The Malta Independent 23 February 2020, Sunday

Hugo Chetcuti murder court sitting held under heightened security

Wednesday, 7 November 2018, 17:58 Last update: about 2 years ago

A former manager of the man accused of fatally stabbing Hugo Chetcuti has told the court that he had fired him for breaching company policy on language.

Bojan Cmelik, a Serbian national, is accused of stabbing Hugo Chetcuti to death at one of his outlets.

Wednesday’s sitting took place with heightened security, armed guards, metal detectors and all public and press having to sign a register.

Before the sitting began, the court, referring to the incident in the sitting of the 26 October, said that only authorised persons could be present for these proceedings. Aside from journalists, two relatives of the accused and two of the deceased are allowed to attend the sitting. Nobody was allowed to leave the courtroom without the permission of the court.

Noel Falzon was summoned to the witness stand again. The last sitting had ended prematurely after Falzon had launched into a tirade of verbal abuse aimed at the accused.

Cmelik had started his employment with Hugos in February 2017 and finished in September 2017. “At first he started as a bar helper, then we trained him as a bartender and then he started serving people as a bartender.”
“In Bacco we had a rule of either speaking English or Maltese because we don’t speak Serbian…one particular reason I fired him was because he came with this attitude of ‘I will speak Serbian if I want to.’” Falzon said he had fired Cmelik himself, in person.

“He came for his wages, took them and left. That was the last time I saw him before the murder.”

Dylan Mallia, at the time Operations Manager of Hugo’s Terrace also testified. Cmelik was employed with the company as a bar helper he said. He was fired because he didn’t show up for work. “It was my decision,” Mallia said.

The court asked why he was fired. “He was supposed to come to work for New Year’s Eve but didn’t show up.” Mallia had fired him himself, he said. 

Another witness, Hotel Manager Caroline Barbara, told magistrate MarseAnne Farrugia how on the night they had been sampling a menu at Hugo’s new seafood restaurant. “We were having a cigarette outside…I see this tall man sort of hugging Mr. Chetcuti. All of a sudden he went running up the stairs…Mr. Chetcuti came towards me and told me ‘I got stabbed’, pulled up his shirt and showed me his wound.”

Earlier that day at around 1445hrs, she had seen a man with a big hat in the lobby. “What I remember and this is why I looked twice at the man, was that he was wearing a large sun hat. The colour I believe was beige or khaki. That was the first time I ever saw him,” she said of the accused.

A former police constable who participated in Cmelik’s arrest told the court how police cars had searched the Sliema and Balluta area for the suspect. Isaac Chetcuti had given him a description of the man who had stabbed Hugo Chetcuti, he said. He had started to patrol the area on foot with two other officers. “All of a sudden I saw a group of students on the beach near a tower on the Sliema promenade…they were having a BBQ. I noticed a guy who matched the description Isaac Chetcuti had given us.”

“I was going down the steps and I told a sergeant ‘I think this is our guy’…when I pointed him out, and I was pointing directly at him, he wasn’t the centre of the group but the last on the left, he stood up. I confirmed 100%. He made it easier for us. He started moving. I told him ‘stop this is the police, can I talk to you’ he started running.”

 The police officer said he had given the suspect a specific order to stop. “I think I gave it three times. Three to four times, I don’t remember. He continued to run…”

“What I remember for sure is that he ran. He ran a lot and it was difficult [to catch him]”

The accused eluded the pursuing officers and informed their colleagues. The chase continued in the Chalet area. His sergeant, travelling in an RIU car, had also lost the accused.

The officer stopped a passing police car, at which point he received a call to inform him that Cmelik had been arrested and so returned to the St. Julian’s police station.

“We removed his clothes to preserve evidence at the St. Julians police station. Then we went to the Floriana health centre, where he was certified by a doctor.” He was subsequently called to Mater Dei Hospital to meet a court expert.

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