Abner Aquilina, the main suspect in a gruesome Sliema murder, had a history of online sexual harassment, according to at least three young woman, who spoke to Times of Malta.
As details of the killing of 29-year-old Paulina Dembska emerge, the shocked women began to share text messages they claim Aquilina sent them when they were young teenagers.
Aquilina, 20, who was also a teenager at the time and has a history of petty crime dating back to when he was 14, would refuse to take no for an answer.
He was on probation for his latest minor juvenile offence when Paulina Dembska was beaten to death on Sunday morning. He has not yet been charged.
Police are yet to confirm whether she was raped.
“I got goosebumps when I saw his name in the news,” said one 21-year-old, who showed Times of Malta messages from Aquilina she says were unsolicited and received when she was around 15 years old.
“It definitely made me feel uncomfortable, although I didn’t think too much of it at the time.”
Aquilina sent her several messages asking to meet up for sex, despite the fact that she did not know him and they had never met in person.
Undeterred by rejection
“Let’s meet up and have unprotected sex,” he wrote to her on one occasion. Undeterred by her rejection, Aquilina also told her that someday they would “meet and have sex” and there was “no other way” it would work out.
Jeanine Scerri, 19, similarly said Aquilina had propositioned her for sex in 2016, when she was 14 years old.
Aquilina sometimes socialised with some of Scerri’s mutual friends, and after encountering her once during a night out, began to send her inappropriate texts.
In a text exchange, she replied “hahahaha” to Aquilina’s text asking her for sex, to which he replied, “what’s so funny?” After informing him that she was 14 years old, Aquilina countered with “Lol I hear that 14 is the best age”.
“At the time I took it as a joke because I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know how to react so I just laughed it off and ignored him,” Scerri said.
“I am completely fine. Nothing bad happened to me after this message. But Paulina is not fine.”
19-year-old Stella said she had received a message from Aquilina in 2020 calling her “fake and attention-seeking” and after questioning why he had said so, Aquilina replied, “I’ll forgive you if you show me your vagina”.
“I honestly did not know this man at all,” she said. “He once met a friend of mine at a party and told him how he’d like to have anal sex with me. It goes to show how obsessed he is with sex and how he has no respect for women at all.”
“I really wish that these things are taken more seriously," she said.
While Aquilina does not appear to maintain his social media accounts any longer, sources say he kept many fake profiles.
Asked for a response, Aquilina's lawyer said he would not be commenting on the claims.
Meanwhile a vigil is due to be held at the scene on Tuesday evening, in an event organised to pay their respects and highlight the issue of femicide in Malta.
Femicide is when a woman is killed by a man because she is female.
He is currently being assessed at Mount Carmel Hospital after he told police during his interrogation that he was “doing God’s work” and that the devil had entered his thoughts on the night of the killing.
What struck investigators as delusions, raised concerns about his state of mental health.
Sources meanwhile confirmed that Aquilina had attended a session at the controversial evangelist movement the River of Love just a few hours before the murder took place.
The River of Love, headed by Gordon Manche, has repeatedly been in the headlines over controversial statements and positions particularly against homosexuality.
Contacted on Monday, Manche told Times of Malta he did not know anything about Aquilina."
He was not part of River of Love and never was. We have nothing to do with him in any way," Manche said. He added that he was "truly sad and shocked" by the news of the murder.