Weak DNA samples taken from the body of a man found in an advanced state of decomposition in a field in Birżebbuġa more than a month ago have stalled the identification process, according to sources close to the case.
Forensic experts are understood to have taken at least two samples from the remains but were still unable to match them with other DNA samples from relatives of two men currently missing.
Tests are being carried out to determine whether the corpse is that of Carmelo Fino, who went missing from St Vincent de Paul Residence for the elderly in June, or that of Salvu Bonnici, a 70-year-old man who was reported missing from Gudja last month.
“Getting a sample from a badly decomposed corpse is already difficult. Getting a good DNA strand that can be compared is even more difficult,” one source told Times of Malta.
The body was found on July 14 under a tree near a parking lot opposite Għar Dalam, following an anonymous tip. The summer heat did not help preserve some evidence on which forensic analysts can rely.
Sources said investigators believe the body is that of Fino, also known as Charlie, but only DNA tests will conclusively determine this. Some damaged clothing found near the body indicates that it may have been what he was wearing at the time that he disappeared from the home for the elderly.
An autopsy carried out on the body has excluded any possibility of foul play and the death is not considered to be suspicious.
Sources said the DNA samples were being compared to those obtained from relatives of both men but none of the comparative tests matched the samples which were “very weak” for comparisons.
Fino family waiting for news
Contacted on Wednesday, Fino’s son, Paul, said the family had not heard anything from the investigators and that he had no comment to make.
His 83-year-old father, a dementia sufferer, was recorded on CCTV leaving the Luqa home for the elderly at 3am on June 28.
Retired judge Geoffrey Valenzia pinned the responsibility of this disappearance on the staff on duty that night – a nurse and carers, who were on the night shift, and security officers who were supposed to be on guard at the gate, which was left open.