The Malta Independent 30 November 2022, Wednesday
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Updated (2): Woman shot twice in chest, face; husband is main suspect, Commissioner says

Tuesday, 22 November 2022, 09:17 Last update: about 7 days ago

Updated at 8pm with crime conference by police commissioner

Bernice Cassar’s husband is the main suspect for her murder, Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa confirmed during a crime conference on Tuesday evening.

Addressing a crime conference at around 7pm on Tuesday, Gafa said that at 8am the police received a call, indicating that there was a road accident in the zone around Kordin and that a gun might have been used as shots were heard.

The police went on site and found a woman on the ground on the side of a white Nissan Qashqai. 

Her body was later seen on the ground covered with a white sheet and was later taken away in a police hearse.

She was identified as Bernice Cassar, who presently resided Zebbug, Gafa said. Cassar was 40-years-old, and had two children. She was certified as dead on site.

Gafa said that Magistrate Noel Bartolo is leading a magisterial inquiry, and the case is being treated as a homicide/femicide. Preliminary investigations showed that the aggressor fired three shots, and the victim was hit by two – in her face and chest. The Commissioner said that the weapon had not yet been found and is believed to be a shotgun.

While Gafa did not name Bernice Cassar’s husband, news reports read that the man is called Roderick Cassar. 

“No words can give comfort to the members of the family,” he said.

Relatives of the woman who arrived on the scene, including the victim's mother, were held back by investigators. The police mounted a search for the aggressor who sped off after the shooting. 

The lead suspect was tracked to his home in Qrendi.

Gafa said that the police have been at the residence of the main suspect in Qrendi since 9:20am negotiating, and that the police still believe that the main suspect is in possession of the weapon.  Officers wearing protective gear were seen surrounding the house. A police negotiator was speaking to a suspect on the phone trying to convince him to turn himself in. The children were not in the house.

Gafa said that the police had been in contact with the alleged suspect since that time.

The commissioner said that starting from May of this year, Bernice Cassar had filed five domestic violence reports, with the last one being filed on Monday. The Commissioner said that there was one report where she suffered slight injuries and the others were about psychological violence.

He said that these cases were scheduled for the coming November by the court, but in July the Magistrate who presided over the domestic violence case, upon request from the victim’s lawyer, held a court session and issued a protection order in favour of the victim. On the last reports received, he said, the alleged breach of the protection order was also being investigated.

Roderick Cassar

 

He also clarified that Cassar was receiving emotional support from the Victims Support Agency after filing these reports.

The commissioner expressed his sadness as he said that out of all sectors the police force have given a lot more support towards domestic violence cases. Over the last few years the police force established a dedicated domestic violence unit, he said, which saw an increase in domestic violence cases, and that this can be interpreted as people being more confident to approach the police with such reports.

Gafa praised his police force for the hard work and change in mentality that the police have undertaken to address domestic violence cases.

He pledged that the police will continue to support the family in any way they can and the police will continue to do the work they have been doing to combat domestic violence cases.

“Cases like this show that however much we work, it is never enough,” he said.

TVM news reports that the man who allegedly killed Cassar beat her before shooting her three times. It quotes sources close to the investigation as saying that another man was on site who tried to assist Cassar after she exited the vehicle asking him for help, but that the suspect holding the shotgun told him to go away.

When asked by media about the claims that the main suspect beat up Cassar before shooting her, Gafa did not comment on this. He also did not comment when asked what the main suspect was asking for during ongoing negotiations.

By 7pm, the man had not yet been arrested.

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