatted for a few minutes, and then he left.
“I told him I had been asked to keep an eye on the boat. He said he had gone to the boat to reset it after the power went off.”
The captain returned a few minutes later, Mirabelli says.
“He told me ‘just to let you know, we will be taking the boat out some time later this week.”
Sent to keep an eye on a boat
2.01pm Mirabelli recalls the night before Fenech was arrested aboard his yacht.
He says he received a call at about 6:45pm that November evening. His news editor asked him to keep,an eye on a boat. He was there alone initially and an editor had told him that he would be joined by a journalist later.
Mirabelli says he was sent a text message with a photo of the boat he was to keep an eye on.
Photographer to testify
1.56pm Times of Malta photographer Matthew Mirabelli will also testify today, inspector Keith Arnaud tells the court. The inspector says the witness' testimony is relevant to the case.
Mirabelli was mentioned in court last week by the captain of Fenech's boat.
Fenech's defence team tell the court that they were not notified that Mirabelli would be summoned today, and says they reserve the right of disclosure.
Vella and former police chief Cutajar
1.53pm We’re back in open court.
Caruana Curran asks Vella who was at the police depot when he was questioned.
Vella says inspectors Arnaud and Zahra were.
“Was the commissioner there?”
“I think he met the inspectors after I was taken down to the lockup,” Vella replies.
“Were you alone with Cutajar?”
“Was he there when they took down your statement?”
“What’s the statement?” Vella asks. “Please explain”.
Caruana Curran does so.
“Yes, he was there almost until the end,” Vella says of Cutajar.
“He occasionally butted in to call me a liar. He had a mobile phone in his hand, I didn’t know what he was doing with it.”
That's the final question Vella will face today. The witness is allowed off the stand.
Journalists ordered out of the room
1.44pm Vella takes the stand, and defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran tells the court that his next question must be asked behind closed doors.
Journalists and members of the public are asked to leave the room.
1.40pm Yorgen Fenech is escorted back into the hall and the witness, Adrian Vella, is called back to continue testifying.
Fenech's lawyers have a few more questions for the witness.
A short recess
1.16pm The court orders a short break while the defence team consults with their client. Adrian Vella, the witness, is ordered to wait outside and not speak to anyone.
Confronted with Schembri's denial
1.14pm The magistrate asks Adrian Vella a very direct question: “When Keith Schembri testified in court, he had denied having passed on these papers to you. What have you to say about that?”
Vella: “I don’t agree. I got them from him”.
[In June, Schembri had said under oath that he had "certainly not" handed any papers to Vella to give to Fenech. Read Schembri's testimony].
Recognising Fenech's handwriting
1.12pm The magistrate asks if Vella could identify handwriting on the papers. Vella says he would recognise Fenech’s handwriting. He is shown the papers and confirms the writing matches Fenech’s.
Vella says he recalls how Fenech had stopped scribbling on the papers and notes that the papers he is being shown have no handwriting on their last pages.
A call from Keith Schembri
1.05pm Caruana Curran asks Vella about the time he went to Yorgen Fenech’s apartment.
“What if I tell you that Yorgen Fenech took the papers [which Vella had brought with him] and read them out before the two of us?” he asks the witness.
“No, I don’t recall that,” Vella replies.
Caruana Curran: “What if I told you that at that moment you received a call from Keith Schembri?”
Vella acknowledges that and says "I hadn't even remembered the phone call, it was the lawyer who reminded me of it".
He says he does not know if Fenech and Schembri discussed the papers [during that call].
"What I know is that Yorgen Fenech began to scribble on the papers very agitatedly".
Vella insists he wouldn't recognise the papers if they were shown to him.
Vella's visit to Schembri's house
1.01pm Vella is asked about the call he received from Keith Schembri to visit his home.
The witness says it was around 8.30am on a Sunday. He was met by Schembri’s wife in the hallway. They Schembri came down the stairs leading into the living room, pointed at some papers on his desk and told him “Take these. Give them to Yorgen Fenech”.
Lawyer Charles Mercieca wants to know how Vella knew which papers Schembri was referring to. Vella says Schembri just indicated them with a nod of the head, and repeats the gesture in the courtroom.
“The papers were face down on a corner of the desk. They were A4 papers,” he says.
