The Malta Independent 19 September 2019, Thursday

Daphne’s murder - rental car was not used by anyone else on day of incident

Helena Grech Wednesday, 20 December 2017, 10:06 Last update: about 3 years ago

The compilation of evidence in the case against three men accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continues this morning.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is presiding over the case.

Vince Muscat, George Degiorgio and his brother Alfred Degiorgio are charged with the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The three have pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them.

Legal aid Martin Fenech is assisting Vince Muscat.

Lawyers William Cuschieri and Martha Muscat are representing Alfred Degiorgio.

Legal Aid Josette Sultana is assisting George Degiorgio.

Prosecution is led by Deputy Attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia and Inspector Keith Arnaud.

Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are parte civile.

Caruana Galzia finished testifying. The case will continue to be heard tomorrow at 10am.

2.39pm: He said that Duty Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera has summoned Economy Minister Chris Cardona, OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Neville Gafa to testify, but their testimony was not heard as the magistrate was replaced with magistrate Anthony Vella.

He said that his wife used to use a cheque book since her bank accounts were frozen. He also said that Matthew, his son, would frequently use the leased car when he was in Malta, but added the car was mostly used by his wife since their son lived abroad.

2.36pm: Peter Caruana Galizia indicated on a map where the rental car was parked up until the incident took place.

2.29pm: He described finding police, bomb disposal unit, fire engines and more. They began to ask what happened when they saw all the confusion. They spoke with Inspector Zahra, and Peter told the inspector where the car had been parked.

2.28pm: He noticed that his son Matthew tried to call him. At around 3pm their son Andrew came to his office as he also worked in Valletta. Peter Caruana Galizia said that Andrew did not look alright, that he was white as a paper. Andrew told his father that they have to go home, that Matthew had called him and heard a bomb but that the pair did not know what happened at first. They arrived at Bidnija at around 3.30pm

2.25pm: He said that Matthew informed his parents that he was not feeling well and he drove the rental car back home. Peter and his wife ran errands and went about their day. On Monday morning, Peter testified to leaving the house for work.

He said that his phone was on silent most of the day because he was with clients.

2.22pm: Peter Caruana Galizia took the stand.

He testified to being married to the victim since 1985. He said that on the weekend he usually enjoys bike rides with a group of friends. The day before the murder, Daphne, her husband and their son Matthew agreed to meet their other son in Floriana.

The agreement was that Matthew would take the rental Peugeot and Daphne would get a ride with her husband Peter.

2.19pm: Vince Muscat only replied questions about personal details, he said, while adding that George Degiorgio did not utter a word throughout interrogations.

The three suspects seemed to listen attentively when prosecuting inspector asked prosecuting Kurt Zahra questions about his testimony.

2.16pm:  Zahra described how the searches were not limited to the warehouse, and described searching George and Alfred's boats. Zahra said that Alfred Degiorgio replied to each question "I will not reply".

2.12pm: Zahra said that no sign of her laptop was found at the scene of the explosion. Matthew Caruana Galizia could not confirm if his mother had left the house with her laptop on the day of the murder.

Zahra then desribed being at the Marsa warehouse where the three men were arrested.

2.10pm: Another eyewitness came forward, who was coming from the direction of Bidnija towards Mosta and was driving behind the victim, and described the same version of events that Frans Sant did.

Zahra described his conversations with Peter Caruana Galizia, where he was told that Daphne did not have a fixed routine and enjoyed working in different places.

2.02pm: He said that in June, Caruana Galizia was involved in a bumper-to-bumper accident. The rental car was not repaired on the spot.  He said that a third brother at the car rental company told police that she would be travelling on 16 September, and that the company was to visit the Bidnija residence and pick up the car.

Zahra described how the car keys were deposited by mistake a few doors away from the mechanic who was to repair the vehicle.

1.59pm: The inspector said that a car rental company representative said that Caruana Galizia had been renting a car since February. This car was replaced in June because the victim intended to enter into a five year lease, and a new car is always ordered in such cases. The representative said that spare keys are kept by the company, specifically by the representative’s brother, he said. Police were told that many clients enter the area where the spare keys are kept, and CCTV was therefore checked.

1.57pm: On 21 October, the PM had announced a million Euro reward who has information which could lead to the conviction of the person/s behind the murder. Zahra described the setting up of a dedicated telephone-line for this purposes. He also said that all information is logged and stored. He said that all information received is filtered to ascertain legitimacy.

1.55pm: Matthew Caruana Galizia had told the police that he had taken the car to Exiles on 15 October and went back home to Bidnija at around 6pm, the inspector said. He parked the vehicle outside of the drive in and on the street.

