A man who held up two female shop assistants at a Tarxien confectionery last week, while armed with a firearm that later turned out to be fake, was remanded in custody upon his arraignment on Wednesday.

Antonio Mangion, a 36-year-old delivery man from Żabbar, was escorted to court to face charges linking him to the violent attempted robbery on October 5, shortly after 8pm.

Two salesgirls were held up at gunpoint before the robber suddenly ran out of the shop empty handed.

Investigations soon led to CCTV footage showing the suspect getting away in a car which had been parked a couple of corners away from the shop. 

That footage showed a man getting out of and back into the car, prosecuting Inspector Lydon Zammit explained in court. 

Working on that information, police eventually tracked down the car owner and discovered that the vehicle was usually driven by Mangion who was subsequently targeted by an arrest warrant on Monday.

The man was charged with attempted aggravated theft, as well as holding the two shop assistants against their will, slightly injuring one of them and possessing a weapon while committing a crime against the person. 

After consulting his lawyer, the man pleaded not guilty and requested bail. 

The prosecution objected not only in view of the gravity of the offence, but also for fear that the accused might possibly commit further wrongdoing.

Besides, there were eyewitnesses and other civilian witnesses familiar to the accused.

And although the firearm had been fake, such a fact would certainly not have crossed the minds of the two victims faced with that weapon at close range, the prosecution pointed out. 

Defence lawyer Mattia Felice countered that the accused was presumed innocent and had fully cooperated with police who also retrieved the “weapon” allegedly used in the attempt. 

The man was currently in a “fragile condition” and still “in shock”, said the lawyer, adding that the accused had committed an “instantaneous folly”. 

The man posed no danger to society, as attested by his criminal record, and remanding him in custody would only make things worse, given his financial and drug problems.

However, after hearing submissions, the court, presided over by magistrate Nadine Lia, turned down the request for bail since the victims and other civilians were still to testify and therefore the court wanted to avoid possible tampering with evidence. 

Inspectors Lydon Zammit, Stephen Gulia and Sarah Zerafa prosecuted. Lawyer Mattia Felice was defence counsel. 

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