Rapid Intervention Unit officers and a former journalist who were present at the site of a traffic accident where a police officer crashed into a motorcyclist gave conflicting evidence in court today.
They were testifying in the case of Jean-Claude Mangion, a 21-year-old constable from Qrendi, who was driving to work just on January 10, 2014 after 5am, when he was involved in a collision with a motorcycle driven by Clive Brincat, 32, from Floriana.
The officer is charged with causing Mr Brincat’s death through negligence, damaging the motorcycle, driving his Peugeot 206 negligently and dangerously and speeding. He was also charged with committing a crime he was duty-bound to prevent.
RIU officer Adrian McKay testified that the police were informed of the incident at 5.14am and it took the RIU some six minutes to get to the site.
Upon arrival, he spotted the victim's body on the ground as well as a woman bending over him, who turned out to be former journalist Julia Farrugia Portelli.
"As soon as she saw me, she started shouting at me, asking what took us so long and that she had phoned ages ago. It didn't take us long at all but I understand the reaction of someone who has a bloodied person before him," PC McKay said.
The victim was lying face down on the ground and Ms Farrugia Portelli wanted to move him, he continued, adding that he instructed her not to turn the victim around. He searched for a pulse but could find no signs of life.
The RIU proceeded to close down the road immediately, he continued, first from one end and then from the other. The ambulance still hadn't yet arrived at that point. The road was very wet with dew, he added.
He could not locate any ocular witnesses who actually saw the incident occur, adding that there were two men who heard the impact and described the ensuing sound as being akin to that of an explosion.
He informed the two men and Ms Farrugia Portelli that the the district's police sergeant would soon arrive on site and would take down their details.
Asked about the accused by lawyer Michael Sciriha, who is appearing parte civile for the Brincat family, PC McKay said that he didn't immediately realise that the accused was involved in the incident since he was directing traffic. However, he added, the accused seemed to be under great shock.
Ms Farrugia Portelli took the witness stand, exhibiting a photo of the scene of the fatality which she had captured using her phone.
In a previous sitting, Ms Farrugia Portelli had testified that the police had not seemed interested in preserving the scene and had failed to question witnesses to obtain their version of events.
She repeated that she had pointed out to the RIU officers that part of the road facing Qrendi was still open to traffic and vehicles were passing through the zone. This endangered drivers who had to swerve to avoid debris and also resulted in drivers unintentionally tampering with the evidence by driving over any material strewn across the road.
She was told to leave since she had nothing to do with the case.
She reiterated that no police officer had communicated with her on site to obtain her version of events.
Asked about the weather conditions, she said she remembered clearly that it had not been raining, adding emphatically that there was no dew on the ground as she recalled kneeling down beside the victim to try and give him first aid.
The photograph she had taken depicted the victim's head in the recovery position and not lying flat against the ground. She said she had not moved his body in any way, as per the first aid training she had received.
The case continues. Doreen Clarke is presiding over the case. Inspector Johann Fenech is prosecuting while lawyer Robert Abela is defending the accused.
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