Zahra told the court that a number of exercises were carried out with CCTV surrounding the Bidnija area. He said that police lifted dashcams and other footage from people known to drive through the area of Bidnija.

1.52pm: The three men accused of the murder look visibly bored by the proceedings. Zahra said that Matthew Caruana Galizia told him that he was making use of his mother's leased car the day before the murder, on 15 October. The rental car had not been used on the day of the murder before the victim drove it.

1.51pm: A task force was set up in order to identify this vehicle, he told the court.

Zahra also spoke of the Targa Battery vantage point.: Zahra described how the duty magistrate of the day was magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera who however recused herself and was replaced by magistrate Anthony Vella.

1.49pm: The inspector said that Sant told the police he heard a first explosion, and saw a female person inside the car panic, and that seconds later a second much larger explosion occurred, which is when the car went up in flames.

An eyewitness had spoken to the police about seeing a car with a small company sticker on the back which could have been leased, he said. The eyewitness said that this car had been spotted in the area for the last three weeks.

He said that a woman had told the police that the car was still there at around 2.30pm on the day of the murder.

1.48pm: Zahra said he calmed the situation. The victim's sister, Corinne Vella was also on the scene and later on the victim's husband - Peter Caruana Galizia - arrived.

Zahra testified to giving instructions to police to canvass the area, meaning that police had to speak to any and every person that could have seen or heard something. Police identified a person named Frans Sant who was driving in the opposite direction to that of Caruana Galizia's car.

1.47pm: Zahra spoke of an argument between Matthew Caruana Galizia and Mario Vella, a resident on the scene. An argument ensued when Matthew said that Vella had taken images of the wrecked scene. He said that this led Matthew Caruana Galizia to smash his phone on the ground and the pair came to blows.

1.44pm: Zahra said that Matthew Caruana Galizia was first on the scene, and that Zahra had spoken to him following the incident. He corroborated inspector Arnaud's testimony where they described how Daphne Caruana Galizia left home, came back to pick up her cheque book and left home again. He said that when Matthew Caruana Galizia heard an explosion, he ran outside and noticed the rental car's hub caps on the ground.

1.42pm: He described finding scorch marks in the adjacent fields, the burnt car and charred remains of the victim. The car in question had been rented out on 18 June 2017, a rental car representative confirmed, he said. Police were told that the victim had been leasing cars from the same company since February 2017..

1.39pm: The accused have been brought back into the room and the case continued. The testimony of prosecuting inspector Kurt Zahra began.

Zahra described how he was informed of the car bomb, and that he immediately went on the scene. District police were already on site under the leadership of assistant commissioner martin Sammut.

12:34pm: The court is adjourned for one hour.

12:33pm: When the evidence was being presented against the accused, neither of the men batted an eyelid. Upon the discussion of their conditions while being remanded in custody, the three are seen discussing, gesticulating and calling their defence lawyers to inform them of certain arguments. Alfred Degiorgio could be heard threatening that he will not eat and drink from today. The three are being held in solitary confinement.

12:31pm: Galea Farrugia said the prisoners conditions are being kept well within the parameters stipulated by international laws. George Degiorgio looked shocked and frustrated at the prosecutions claims that the men are being kept in conditions well within the parameters outlined by human rights law.

12:30pm: Cuschieri said that this was the case to such an extent that an inspector on the scene during their arrest commented "were you expecting us?"

12:29pm: The magistrate clarified that the issue is not a single room, but that they do not have enough air and the claim that they are being kept in inhumane conditions. Cuschieri reminded the court that from the moment the suspects were arrested, they have not caused any trouble. Cuschieri said that this was the case to such an extent that an inspector on the scene during their arrest commented "were you expecting us?"

12:28pm: Deputy AG Philip Galea Farrugia said that one of the key conditions was that the three men could not make contact with each other. He said the fact that they are being kept in three separate rooms is actually an improved condition compared to other suspects.

12:27pm: Legal aid lawyer Josette Sultana argued that the accused should be kept in the same conditions that other persons accused of crimes are kept in, and should not be treated any differently.

12.25pm: The press were allowed back in.  Lawyer WIlliam Cuschieri, representing Alfred Degiorgio, is arguing about the conditions which his client is being kept in while being remanded in custody at the Corradino Correctional Facility. Cuschieri argued that they have been left in inappropriate conditions.

 

11.58am: Press have been asked to leave the room while the director of prisons testifies on the issue raised claiming that the accused are being kept in inhumane conditions.

11.55am: Mariella Camilleri, director of prisons, is currently waiting to deliver testimony on the issue inside the courtroom.

