Former acting police commissioner Ray Zammit told a magistrate this afternoon that he had not been immediately told that former police constable Paul Sheehan had fired shots at a car and actually hit it.
"When I spoke to him he told me he had fired shots but at no point did he tell me that the car had been hit. He told me: 'I fired two shots but they were not directed at him'. It was only at a later stage that I received a call from Superintendent Alexandra Mamo, who by that time had gone to the scene of the incident, telling me that the car that clipped the minister's car had been hit and was already on the low loader," Mr Zammit told the court.
He was testifying in the compilation of evidence against Mr Sheehan, who stands charged with Stephen Smith’s attempted murder.
Mr Smith is facing drink-driving charges and damaging the ministerial car. The incident allegedly started when Mr Smith clipped the minister’s car’s side mirror in Gżira on November 19 last year.
An inquiry into the shooting incident concluded that Mr Sheehan had fired two bullets at Mr Smith’s car and that there was an attempt to cover up the incident. This led to the dismissal of former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia late last year.
But Mr Zammit took a defensive line during his testimony in court, denying that he had attempted to cover up the incident or that he had ordered a low loader to go to the Santa Venera tunnels to take the car to the police depot.
"From the information that I had been given, it looked, to me, like any other hit-and-run incident. We see many of them throughout our career so I instructed a low loader to go there because that is normal practice. At no time did I give any instructions for the car to be taken away or for the scene of the crime to be compromised. When Superintendent Mamo told me that the car was already on the low loader when she arrived, I told her that it shouldn't have been touched," Mr Zammit said.
He said that when he spoke to a Rapid Intervention Unit officer who was on site, he was told that the cars had been "hit" (milqutin) and that he took this to mean that the car had been damaged in the impact.
Mr Zammit said he was at the depot hosting a group of foreigners at the time and that Dr Mallia was there for the concluding remarks. He said that he informed Dr Mallia about the incident and that he (Dr Mallia) was shocked because he had left his daughter with his driver.
After ascertaining that the child was fine, Mr Zammit said he had asked Mr Sheehan for his version of events, he told him that he was at his mother's house when he heard a noise and realised that the minister's car had been clipped and the driver did not stop. He told his boss that he chased him and that Mr Smith had emerged from the car with a Heineken bottle in his hand. Mr Sheehan told Mr Zammit: “I used the weapon and shot twice, but not at him.”
Mr Zammit said he spoke to Mr Sheehan some time later "just in case he was still under shock when he first spoke to me", but said that the version had not changed.
The former police chief said he had instructed a police officer to go to the Msida marina, as Mr Smith had a yacht as his registered address but was later informed that he was living somewhere in Birkirkara.
Neither the prosecution nor the defence put any questions to Mr Zammit.
The case continues later this month.
Police Superintendent Alexandra Mamo and Inspector Saviour Baldacchino prosecuted while lawyers Michael Sciriha, Lucio Sciriha and Edward Gatt appeared for Mr Sheehan.
Lawyers Joe Giglio and James D'Agostino appeared parte civile for Mr Smith.