The compilation of evidence probing the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continued in court on Thursday morning.
What we learnt from the witnesses testifying:
- A suspicious-looking car was spotted close to the scene of the crime.
- The car rental representative says Ms Caruana Galizia had one copy of the rented car key and the company had a spare one which they keep locked in the office.
- A GO salesman who was a friend of the suspects says that around noon on October 16 - that's the day of the murder - suspect George Degiorgio asked for a top-up of his mobile phone credit. Degiorgio also failed to show up for a fishing trip on October 16.
- The first police on site witnessed the horror of the bomb aftermath – he says he saw debris all over the place as well as body parts. The victim's son was seen arguing with a passer-by who was taking photos of the blast.
- Lawyer says suspects are claiming discriminatory treatment in prison.
12.40pm: Compilation of evidence is adjourned to Wednesday, February 7.
12.38pm: Lawyer William Cuschieri says accused are asking to be treated like others since they are not being afforded the same visiting rights like other inmates. He says the suspects claim they are not being allowed to speak to their family.
12.35pm: Police continue testifying about the scene of the crime and the intensity of the blast.
"The car was a ball of fire... it was impossible to put out the fire."
12.20pm: Another police officer gives details of the scene of the crime. In panic, the victim's son Matthew Caruana Galizia told the police "my mum is in the car". They tried to extinguish the flames but it was too late.
In rage, the victim's son smashed the phone of a passer-by who was allegedly taking pictures of the blast.
11.53am: On November 23, an exercise was carried out to monitor the Maya's whereabouts and to confirm that it was the same boat spotted leaving the Grand Harbour on the day of the blast. Defence lawyer Martin Fenech argues that the footage from October 16 makes it difficult to identify the vessel, prompting a snigger from George Degiorgio. CID officer replies that the process to identify the boat is a laborious one which involves inspecting several footage.
11.45am: Manuel Saliba from CID tells court he inspected CCTV footage in Bidnija, Mosta and Żebbiegħ. The boat - the Maya - registered to Alfred Degiorgio - was seen leaving the Grand Harbour at 7.59am. It returned to Marsa at 2.47pm.
me in the weeks before the murder.
11.25am: As the inspector was passing by the blast site he spotted a car with the number plate QQZ668 close to the field. Other police officers recall the aftermath of the bomb blast.
11.20am: "I saw the body on the passenger side, leaning on the car door," Inspector Cilia testifies. Meanwhile, Civil Protection Department firemen were soon on site putting out the fire at the blast site and nearby trees.
11.16am: Inspector Antoine Cilia from the police's Rapid Intervention Unit recalls that fateful afternoon. "I heard a message on the radio which said that a man at the area known as the Għarusa tal-Mosta saw a car blowing up in Bidnija. We were told that there could be a person inside".
He says he arrived on site at 3.19pm - and saw pieces of the car strewn over the place... as well as limbs. He soon confirmed that the person lying on the passenger side was Daphne Caruana Galizia.
I saw pieces of the car strewn over the place... as well as limbs
The inspector says he witnessed an argument between the victim's son Matthew Caruana Galizia and a man called Mario Vella, after he saw him taking pictures of the victim.
11.10am: Caruana (the GO salesman) says that around noon on October 16 - that's the day of the murder - George Degiorgio asked for a top-up of his mobile phone credit. The witness bought a top-up card, scratched it and sent him the card's number via text. While other friends had asked him to top up their phone credit, George Degiorgio never asked for one. He believed George Degiorgio was on contract so he thought that the top up was for his children. George Degiorgio failed to show up for a fishing trip that day.
11.05am: Inspector Arnaud asks Caruana about the last time he had gone fishing with the suspects. It was the end of summer, but says he was unable to recall the exact date.
Caruana says he did not see anything out of the ordinary when he went to Marsa and would often spend time with them in a room close to a tent.
10.55am: Next up to testify is a GO salesman Miguel Caruana, who knows the accused as "fishing buddies" the court hears. The police inspector says Caruana was initially a suspect but declares that no criminal action would be taken against him with regard to the murder investigation. The court tells the witness that if he thinks he might incriminate himself he had a right to refuse to testify. He accepts to go ahead.
10.47am: The focus of the case today so far was on the vehicles - both the one in which Ms Caruana Galizia was killed as well as a suspicious car spotted by witnesses in the area.
10.40am: The accused look calm following procedures as lawyer Martin Fenech cross examines the witness.
10.32am: Mario Fenech, the manager of Percius car hire is next to testify. He says the police requested the spare key on the day of the murder. He handed it to them and it was returned soon after.
The spare key was only used once when the car was driven from her house to the offices for repair works. While being repaired, the car had spent the weekend in the Percius garage, which is protected by CCTV.
10.26am: Car rental representative says Ms Caruana Galizia had one copy of the car key and the company had a spare one which they keep locked in the office. Only the six family members who run the company have access to such keys. The victim had opted for a long lease of five years.
