An Algerian woman who has been living in Malta for a number of years is expected to be arraigned in the coming days in connection with the damage caused to the Ġgantija temples, this newspaper has learnt.

If found guilty, the woman could be jailed for six years for damaging a national monument. She was allegedly spotted by security guards with a Maltese man carving names and love messages on the megaliths at the Gozo Temples, a world heritage site.

The 47-year-old San Ġwann man who accompanied her was denying that he had carved his name in a 5,500-year-old stone, sources said.

The man, a bouncer at Paceville entertainment spots, was known to the police, the sources added. The police, they said, had yet to decide whether to arraign the male suspect too.

The sources said that when the woman was stopped by Executive Services security guards, they saw the name Stephen carved twice.

Heritage Malta stated though the damage was not alarming, it was irreparable, as the engravings made were quite deep

“Though the security guards noticed what was going on and even spotted the Algerian woman etching the megalith, the man with her insisted they had done nothing wrong, as they had only done some scribbling on an old piece of rock,” the sources said. Footage from CCTV cameras is being reviewed by investigators.

The Times of Malta was told that the couple had first tried to enter the Ġgantija Temples on Monday evening, but having arrived at closing time, they were told they could not go in. They did the following afternoon, when the incident allegedly took place.

The Times of Malta yesterday quoted Heritage Malta officials stating that although the damage was not alarming, it was irreparable, as the engravings made were quite deep.

The sources said that the couple had at first refused to cooperate with security officers and also refused to be photographed. The police were then called. The couple were arrested, and they gave their particulars to the investigating officers.

Heritage Malta officials yesterday denied access to a Times of Malta photographer who was assigned to take pictures of the carvings. The officials said no pictures could be taken since investigations were ongoing.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com