The Malta Independent 18 May 2021, Tuesday

Daphne's murder: Sound of 2 explosions could have been detonator going off, followed by main charge

Helena Grech Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 08:06 Last update: about 5 years ago

An eyewitness who said he heard two explosions, with seconds of each other, during the tragic murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia could have heard the detonator going off, followed by the main explosion, according to retired forensic expert Dr Anthony Abela Medici.

Malta was stopped in its tracks on Monday afternoon upon hearing the news that the island’s most controversial journalist and blogger was executed in a car bomb attack. It went off just metres down from her residence in Bidnija. Caruana Galizia was on her way out to run errands.


An eye-witness, Frans Sant, was driving up the Bidnija road when he saw a car approaching. He told The Malta Independent how he saw a car approaching, and saw a small explosion inside the car.

This led him to stop his own car. In the meantime, he said, within the next four seconds a second explosion took place. “It was a horrible experience,” he said.

Sant said that the car continue to roll down the road, missing his own vehicle by a few metres, before it stopped in the field.

The Malta Independent contacted Abela Medici (above, file photo) to gauge what his initial thoughts were as an expert in explosives. He was asked about a possible explanation for the double blasts, and whether two separate bombs could have been placed in the car.

“It depends on the terrain because the effect of sound ricocheting is possible in certain scenarios.

“Secondly, it is also possible that the man heard the detonator go off, which then activates the main explosive charge. Normally, they would be so close together that one would not differentiate between the two sounds, so this is the only reason I can think of for two separate explosion sounds being heard.”

“I think it is unlikely that there were two separate explosive devices. Otherwise, it is possible that there was a device inside the car, and then one underneath it, with the second one being triggered, causing the one inside the car to go off. These are all possibilities which would have to be determined by on-the-ground investigations.”

Abela Medici believes the bomb could have been placed beneath the vehicle, judging by the size of the crater, as shown in news pictures.

Turning to the issue of how it was detonated, Abela Medici explained that any military-grade explosives cannot be detonated using a match-like pyrotechnic explosives, but rather it would be hooked up to an electrical system, which is in turn connected to a ‘switching device’ such as a mobile phone.

“Without a doubt, the explosion was very big. The explosives used could have either been commercial, such as pyrotechnical ones or those used for quarries. This however would have required a large amount of explosives, which I think is unlikely as she would have realised that some large foreign object was stuck to the car.

“It could have also been military explosive such as ‘Semtex’, which is a plastic explosive. If the culprit could not get it inside the car, then it was likely placed underneath the car on the driver’s side. If they had access to the car, possibly by breaking in, the charge would have most likely been placed underneath the driver’s seat, making it very hard to notice.”

The forensic expert noted that any military-grade exlosives would have had to be brought from abroad.


Former police commissioner John Rizzo

Addressing claims that organised crime may have been involved, former Police Commissioner Rizzo stressed that it is too early to jump to conclusions on the motivations behind the attack, saying that it was important to establish the true motive in order to find the culprit.

He noted the similarities between the bombs that have been taking place since the start of 2016, six including the latest attack, saying that it appears mobile detonated explosives are being used.

Rizzo said that it was likely that only a few people could construct such a bomb. Instructions can be obtained online but building such a device would still require a certain degree of skill.


Scene of the crime

At the scene of the crime, a tent has been erected to shield the charred wreckage of the car, while sheets were used to cover up the body parts until all forensic teams are present.

In the Bidnija village square, just a short drive away from the scene of the brutal crime, the atmosphere was still, with hardly anyone in sight. The main road from Mosta is closed off to the public. 

A woman recalled how she was out when the incident happened, and came back to the village to hear the devastating news. Another shopkeeper in the vicinity recalled how he did not hear any noise yesterday, when the explosion happened, despite being located nearby. 

"I have known Daphne ever since she moved to the town, and watched her children grow up," a shopkeeper told this newspaper, his tone becoming more sombre. He described the incident as "macabre" and expressed that he was affected by what happened. 



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