Vella rejects Mercieca’s suggestion that he knew what was in the papers, insisting he would “never do such a thing”.
Defence team begin questioning
12.55pm Yorgen Fenech's defence team begin questioning the witness.
Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca asks about the rocket and submarine ideas which Vella mentioned earlier on. The doctor confirms that it was Yorgen’s brother, Franco, who made those suggestions. Yorgen did not want to go along with it.
Vella is asked about the papers the brothers had signed. He says that they were probably in Yorgen Fenech’s bag.
Why call Keith?
12.50pm Vella is asked about the heavy knocking at his door, and questioned why he called Keith Schembri that night.
"Initially Keith told me if they are knocking heavily, don’t open. Then when the knocking continued, my daughter told me that police were at the door. I told Keith and he told me, 'open immediately'."
He insists it was not Schembri to instruct him to delete his WhatsApp messages.
'Ninżel jien, jinżel kulħadd miegħi'
12.45pm Parte civile lawyer Jason Azzopardi takes on the questioning and asks the doctor if he had ever seen Fenech so agitated in all his life.
"No," he replied, pointing out that as a doctor he had rather let him calm down and then speak later.
Azzopardi: "You said that Fenech had gone to Gozo a couple of times before? Was it because he also needed a break?"
Azzopardi: "What about the papers the brothers signed in Gozo? Later on the media I read that they were share transfers."
Vella: "No. There was a table full of papers. But I only heard on media that they were business papers. You don’t believe me, but I never ask!"
Azzopardi: "When Yorgen called you from an unknown number, did you ask how come?"
Vella: "No. It hadn’t crossed my mind. Perhaps, there may have been someone else next to him.
Azzopardi: You said that Yorgen Fenech grabbed the papers and exclaimed when he opened the papers: 'If I go down, I'll take everyone down with me" ['Ninżel jien, jinżel kulħadd miegħi'].
Vella: "That's what I believe I heard. Yorgen was very agitated."
Pit stop at Portomaso
12.40pm Vella is asked to think back to the trip to Gozo. Before leaving, Fenech stopped at his office at Portomaso for about 15 minutes, and returned with a case.
"Before leaving his flat, Yorgen had asked if I had money. I only had €50 for the ferry trip. So I assume that the briefcase he got from office contained money."
12.30pm Vella continues recalling that night of 'fear'.
"I switched off my mobile phone when I was receiving a call from an odd number. I assumed it was from the depot. So I switched it off. The police then called my daughter.
"She rushed to my bedroom screaming 'they’re calling you from the depot'. I think I called Keith Schembri on my daughter’s mobile."
Vella is asked what he did before he switched off his phone.
"I deleted WhatsApp because there were personal messages," the doctor says, pointing out that he communicated with Schembri via Signal.
'Keith told me to open the door'
12.25pm Vella harks back to the night of his arrest. He says he heard loud knocking at his door around 11.30pm.
"They banged all around. I was scared. I thought someone had come for me. So I called Keith Schembri and told him there were a lot of people. He told me to open immediately.
"I didn’t think of calling the police, he was the first who came to mind, knowing that he would come to my assistance. I would seek advice from him on a regular basis.
"A thought crossed my mind that those people were there because of the papers I had passed on. I didn’t know it was the police at the time."
'I was scared'
12.20pm Vella says he was arrested early on Monday morning. His voice becomes inaudible and he is visibly shaken.
The magistrate asks the inspector to give him a break and calls for a glass of water.
He says on Sunday around 7pm he received a call from Fenech's lawyer who asked him to go over.
"But I didn’t go. I was scared."
Vella insists it was the first time he delivered papers between Schembri and Fenech.
At Fenech's guarded apartment
12.10pm The doctor says he put the notes in his jacket pocket and insists he didn't know their contents.
"I am shy and I do not pry into other people's business or papers.
"I just took the papers and headed to Portomaso. Keith Schembri and his wife were in a hurry on the way to a party."
Vella says he was shocked to find armed guards there.
"I went to Gianluca, took out the papers and gave them to him. I tried to hand them over but I think Yorgen tried to grab them out of my hand. I’m not sure,” he adds.
Arnaud asks: "So if Keith Schembri told you to give them to Fenech why did you give them to the lawyer?"
Vella: "Because I don’t understand legal matters."
