A mugger and drug addict who caused the death of an 80-year-old woman in Sliema for a mere €20 reported his crime to the police because he said his conscience would not let him rest.

Rose Garroni, 80, was found lying unconscious and in critical condition on a pavement in Dingli Circus after her handbag was snatched in December 2010. She died a few days later.

Her aggressor, Charles Brincat, said that as soon as he found out about her death he wanted to report the incident to the police. Brincat took the witness stand on Wednesday in the trial of 33-year-old Bernice Camilleri, who was with him in a car driven by her boyfriend Richard Attard on the evening of the mugging.

In 2015, Brincat pleaded guilty to theft aggravated by violence resulting in death and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Attard was sent to jail for 12 years on the same charges in 2016.

Camilleri is facing trial without jury after pleading not guilty to being an accomplice.

Brincat testified on Wednesday that the other two had called for him at Mount Carmel Hospital where he had been receiving treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, while being allowed to go out on day leave.

After stopping to buy wine they headed to Sliema and Attard and Brincat discussed sourcing some money for drugs.

There was no pre-hatched plan, Brincat told the court, saying his recollection of that evening was dim because of the wine and drugs and because it was so long ago.

“In all truth, I believe that Bernice did not utter a single word,” Brincat said when asked by lawyer Karl Muscat from the office of the AG.

He said there had been a suggestion of robbing someone so when he spotted a woman walking along a Sliema street, he immediately told Attard to stop the car.

He got out and approached the elderly woman as she stood in front of a door to a house.

As he grabbed her handbag, she tried to ward him off and cried: “I want it. Don’t take it!”

“But I managed to take it,” Brincat said.

“The victim fell. I think that was when I snatched the bag,” he said, trailing off and bowing his head as emotions took over.

Mr Justice Aaron Bugeja intervened: “Mr Brincat I know it is not easy for you. I know this episode was not pleasant for the woman or for you. I know that you wish to put it behind you.

“But please make an effort and try to recall so that after today, hopefully, you won’t have to testify again,” the judge gently coaxed.

An usher promptly handed some water to Brincat and the judge allowed him to gain his composure.

Mugging an elderly woman for €20

“She didn’t want me to take the bag and I pushed her. I think she hit her head, possibly on the doorstep,” the witness continued.

After joining his friends back inside the car, he rummaged through the contents of the bag, finding only €20.

The trio headed to Msida where the two men bought cocaine.

But it was too little to share between the three of them and only the two men got a shot, Brincat said. Even then, it was too little to satisfy their craving.

“So we decided to steal something else.”

Attard drove back to Sliema but by that time, a drugged Brincat had no idea of the location. Neither could he identify the site Wednesday.

The second mugging followed much the same pattern as the first.

This time, however, the 88-year-old victim standing on a street corner close to the former Prince of Wales Hotel did not offer much resistance.

€25 from second mugging

This time the bag yielded €25 and the drug bought was shared among all three.

The witness said the idea to steal had been his and Attard’s “but Bernice agreed with us”.

“Are you sure that Bernice agreed with your plan?” asked defence lawyer Arthur Azzopardi.

After a pause, Brincat replied, “if I said so back then, it must have been that. But I don’t even recall the second mugging.

Referring to news of the death of the first victim he said: “When I heard what had happened my conscience would not rest.”

So he told staff at Mount Carmel that he wanted to speak to police and was called in for questioning.

“I don’t remember where we dumped the two bags because what with wine and drugs, I was dizzy,” he said as he wrapped up his lengthy testimony.

The trial continues.

AG lawyers Anthony Vella is also prosecuting.

Lawyer Rebecca Mercieca is also defence counsel.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us