Developers seeking to resume building works next door to the site where Miriam Pace was killed under the rubble of her home have been blocked by the court.
The request was filed by MCZMC Developers Ltd, the company behind the mammoth project at Triq Joseph Abela Scolaro, Ħamrun, next door to the Pace family home that collapsed on March 2, resulting in the death of the 54-year-old mother of two.
Roderick Camilleri, 36, from Rabat, the project’s architect; Anthony Mangion, a 72-year-old architect from Gżira who served as the construction project’s site technical officer; 36-year-old excavation contractor Ludwig Dimech from Żebbuġ; and 42-year-old construction worker Nicholas Spiteri, from Mqabba; currently stand accused of involuntary homicide.
As the compilation of evidence continued on Thursday, the court, presided over by magistrate Joseph Mifsud, turned down an application by the developers for authorisation to proceed with the building works, since preliminary agreements on the various units projected in the complex were due to expire.
The Attorney General had objected to the request, unlike a neighbouring couple who filed a reply stating that their interest was to remove the existing danger by green lighting the works, so that hopefully they could eventually return to their home.
Yet, the Court turned down the request, observing that, “preliminary agreements could wait, and if necessary, could be renewed”.
Another application by the contractor to retrieve machinery that was still on site, was also turned down. A third application for defence lawyers and their experts to access the construction site, was allowed under strict court and police supervision as well as in line with court-imposed conditions.
During Thursday’s hearing, two district officers, PC Christian Mercieca and PC Christian Gauci, gave witness accounts of the moments shortly after the building collapse.
One policeman described the “great panic” as they reached the scene, where they came across a construction truck, engine still running and driver door open.
Various cars were buried under the rubble, while a bucket excavator and a hydraulic excavator could also be spotted.
After being warned by a superior officer to move away from the site, for fear of crumbling masonry, the policemen had helped evacuate neighbours, while assisting the victim’s husband who had rushed to the scene.
Among the cars destroyed in the incident was an electric vehicle worth €12,132.
Company owner Karl Farrugia Wismayer testified that the car had been garaged in third-party premises underlying the Pace family home and that, after the incident, he had received a report attesting that the car was “a total loss”.
Grace Sammut, one of the neighbours, explained how her family had been forced out of their home and had not yet moved back, except for a brief while two days after the tragedy, when they were allowed to collect a few personal possessions.
Their house had suffered damages to various parts of the walls, bathrooms and roof, the witness said.
I witnessed a scene I never wish to see again
Another neighbour, David Zerafa, recalled that fateful afternoon when a call from his wife, urging him to “come quickly” had sent him rushing all the way from Żabbar to Ħamrun.
He was shocked by the scene.
“I witnessed a scene I never wish to see again,” said the witness, visibly shaken as he recalled how both his wife and Miriam Pace had feared the works next door.
Now, not only had his family not yet returned to their home, which had been certified as structurally unsafe, but they were facing rental problems at their alternative accommodation and his wife was still struggling with psychological problems.
The court is to hold an on-site visit before the next hearing later this month.
The case continues.
Inspectors Robert Vella and Matthew Galea are prosecuting. Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Alfred Abela are counsel to the architects. Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are counsel to Spiteri. Lawyers Michael Sciriha, Roberto Montalto, Lucio Sciriha and Franco Galea are counsel to Dimech. The Pace family were represented in court by lawyers Joe Giglio and David Bonello. Lawyer Stefano Filletti is assisting other neighbours.
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