11.54am: Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit will now hear submissions on an issue raised by the defence about the conditions of the jail cell the accused are staying in. The prosecution would like the media to leave for this section saying that it is not in the public interest. Defence lawyers are pushing for this not to be left out of the public domain, saying there is no need to say where exactly, as in which prison cells the accused are being kept in.

11.51am: Cross-examination of Keith Arnaud is reserved to a later stage.

11.48am: Inspector Kurt Zahra asked Arnaud to confirm if there were any other calls or text messages coming from George Degiorgio's personal phone on the day of the murder, which he did. Arnaud also said that there were text messages about 'going fishing', and Arnaud also described the text message George Degiorgio sent to his partner asking her to open a bottle of wine.

11.47am: Arnaud presented a graphical representation of the 'GSM Module' used on the bomb as the trigger. In fact, the antenna of this module was found at the scene of the crime.

11.44am: Arnaud exhibited photos of the pleasure boats.

11.42am: Arnaud said that he confronted the three men with the evidence lifted by the police. No answers or explanation were given. They were each asked why they killed Daphne Caruana Galizia by the police during the course of interrogations, however none of the three men provided an answer.

11.38am: Arnaud said the three men arrested refused to have legal counsel for police interrogations, which were filmed and recorded. The three declined to answer any questions.

11.37am: On 5 December (the day after the three suspects were arrested) police began to interrogate third persons who could be possibly linked to the accused. One of the people they spoke to were found to have been the person who sent phone credit to George Muscat.

11.34am: The Maya, a pleasure boat registered to Alfred Degiorgio was searched and towed. The same happened for George Degiorgio's boat, called 'Ducu'.

11.32am: The vehicles were towed to the police headquarters and then to the police compound in St Andrew's. The car belonging to Vincent Muscat was found in Msida.

11.30am: Arnaud said that outside the warehouse two cars were found, a Mercedes and an Audi. The keys were found and the two cars were registered to George and Alfred Degiorgio.

11.27am: Three mobile phones were found under water, one of which was the personal number of Vince Muscat, and the two other phones belonged to George Degiorgio.

11.24am: George Degiorgio had a mobile number written on his wrist, the court heard. The Marsa warehuse where the suspects were apprehended was dusted for fingerprints and other forensic and DNA testing took place. The three accused men were present for the entire duration of the sweep of the area. Arnaud said that they were allowed to smoke but had to exit a tent (tinda) on the wharf so as not to contaminate any forensic testing. He spoke of an AFM sweep of the sea surrounding the Marsa warehouse.

11.21am: Arnaud said that where Vince Muscat was found, at the Marsa wharf, a blue Nokia 105 mobile phone was lifted. The phone's cover was open, the battery had been removed and so was the sim card. Police believe this to be the mobile being used by Alfred Degiorgio. The personal mobile registered to George Degiorgio has so far not been found.

11.19am: Searches in a garage in Zebbug also took place. Arnaud told the court of his presence at Marsa when the three men were apprehended.

11.18am: Arnaud described the process which led to the arrest of the three men. The three men were not allowed near their personal residences in order to prevent any tampering with the evidence.

11.15am: Arnaud said that there were similar dates where it was found that the mobile of Vince Muscat had been in Bidnija. Police acquired data on 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 October were all days Alfred Degiorgio's mobile phone was located in Bidnija, as well as on the day of the murder, 16 October.

11.12am: Arnaud said that on multiple occasions preceding the murder were described in court where Alfred Degiorgio's personal mobile together with one of the suspicious numbers were found to be in Bidnija. This would indicate that Caruana Galizia was being watched for some time before her brutal murder.

11.10am: The personal mobile of Alfred Degiorgio located him at Mgarr at 15.35 on the day of the murder.

11.07am: On 13 October, the three suspicious phones were found to be together. On the day of the murder, two of the numbers were in Bidnija, together with the personal mobile phones of Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat. The third suspicious number and the personal number of George Degiorgio was not located in Bidnija.

11.04m: The three accused men do not appear to be concerned with the evidence being described in court. Vince Muscat is preoccupied with cleaning his fingernails.

11am: Arnaud continued to describe technical details of cell towers and the kind of data extracted in relation to the three suspicious phone numbers. Police carried out analysis on the personal mobiles of the three suspects. He said that when comparing their personal phone activity with the activity of the three suspicious numbers, they matched up perfectly.

10.56am: After 3pm, two of the phones had become inactive. One of them however remained switched on till about 4pm, and was picked up by a cell tower that covers the potato shed in Marsa (where the suspects were arrested two months later). Prior to the potato shed, it was located to be at the Grand Harbour. This is corroborated with CCTV footage showing Alfred Degiorgio on his pleasure boat.