Arnaud: "Why did you feel need to give to lawyer?"
Vella: "Because he was next to me... Yorgen began to scribble on the papers. He asked me for a pen.
"His lawyer and I were there. He was very agitated. Fenech said: 'this cannot be' (ma jistax ikun), he slammed everything and said 'that's enough'."
'Give these to Yorgen'
12.05pm Vella says Schembri gave him some papers, lying on a table, he folded them in four, told him to hand them over to Fenech and he left.
The doctor says he had assisted Schembri when he needed treatment in the US.
"It was not something out of the blue for Keith Schembri to call, asking me over for a whisky. I also work at Seabank," Vella adds.
Vella clarifies that Fenech called him from his home.
"There was his wife, his maid, and Gianluca, his lawyer."
Small talk at Keith Schembri's house
12pm We're back in session. We go to the day at the police depot when Vella was called to check Fenech who was not feeling well.
"I administered some tranquillizers because I anticipated withdrawals. I examined him at a corner at the depot, police were present. The conversation was strictly medical, he says.
"Then after that I got a call from lockup because Yorgen had chest pains. It was the day after or next after my first visit. I checked him in the presence of two police officers. One of them held some medical equipment.
"I referred him to Mater Dei immediately because of withdrawals. Then Yorgen began to call from an unknown number. I didn’t answer immediately since I didn't recognise it."
He said he was better and asked him to go to Keith Schembri's house in Mellieħa to get something from him.
"That was Sunday, around 10.30. I waited for some 20 minutes chatting with his wife. Then Keith Schembri came down. We chatted. It was small talk, not about the case."
11.50am If you're just catching up, we're hearing the testimony of Yorgen Fenech's doctor. Adrian Vella is talking about the weekend he spent with the suspect before the businessman was arrested in connection with Caruana Galizia's murder.
Vella had been arrested in November on suspicion that he was passing messages to Fenech from the prime minister's former chief of staff Keith Schembri.
The press has been ordered twice out of the court room, the latest after the magistrate reprimanded the doctor after appearing to be giving conflicting messages.
They were 'high'
11.35am Arnaud interjects: "So from a private jet you went to a fishing boat? What need was there for a fishing boat if they were travelling legally?"
The doctor says the brothers were "high" that day.
Magistrate asks if the line of questioning is going to prevail in her court room.
And with that, journalists and the public are once again ordered out of the court room.
Doctor on the spot
11.25am Pressed by Arnaud about the conversation in Gozo on Saturday, Vella says he had bluffed and told Yorgen Fenech that he had a friend who owned a boat.
Galea Farrugia from the AG's office stands up.
"Before I declare that Vella is a hostile witness, may I remind him that he is testifying under oath," he says.
The doctor asks if he may consult his lawyer. The magistrate says he cannot.
Magistrate: "For the umpteenth time, tell us exactly what you said."
Vella: "When Franco suggested flying out, I had suggested travelling out by boat, that’s all I said."
Magistrate: "Whether plane or boat, if it was legal, why did you suggest a boat?"
Vella: "Rockets and submarines were mentioned... You don't know his brother."
Magistrate: "If the Fenechs have boats of their own, why did you suggest a boat?"
Vella: "I suggested I had a friend who had a boat. I don't know, I don't know. I had no idea."
Places were mentioned that day - Mexico, South America, Paris
Magistrate: "I'm sorry Dr Vella, you're confusing things. Do you need time to recall?"
Vella: "Tell me what to say, please? I’m not understanding."
Magistrate: "Oh yes you are! You know very well and the court gave you time to answer."
Vella: "Places were mentioned that day - Mexico, South America, Paris..."
Magistrate: "Who mentioned them?"
Vella: "I think it was Franco, not Yorgen... I called my friend who had a fishing boat."
A brotherly issue
11.15am Arnaud grills the doctor, asking why the issue of whether Fenech could leave Malta "legally" had cropped up in the conversation with his brother.
"I don’t know what the context was but the word 'legally' was used," Vella replies.
Yorgen Fenech then went to make a phone call.
"No one heard his call. I saw him in a corner making the call. But I was out. I decided to leave the brothers alone once they were signing business papers."
Franco Fenech and the doctor left Gozo that afternoon but agreed to return to the island on Sunday.
