A Qawra bar owner was remanded in custody after pleading not guilty to causing the death of a 60-year-old man whom he allegedly pushed down some steps after the two argued at the bar.
David Busuttil, a 59-year-old Qawra resident, was targeted by criminal prosecution following the incident in the very early hours of Friday morning when police were alerted to a patient admitted to Mater Dei Hospital in critical condition at around 1.30am.
A nurse subsequently told police the man had been found on a pavement at Triq it-Turisti, Qawra, just outside Munchies Bar.
Investigations kicked off and police summoned the bar owner who allegedly admitted he had been involved in an argument with the other man and had pushed him down the steps.
The incident triggered a magisterial inquiry and several court experts were appointed to assist in the investigation.
It was certified that the victim had bled to death after hitting his head in the fall.
The bar owner was charged on Saturday night with knowingly putting the victim’s life in manifest danger, causing him grievous injuries, knowingly attempting to conceal the evidence as well as breaching the public peace.
Busuttil, who was visibly upset and weeping throughout the hearing, pleaded not guilty.
His lawyers, Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri, requested bail.
But the prosecution objected, not only in view of the gravity of the charges but also because civilian witnesses were still to testify and there was a risk of tampering with evidence.
Accused tried to tamper with evidence, prosecution says
In fact, after the incident, the accused allegedly contacted the CCTV service provider and the prosecution argued that that call amounted to an attempt at tampering with evidence.
However, the defence rebutted that there was no explanation for that call and thus no evidence of the prosecution’s inference.
Besides, this was a case of self-defence, argued Debono, adding that the accused had explained the dynamics of the incident in his statement and told police how he had been provoked.
Moreover, the whole incident was captured on CCTV footage, meaning that civilian witnesses were not so relevant.
Debono asked why had witnesses not been produced in court.
After hearing submissions by both parties, the court, presided over by magistrate Victor George Axiak, turned down the request in view of the gravity of the charges and the fear of tampering with evidence, but urged the prosecution to summon all civilian witnesses at the earliest possible hearing.
Inspectors Shawn Pawney and Ryan Vella prosecuted, assisted by AG lawyers Abigail Caruana Vella and Nathaniel Falzon. Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri were defence counsel.
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