The Malta Independent 5 June 2023, Monday
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Autopsy confirms Sliema murder victim was raped and strangled - report

Monday, 3 January 2022, 19:15 Last update: about 2 years ago

An autopsy has confirmed that Sliema murder victim Paulina Dembska was raped and strangled, TVM has reported.  

Dembska was found dead in Sliema’s Independence Garden early on Sunday morning. She had wounds to her chest and head. The police had not ruled out that the woman was sexually assaulted.

The youth suspected of murdering the Polish woman told investigators that he was taken over by the Devil. The eerie confession forced the police to suspend the interrogation and hand over the suspect for a psychiatric evaluation. He was yesterday being held at Mount Carmel Hospital.


Abner Aquilina, 20, from Zejtun, was arrested after he ran into the Carmelite church in Balluta, where he caused a scene and reportedly told some churchgoers what he had just done.

Not much is known about Aquilina, who has a very limited presence on social media. It is understood, however, that he has a history of mental health and drug problems and had some brushes with the law as a teenager.

According to multiple reports, Aquilina told police over the course of investigations that he was “doing God’s work” but that the devil had entered his thoughts at the time of the attack.

Police sources told this newspaper that the police will only be able to arraign him once he is released from the mental health hospital. Even then, experts acting as part of the magisterial inquiry could decide that he is mentally unfit to be charged.

The sources explained that, while the interrogation has been suspended, investigations are ongoing. Investigators have been poring over footage taken from CCTV cameras located close to the crime scene. Meanwhile, an autopsy as well as DNA and other blood tests are being carried out.

One source said it is clear that Aquilina was not in a “normal state of mind” when the incident occurred, but investigators must now determine whether he was under the influence of any substance or whether he was having a psychotic episode.

Police sources meanwhile dismissed claims that Aquilina had tried to kill a second woman. The claims were made in an audio clip that went viral on social media. In the clip, a man can be heard saying that the suspect, after killing Dembska, assaulted a second woman and undressed her, but was stopped from killing her after she ran into the church. Sources said this was untrue and there were no other people involved.

It also emerged yesterday that Aquilina was previously linked to the River of Love sect.

In comments to a section of the media, River of Love distanced itself from the suspect.

Speaking to MaltaToday, River of Love pastor Gordon Manche said that they do not know anything about him and that he was not a part of the River of Love Community. “New people walk-ins come all the time, and just like every church we don’t control who visits.”

"We pray for the victim's family and that things will be done with utmost integrity from every side," Manche told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, several women have claimed that they had been harassed by Aquilina in the past, in what were described as misogynistic comments.

Dembska was living in a hostel in Sliema and was in Malta as a student. She had posted glowing reviews about Malta on her social media profile, and was also an advocate in favour of women's rights against domestic and sexual abuse.  She also frequently fed the cat colony which lived in the same gardens where she was found murdered.

A vigil in Dembksa’s will be held near Independence Garden on Tuesday evening at 6pm.




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