But on Sunday, Franco Fenech called the doctor and told him that he was going to visit his brother alone. Days later, they returned his farmhouse keys via their driver.
'Yorgen insisted he would not leave'
11.05am The plan was for Fenech to stay in the Gozo farmhouse and then his brother would call for him the next day.
His brother Franco then showed up and asked if Yorgen could leave Malta, but Yorgen insisted he would not leave, the doctor says.
Fenech then asked whether he would be able to leave through the airport.
The defence wants to question the witness behind closed doors to better understand the context but the magistrate moves on.
The Gozo trip before the arrest
10.55am Journalists are called back into the court room. The focus is now on the weekend before Fenech's arrest.
Arnaud says the doctor went to assist Fenech and had also been with the businessman to Gozo. He asks about the reason behind that trip.
"I spoke to his wife and suggested taking him to Gozo for a couple of days to relax. It would do him good. I never asked what the case was about. I assumed it was linked to the narcotics he had taken," Vella says.
Fenech slept right through the trip.
"He just asked me to get him four packets of cigarettes. I got them from the Għajnsielem band club and he went back to sleep.
"Before the trip I had given him some pills. That’s why he slept. He had calmed down."
Journalists ordered out
10.40am Fenech was agitated that day and Vella went to his home that night.
The doctor is reluctant to continue testifying. He says this involves certain medical details that he does not wish to speak about in open court.
So, the journalists are asked to leave the court room.
Fenech was 'agitated'
10.35am His lawyer says that since Vella is a doctor, he has to be released from professional secrecy and possibly testify behind closed doors.
Fenech's lawyers stand up to make a point insisting that any questions about medical issues concerning third parties should be heard behind closed doors.
He says he received a call from Fenech telling him that he was very agitated in November.
"I don’t recall when. I went to him and he was truly agitated."
Doctor chooses not to testify
10.30am Dr Adrian Vella takes the witness stand. He is assisted by Mario Mifsud who stands behind him. Vella has known Fenech for 30 years, and also served as the doctor of his grandfather, father, and Yorgen Fenech's children.
Arnaud says the investigations are still ongoing where Vella is concerned though so far there does not seem to be any criminal responsibility as far as the doctor is concerned.
Magistrate cautions the doctor. He has the right not to answer any questions which he feels may incriminate him.
Vella says that since investigations are still ongoing he does not wish to testify.
But the magistrate tells him that he is bound to answer any other questions which do not risk self incrimination. He nods in understanding.
More secret recordings unearthed
10.20am First witness to take the stand is Alvin Cardona, the court-appointed expert handling the secret recordings. He was tasked with tracing the hard drive, download all the voice recordings and save them.
He says that he also found another type of file with software which made the recordings accessible.
He presents five pen drives with all evidence.
"There are many other voice recordings besides those eight mentioned last time,” he says.
Psychiatrist to assess Theuma
10.15am We're off. The court has issued a decree upholding the defence’s request to appoint a psychiatrist to assess Melvin Theuma. She has appointed Dr Joe Cassar to oversee the process.
You will recall, Theuma, the self-confessed middleman in the murder, was involved in a stabbing incident last month. The police say the wounds were self-inflicted.
He has since been discharged from hospital and been given more police supervision.
Parties gathering in court
10am The main players in the case are gathering in the court room. Inspector Keith Arnaud is the lead investigator, lawyers Charles Mercieca, Gianluca Curran and Marion Camilleri form part of Fenech's defence team.
Deputy AG Philip Galea Farrugia and Nadia Attard from the AG’s office are assisting the prosecution.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing parte civile.
Family members of Daphne Caruana Galizia have also entered the court room.
Magistrate Rachel Montebello is presiding.
Fenech's doctor Adrian Vella is expected to testify on Tuesday. Vella was arrested in November on suspicion that he was passing messages to Fenech from the prime minister's former chief of staff Keith Schembri.
Vella is known to be close to Schembri and was the personal doctor of Fenech's grandfather, Tumas Fenech.
In the last sitting on August 14, Fenech's ship captain rejected reports that the businessman was planning to flee the island last November. But he also revealed that Fenech had boarded the boat around 1am on November 20, once the "coast was clear" of journalists.
Meanwhile, last week, Fenech's family said the businessman had joined other inmates on a hunger strike in a protest over overcrowding.
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