The Malta Independent 20 January 2020, Monday

Love? What we are seeing here is contempt

Daphne Caruana Galizia Sunday, 13 April 2014, 11:01 Last update: about 7 years ago

On the scale of giant whoppers told by Erin Tanti to the police in the aftermath of that terrible business at Dingli Cliffs, his declaration that he loved his 15-yearold pupil must be ranked topmost. How many times have we heard this sort of thing in trials for the murder and ill-treatment of girls and women?

“I loved her, but I had to kill her.”

“I loved her, but she drove me to it.”

“I loved her, but she was too much sometimes, and I couldn’t help myself.”

“I loved her, but enough was enough and so I thought I’d get rid of the problem, then get away.”

Love, my eye: it is impossible for a man of 23 to love a schoolgirl unless she is his sister and then it’s an entirely different sort of love to the one he would have us believe he felt for the girl he helped to her death. Yes, it is perfectly possible for a man of a certain psyche to become physically and emotionally fixated on a schoolgirl, but that’s anything but love. That’s akin to nicotine addiction, to heroin addiction – a fixation that keeps you coming back for more, but the only element present is craving. Just as the addict doesn’t love and care for his cigarettes or his heroin as they are things, so the grown man doesn’t love or care for the schoolgirl with whom he is embroiled. Let’s face it: if he did, he would not be with her in the first place.

But I don’t even think Erin Tanti went down the road of fixation or obsession. Though he may well have the Humbert Humbert psyche, his was not Humbert Humbert’s obsession with Lolita. The only way I can interpret the facts as they are listed in court, in the context of other information about Tanti which is widely available on the internet through his myriad selfpublicising gestures, is that he didn’t care about Lisa Marie Zahra at all.

It might have amused him for a while to be dallying with somebody who found him interesting where so many of his contemporaries did not, and there is a strong likelihood that he got a kick out of seeing the daughter of a well-known businessman, who has been much in the news of late and seated next to the Prime Minister, behind that well-known businessman’s back. Yes, there are people like that – men who enjoy going behind the backs of other men they envy, either with their daughters or with their wives, and women who do the same, making a play for the husbands, boyfriends or companions of women whose lives they wish they had.

Buying packets of aspirin for a 15-year-old girl and then telling the police how she downed 42 of them with whisky which you also gave her, after you took her to the cliffs at night for the purpose of jumping off them, is not an act of love. It is an act of hate, of the grossest contempt. Love does not include the desire to destroy the person one loves – that perverse emotion is something else. In our younger years, many of us don’t know this. We do not read ill-treatment for what it is, or know instinctively that any ill-treatment is a wakeup call to the absence of love. But that is something most of us learn with the passing of years and more experience of life.

I haven’t taken it for granted that Lisa Marie Zahra downed those 42 pills as Erin Tanti said she did. She might have done, and she might not have done. He seems to be lying through his back teeth on so many counts that this might be just one more. I prefer to rely on any evidence which might emerge in court in the form of a report by a forensic pathologist.

It occurred to me suddenly as I was writing this, and reviewing what was said in court over the last few days, that we have an exact parallel for what Erin Tanti did or hoped to do to Miss Zahra in a more mundane aspect of life in Malta. When people here got sick and tired of their dogs (they loved them but then they couldn’t cope etc…), they routinely chucked them off the cliffs. It probably still happens rather a lot. It’s just that you’d never find a dog thrown off Dingli Cliffs in the way you would find one shot in Wied il-Ghasel and left behind, or half-buried while still alive. Using the cliffs to get rid of an inconvenience is a time-honoured Maltese practice: stolen cars, unwanted pets, even a wife or two have been thrown off cliffs. Erin Tanti desperately wanted to be seen as a cut above the rest. In the end, he proved himself no better than the sort of lowbrow individual who ties his dog up in a sack and flings it off Dingli Cliffs, and because his victim (whether he pushed her or she jumped, he still took her there to do it) was a girl, it makes him so very much worse.

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