The Malta Independent 30 September 2022, Friday
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Qormi valley murder: Woman says accused needed drug money night before murder

Tuesday, 20 September 2022, 17:58 Last update: about 9 days ago

Murder suspect Eliott Paul Busuttil was agitated and in need of money to buy drugs the night before he murdered Mario Farrugia, a Romanian woman has testified.

When the woman testified last May, she had explained that she was in Attard around 10:30pm on 28 March at Busuttil's house, visiting his brother Glenn, whom she had described as a "close friend." 

The woman was testifying in the compilation of evidence against Busuttil, 38, who stands accused of the murder of 62-year-old Mario Farrugia.  Farrugia's body was discovered inside the trunk of his own car in a Qormi valley on 5 April this year.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Ishmael Psaila, the woman, who used to work at a gentleman's club in Paceville, recalled how on the night of 28 March, she had seen Busuttil in an excited state.

Busuttil was in need of drugs, which he didn't have any money for, she said. The woman told the court that she had left the house soon after and that was the last time she saw the accused.

The lawyer asked where she knew the accused from. "He was introduced to me by friends in Paceville," the woman said, adding that they had been friends since 2018.

Psaila probed the witness as to what kind of relationship she had with the accused. She replied that they "wouldn't meet often... only a couple of times a year."

When the lawyer asked whether they had any friends in common, the court reminded the witness that she was under oath and had previously testified that she was friends with the accused's brother.

"We are not friends as such, we are acquaintances," replied the witness. "For me, friendship would mean something different."

She claimed that her visits to the accused's parents' house in Attard were social calls in which she had been checking up on the accused's brother's health. "I had to see how his brother was doing after he was in hospital," the woman said.

At this point, the magistrate pointed out that checking on someone's health indicated "some kind of relationship, friendly or otherwise."

"That is how I am. I am a person who cares for others and not because we have some sort of special relationship," the woman replied.

Psaila suggested the name Mario Farrugia to the witness, asking whether it sounded familiar to her or if she had ever met someone by that name.

"I don't know him personally but I heard about him from the news," said the witness.

The court asked the woman whether she had ever met or seen Farrugia. "No, never," came back the reply.

The murder case was adjourned to November.

Busuttil rented garage used as crack den

Separate criminal proceedings against Busuttil, in which he stands accused of aggravated drug possession also continued on Tuesday.

Proceedings in front of Magistrate Elaine Mercieca continued with Inspector Godwin Scerri recounting how the case dates back to February 2018.

Scerri said he had received information about suspicious activity in St Paul's Bay. "The information I received was that a particular garage was being used as a 'crack house,'" the inspector said.

The Inspector's investigations had found that Busuttil was the tenant in whose name the garage's lease was registered, he said, adding that a plainclothes policeman had been detailed with carrying out surveillance on the garage. "Several persons were observed entering and leaving the garage in the space of a few hours," the inspector went on.

After obtaining a warrant, the garage was raided by the police. Busuttil was found inside and confirmed to the officers that he was renting it out.

The officers searched the property and discovered what they suspected to be cocaine, heroin and marijuana in a room which Busuttil appeared to be using as sleeping quarters. 

Busuttil was taken into custody and did not answer any questions and he was subsequently charged with aggravated drug possession, said the inspector.
A court-appointed expert had later established that the white powder discovered in the garage was high-purity cocaine. 

Busuttil had later been granted bail but was later jailed after breaching his bail conditions.  

He was subsequently released on bail a second time, said the inspector but was currently being held in custody in connection with the murder of Mario Farrugia.

The prosecutor argued that a prison sentence was merited in this case.

Busuttil's lawyer, Ishmael Psaila submitted that although the garage had been rented out to Busuttil, it was in fact being used by a large number of people. These individuals had not been mentioned by the prosecution in its submissions today, argued the lawyer.

Psaila argued that the fact that the substances seized from the garage had been passed on to court-experts and analysed did not necessarily mean that the chain of custody of the evidence was intact.

"In view of the fact that there were a number of individuals who would visit and spend time in this garage and the way this evidence was gathered, the defence humbly submits that the chain of evidence was not maintained." This principle had also been espoused by the Criminal Court, he said.

The court adjourned the case to October for sentencing.

 


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