The Malta Independent 26 May 2019, Sunday

Updated - St Publius Arch fire: CCTV footage leads police to arrest suspect, court told

Thursday, 16 May 2019, 07:45 Last update: about 9 days ago

A man from Valletta has been charged with arson in connection with the fire that consumed a historical arch in Floriana.

The 120-year-old festive arch in Floriana was reduced to cinders last month, after it was intentionally set on fire.

Inspector Saviour Baldacchino told magistrate Audrey Demicoli that footage from over 50 CCTV cameras were examined. This led to the identification of the car’s numberplate and then, the owner. The car’s route to the crime scene was very particular and this matched up perfectly with the mobile phone data. The man’s stature was the same.

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33-year-old taxi driver Bjorn Grima from Valletta was subsequently arrested and charged with arson.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Lawyer Franco Debono said that the man in the footage could not be identified. The identification was made on the basis of the numberplate and phone localisation data, said the inspector. But the police had not established who was driving, suggested Debono. The inspector said that the car keys and mobile phone were found in the man’s possession.

Neither had the police established that the man’s phone had been on his person at the time of the commission of the crime, suggested the lawyer, but the inspector adamantly insisted that the police were certain they had the right man.

Inspector Jeffrey Scicluna objected to bail due to the gravity of the crime and due to the possibility of him tampering with witness evidence, as well as the criminal character of the accused.

Lawyer Franco Debono made lengthy submissions on bail, arguing that the law imposed conditions to ensure that the accused appeared for sittings. “Otherwise the presumption of innocence is pointless,” said the lawyer. Even if found guilty and having filed a pending appeal, the accused is not incarcerated, argued Debono, saying that his was even more relevant upon arraignment.

The court, after deliberating for some time, granted the man bail against a deposit of €7,000 and a personal guarantee of €7,000

 

Lawyers Franco Debono, Amadeus Cachia and Marion Camilleri were defence counsel.

***

Earlier

The police have arrested a man in connection with the fire that destroyed the St Publius Arch in Floriana a few weeks ago.

The man, aged 33 of Valletta, is expected to be charged today.

The fire on 27 April had destroyed the iconic arch as well as a number of cars that were parked in the vicinity.

The wooden arch dated back to 1899.

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