10.19am: Ms Caruana Galizia had been renting out the car in which the bomb was planted for around three months, according to a representative from car hire company Percius.
10.17am: Lawyer Martin Fenech who is appearing for suspect Vince Muscat again asks the witness why she did not take note of the number plate of the suspicious car.
10.14am: The first witness's wife testifies next. Again, the court requests the media not to divulge her name. She says she saw a car facing Mġarr... she spotted it around 2.30pm - that's about half an hour before the blast which killed Ms Caruana Galizia.
She says her husband had remarked about the suspicious car some two to three weeks before the murder.
"The minute someone points out something like that... you start keeping an eye out."
She insists the car was small and white but again points out that she did not know the make.
10.05am: If you're catching up with this live commentary now, witnesses are testifying about a suspicious vehicle he saw before Ms Caruana Galizia was killed on October 16.
We watch trials where journalists have to defend themselves because of their work - today we witness a trial in the case of #DaphneCaruanaGalizia who was murdered because of her work - in the #EU. #NoImpunity #ECPMF #JournalismisNOTacrime— ECPMF (@ECPMF) February 1, 2018
10.02am: The witness tells the court he had even remarked to his wife that something was strange - he had spotted a person inside the vehicle, doing nothing. "The man in the car "looked like an Arab, like a Libyan. Dark skinned... He seemed stiff that's why it seemed suspicious."
"Also, it's not a traffic-heavy area. If somebody comes to the area its for a reason," the witness says.
His wife had also seen the car on that fateful day around 9.30am. He cannot recall what make the car was but he says it was a small one, similar to a Kia Picanto.
9.52am: A witness who cannot be named by court order testifies that he heard a loud noise close to the scene of the crime on October 16 around 3pm. At first he ignored it, thinking it was a door banging, until he logged online to discover what had happened. He says he had seen a car around noon, which he had spotted for the two weeks before the murder. It was a small white rental car with a number plate ending in the letter Z. He never saw the car again after that day.
9.47am: No evidence is to be heard until Josette Sultana, the lawyer assisting George Degiorgio, is present in court, the magistrate says. Meanwhile, seven officers from the Special Response Team are present in the court room.
9.40am: Presence of the Assistant Attorney General in the court room is questioned by the lawyer of Alfred Degiorgio, one of the accused.
"The AG has a judicial role and so cannot act as prosecutor," Dr William Cuschieri says. Philip Galea Farrugia from the AG's office says the law permits it.
9.35am: The case resumes. The suspects Alfred Degiorgio and his brother George together with Vincent Muscat are taken into the court room.
The court proceedings are being closely followed around the world, amid calls to bring to justice not only those who carried out the killing but also the masterminds. The prosecution is expected to present more witnesses and experts to corroborate the evidence already presented by the two prosecuting officers Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra.
9.05am: Relatives of the victim are seen in the courtroom. Also present is Flutura Kusari, media lawyer from the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom who describes it as the most important legal case concerning safety of journalists in Europe.
1/2 I hope to see other international NGOs present at the court. This is the most important legal case concerning (non)safety of journalists in #Malta & #Europe. We need to keep en eye on how the authorities are handling it. #DaphneCaruanaGalizia— Flutura Kusari (@fluturakusari) January 31, 2018
What we know so far:
Ms Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb on October 16 close to her home in Bidnija.
In December, three men were marched to court, linking them to the murder. They are Degiorgio brothers Alfred and George and Vincent Muscat who were arrested in a raid at Marsa.
Among other leads, so far magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit heard how police:
- Used the FBI's help to home in on suspicious phone numbers, one of which was linked to a remotely controlled device and which went active at 2am in Bidnija on the day of Ms Caruana Galzia's murder.
- It received an SMS at the time the bomb went off and immediately went off-radar.
- Believe that the phone which sent the bomb detonation SMS was an old Nokia 105 and that the trigger SMS was sent from out at sea. Thirteen hours before Ms Caruana Galizia was killed, a suspicious device was switched on in Bidnija and remained active until it received a text message at the time of her death.
The three suspects.
- Received reports of a suspicious car regularly parked by tat-Tarġa Battery - an ideal vantage point for the killers - in the days leading to the murder. The car was subsequently never seen there again.
- Found a "fresh-looking" cigarette butt under a tree at the tat-Tarġa vantage point which was sent for forensic analysis. After the initial arraignment DNA tests confirmed that the butt had been smoked by Alfred Degiorgio.
Let's revisit the key players:
For the defence:
Martin Fenech is appearing for Vince Muscat, known as il-Koħħu, 55 and from Msida.
William Cuschieri and Martha Muscat are appearing for Alfred Degiorgio, known as il-Fulu, 53, and from St Paul's Bay.
Josette Sultana is appearing for Alfred's brother George Degiorgio, known as iċ-Ċiniz 55, and also from St Paul's Bay.
For the prosecution:
Philip Galea Farrugia from the attorney general's office.
Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are prosecuting officers.
Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing parte civile.
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