10.54am: The police believe that the spotter called the mobile out at sea to say that she had exited the house. After she returned to her residence to get her cheque book, a second call, a longer call, was made to say that she had returned to the house. It is believed that the spotter stayed on the line and the person who detonated the bomb also heard it live.

10.52am: The call at 2.55pm lasted 45 seconds, while the second call lasted some 100 seconds. Arnaud said that if you add up the seconds of the calls, it can be deduced that the explosion was heard live on the phone. Arnaud explained that this makes sense with what the victim's son said because Daphne Caruana Galizia had returned home to collect her cheque book.

10.49am: At 2am on the morning of the murder, when the mobile that is believed to have detonated the bomb was switched on, this other mobile was switched on some minutes later and was also located in Bidnija. Arnaud described two 'interesting' calls which were made at 2.55pm and 2.58pm on the day of the murder. He said this was found interesting because it corroborates with what Matthew Caruana Galizia described.

10.45am: A third number was described to have been in the vicinity of the other mobile which is believed to have set off the bomb. This number was active all day on the day of the murder and was active some five minutes before the bomb went off. The three suspicious phones were all activated within 20 minutes of each other.

10.40am: Arnaud said that one of the mobile numbers used to belong to a third person, this mobile number was no longer associated with this person and was made available to Vodafone again to sell to customers, which it was then sold and used in this case. Efforts to find who the mobile number belonged to are ongoing.

10.38am: Arnaud presented to the court two sheets produced by the police in order to simplify what is described in the call-profiles.

10.37am: Arnaud continued to describe technical information related to the two mobile numbers. The other mobile phone, not the one located in Bidnija, was switched on on 13 October in Hamrun. This mobile phone was found to have sent a text message on the date and time of the murder. Cell towers indicated that this mobile which sent the message had been out at sea.

10.34am: One mobile had been switched on at around 2am in the morning, located in Bidnija. Every hour it continued to show the mobile's location, which was Bidnija. At 2.58pm on 16 October, the day of the brutal murder, it had received contact and then went off the grid.

10.32am: Arnaud highlighted details of the call profiles, showing how one SIM card was used in three different mobiles. The profile also shows every text or message one sends/receives or attempts to send/receive in association with the particular phone numbers. Dates are also listed to show when such activity took place.

10.28am: Arnaud continued to describe print-outs of call profiles of the two 'suspicious' numbers used to activate the bomb.

10.26am: Arnaud is explaining to the court technical details about the cell towers, where he described the difference between a 'sector' and a 'cell ID' associated with the towers.

10.25am: Yesterday, Arnaud said that it is believed that a mobile phone was used to detonate the device. Images of a Bidnija Vodafone cell tower were exhibited. He reminded the court that the two suspicious mobile numbers were Vodafone.

10.22am: He repeated yesterday's testimony about how when the police extracted information from local cell towers two telephone numbers were found to be of interest. SMSs had been sent to each other, and the two mobile numbers were not found to have placed any calls.

10.21am: The court heard how in the soil around the crime scene a mobile phone was found. It was burnt up and examinations took place to try and extract any form of useful information. Arnaud said the crater of the explosion was not very large but it indicated where the explosion took place.

10.20am: He said the explosive was most likely placed underneath the driver's seat and not under the car. The court experts, crime scene officers and other authorities concluded as such.

10.18am: Arnaud described how apart from taken images from the vantage point, images were also taken from the victim's front gate of Targa Battery in order to portray the clear line of site.

10.16am: Arnaud exhibits images from the Targa Battery vantage point taken by his mobile phone.

10.14am: The photos exhibited show the residence of the victim, the crime scene, where the rental car was parked the night before the murder, the site where the explosion took place and the site where the car ended up after the explosion took place were all indicated in the Google Earth images. In addition, the location of the relatively fresh looking cigarette butt on the vantage point known as it-Targa Battery was indicated through the Google Earth images.

10.12am: Inspector Keith Arnaud took the stand to continue his testimony, armed with copies of documents being presented to the courts in order for the defence lawyers to follow. He exhibited nine photos that are snap shots of Google Earth.

10.11am: Following the marathon court hearing yesterday, the suspects appear to be in relatively high spirits, with George Degiorgio even cracking a smile at his defence team.

10.10am: The accused have been brought into the court room.

Accused have not spoken a word since arraignment

Police still investigating seven men

Murder plot hatched two months before

Three suspects plead not guilty

Magistrate recuses herself from hearing case

Second magistrate recuses herself

Compilation of evidence begins

  • don't miss