The Malta Independent 30 November 2022, Wednesday
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Updated - Bernice Cassar murder: Estranged husband pleads not guilty

Thursday, 24 November 2022, 14:17 Last update: about 6 days ago

Roderick Cassar has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his estranged wife Bernice Cassar.

The arraignment took place this afternoon at 2.30pm.

He is the first person to be charged with willful femicide, an aggravated version of the homicide offence. 

The legal concept was introduced this year following the violent murder of Paulina Dembska in Sliema on 2 January. 

The new law allows judges to give harsher sentences for murders committed with "femicidal intent".

Defendants can no longer argue that they committed a crime of passion - one of the most commonly used lines of defence in such cases. 

Cassar was also charged with holding his victim against her will, using violence, including moral and psychological violence, using a firearm while committing a crime and carrying a weapon without a permit. 

He was also charged with stealing the victim's mobile phone and car keys, and the wilful damage to her property. 

He was accused of breaching a probation order and insulting a third party - believed to be a civilian who had tried to intervene on the morning of the murder. 

He did not request bail. Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri asked that the accused be kept in the prison’s forensic unit. The prosecution do not object to this request.

Thye court, presided by Magistrate Astrid May Grima, ruled that the Corradino Correctional Facility will establish where best to keep the accused at this stage. The Court will send the acts to the court registrar so that this case can be assigned in accordance to law.

The murder took place on Tuesday at around 8am.

Cassar, 42, of Pieta but residing in Qrendi, was arrested in his home after a 17-hour standoff with the police.

Bernice Cassar had filed several domestic violence reports against her husband, leading to the police to press criminal charges against him last May.

The couple had been married for nine years.

A court ordered Roderick Cassar to not approach his estranged wife, but he allegedly repeatedly violated that protection order.

Proceedings against the man related to domestic abuse were due to start in November 2023.

Lawyers Angele Vella, Anthony Vella, Darlene Grima appeared on behalf of the Attorney General. Inspectors Shawn Pawley, Wayne Camilleri and Paul Camilleri are prosecuting. Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are defence counsel.

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