The Malta Independent 20 May 2024, Monday
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Josef Rivas murder: CCTV footage of Paceville killing exhibited in court

Wednesday, 24 May 2023, 14:41 Last update: about 13 months ago

CCTV footage extracted from various Paceville establishments were exhibited in court against three Romanian men accused of murdering Josef Rivas in December 2022.

The compilation of evidence against Ilie Constantin, Ionut Iulian Tanase, and Dan-Andrei Tanase continued on Wednesday as they stand charged with the murder of Josef Rivas.

Rivas, a suspected member of a Romanian organised crime ring, died at Mater Dei Hospital after being stabbed in Paceville on 5 December, 2022.


A court expert tasked with extracting and analysing digital evidence testified first. On the day of the murder, he was asked to go to the scene of the crime and conduct data extractions at several establishments in the area.

Apart from conducting the data extractions, he was also asked to conduct extractions at the Hilton fitness club, as the accused were frequent visitors.

Other areas of interest were Big G's bar in Triq ir-Ross, where the fight and murder broke out, and an apartment along the same street. CCTV footage was collected in both areas.

Footage from the apartment's CCTV system suggested that the suspects would frequently visit this apartment.

Several mobiles and laptops were seized from various locations. While the expert managed to unlock most of the mobile phones, one device is in cold start. The witness said that it will be unlocked within the next two months.

When cross-examining the witness, defence lawyer Franco Debono asked at what point in the CCTV footage did the commotion between the accused and victim break out.

"Can you confirm that the commotion started when they were confronted by the others?" Debono said.

At the time of the murder, Rivas was joined by three other guys. They all approached the accused on the day of the murder.

The witness, referring to stills from the CCTV footage, confirmed this but he added that the stills were not showing the full extent of the commotion since a white van was blocking the camera's line of vision.

Emergency doctor Michael Spiteri took to the witness stand next. He recalled finding Rivas face-up in Paceville with no signs of life. CPR was conducted on Rivas and he was taken to hospital. From there, the resuscitation team took over.

At first glance, there were lacerations visible on the victim's front. At the time, those wounds did not have a bearing on the man's survival, he said.

An ambulance nurse also testified, saying that she had been dispatched to St Julian's to assist the victim on 5 December.

"He was not breathing and was on the ground. We started chest compressions," she said.

Debono asked whether the patient was still alive when he arrived at the hospital. "I am not a medical examiner... His heart was not beating. He was in asystole," she replied.

After their testimony, Debono informed the court that a bail application had been filed. Magistrate Nadine Lia, presiding over the case, said that the Attorney General had objected due to the lack of an address.

However, Debono provided addresses and exhibited the note of registration for a rental contract.

In making his arguments for bail, Debono insisted that the accused were acting in self-defence. "We are expecting the prosecution to bring evidence of the victim's character. Many witnesses have now testified. The time has come where we believe that hearing witnesses are not an obstacle for bail."

Lawyer Darlene Grima, representing the Attorney General's office, argued that the accused have no ties to Malta and had already tried to abscond.

"The prosecution never raised the issue of witnesses who could be approached. They are accused of organised crime. A balance between society's safety and the rights of the individual must be struck. There is absolutely no peace of mind that they will not attempt to leave the island."

Police inspector Kurt Zahra added that the investigation also have a transnational element, with police also investigating the victim.

But Debono insisted that the transnational argument does not wash. "They are Romanians, from a European Union country. They had gone to the police themselves."

The balance must be struck by means of the conditions imposed by the court, he said, suggesting this was a good opportunity for electronic tagging to be used.

The court will issue a decree on the bail request from chambers.

Inspectors Kurt Zahra and Brian Xuereb are prosecuting. Lawyers Kaylie Bonnett and Darlene Grima appeared on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi, Jacob Magri, Franco Debono and Charmaine Cherrett were defence counsel.


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