The Malta Independent 19 September 2020, Saturday

Court rejects self-defence claim in stabbing case, hands down suspended sentence

Neil Camilleri Thursday, 28 April 2016, 15:58 Last update: about 5 years ago

A 40-year-old man from Birkirkara has been handed a suspended sentence after being found guilty of stabbing his flatmate in 2012.

London-born Neil Andrew Vella had originally been charged with attempted murder but that charge was dropped during the proceedings.

Mr Vella was also accused of grievously injuring Sandro Mifsud and being in possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime.

The two men had argued over missing cash on 12 November 2012. A court heard how Mr Vella had been living with Mr Mifsud for several months. A fight broke out when Mr Vella found that €45 had gone missing from his wallet and claimed that the money was stolen by either Mr Vella or another flatmate, Fabian Sciriha.

Inspector Elton Taliana said he had found several pools of blood inside the apartment. Mr Vella had claimed that Mr Mifsud would steal his unemployment benefits and mistreated him. He also claimed that Mifsud kept a ledger listing the money owed to him by the accused.

Mr Mifsud told Magistrate Josette Demicoli that he could not remember the incident as he was on methadone at the time. He only remembered suffering a blow to the back of his head and falling unconscious. Mr Mifsud said, however, that he had forgiven Mr Vella.

Fabian Sciriha had told the police that Vella and Mifsud had argued on the day before the incident. He said that, on the day of the incident, he was woken up by shouting coming from the adjacent room. He said he had seen the accused stab Mr Mifsud. The accused was holding a pair of scissors and a knife. The witness said he had dragged Mr Mifsud, who was covered in blood, out of the room.

Mr Vella said Mr Mifsud had sent him to buy tobacco. He went back to the apartment with two cigarettes and no change. Mr Mifsud sent him back to the shop for the money he had left behind. When he came back he found Mifsud waiting for him with the knife and scissors.

The accused said he head-butted Mr Mifsud, who dropped the knife. Mr Vella then stabbed his flatmate out of fear that he (Mifsud) would fetch a revolver from his room.

But the court heard that only Vella’s fingerprints were found on the knife.

Lawyer Lucio Sciriha, appearing for Mr Vella, said the accused had acted in self-defence. The court, however, said the lack of Mifsud’s fingerprints on the knife indicated otherwise.

The court also rejected claims that Mr Vella had acted in a state of mental agitation.

Mr Vella was found guilty of grievous bodily harm using a weapon.

Dr Sciriha pointed out that his client was a reformed drug addict who has since found a job and started a family. Mr Mifsud had also forgiven the accused.

Noting that an effective prison sentence would not be productive, the Magistrate abstained from passing judgement on the attempted murder and knife possession charge.

Mr Vella was handed a two-year prison sentence, which was suspended for four years. He was also ordered to pay €6,000 in court fees.

Inspectors Elton Taliana and Priscilla Caruana Lee prosecuted. 

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