The business partner of a man murdered in Gozo in 2018 and who was with him just a few hours before he was killed told a court on Friday that he never thought the victim was in any kind of trouble.
He said the last thing he did before he left his apartment that evening was bring him some beers he had bought from a bar close by.
“I had known him for around 18 months. Some eight months before he died, we took on a job together and we were both happy. I did not socialise with him. We were work colleagues, but I never got the impression that he was in any kind of trouble,” Terrence Zammit told Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech.
He was testifying in the compilation of evidence against Aleksandr Stojanovic, 42, a Serb who lives in Safi, who stands accused of the murder of Egyptian Walid Salah Abdel Motaleb Mohammed. The father of two was found dead in a remote field in Għarb, Gozo, on January 15, 2018.
Mohammed, who he knew as Willy, worked in the construction industry as a plasterer. He explained that he had spent his last day with him. At around lunchtime, Mohammed and his two daughters accompanied him to meet a client in Malta. He said they went to Mellieħa, then for lunch and after to meet the client who owed him money for a job.
On their way back to Gozo, while they were waiting in the queue to board the ferry, Mohammed pointed to a grey BMW and told him: “That is the Russian guy I told you about.”
He explained that Mohammed would often receive calls on his mobile from a private number and would speak in English. Afterwards, he would tell him that it was a man who he always referred to as the Russian and who had promised to give him lots of work in construction.
As they were boarding the ferry, Mohammed waved at the man in the BMW and told him he would call him later, Zammit said. He recognised the man in the BMW as the accused. “As far as I could gather, he knew him over work,” he said.
Zammit said that when they got to Gozo, he went to collect his children and they all went to his apartment in Xlendi. At about 8pm, Mohammed offered to drive his children home and returned to the flat where they spent the evening discussing work, fooling around and drinking beer.
He said that at around 11pm, Mohammed received a phone call from a private number and he told the person on the other side of the line: “I’ll see you soon.”
He told him it was the Russian man who had called and he left his apartment. It was around 11.15pm when he left but he returned a few minutes later with some beers he had purchased from a shop next door, dropped them off and left.
“He was his normal self. He was not agitated or anything. He did not seem to be in any kind of trouble. I called him some 30 minutes later to tell him not to stay out late as we had to work the following morning but I never saw him again,” Zammit said.
Under cross examination, Zammit said he was shown 12 photographs by the police to identify the person who was driving the BMW.
Several police officers testified about their involvement in the investigation, including when the man’s corpse was found in a field in Għarb. There were others who assisted court experts to obtain footage from various CCTV cameras.
Police inspector Bernard Charles Spiteri also explained his role in the investigation. He confirmed that Mohammed had been jailed for five months over domestic violence. He said the murder victim was well known to the police due to reports they investigated, mostly over drugs and access to his children.
Spiteri said the victim had a sachet with white powder which was suspected to be cocaine in his pocket when he was found lying in a pool of blood in a remote place near San Dimitri Chapel.
The inspector said he obtained an arrest warrant for Stojanovic when the police received a tip about his potential involvement. He, however, always denied any involvement in the murder.
At the end of the sitting, the court found that there was enough evidence for Stojanovic to be placed under a bill of indictment. The case continues in July.
Lawyers Anthony Vella and Etienne Savona from the Attorney General's office prosecuted along with Superintendent Keith Arnaud and inspector Spiteri. Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi appeared parte civile for the victim's family. Lawyers Franco Debono and Francesca Zarb were defence counsel.
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