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Mintoff Bland stabbing: No charges for Yana because inspector ‘morally convinced’ she was innocent

A police inspector has told the court that Mintoff Bland was not charged over partner's stabbing because he was 'morally convinced' of her innocence

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
27 July 2017, 5:49pm
Yana Mintoff Bland suffered slash wounds on her left wrist and on the left side of her chest in the attack
Yana Mintoff Bland suffered slash wounds on her left wrist and on the left side of her chest in the attack
The police inspector investigating a near-fatal stabbing and arson attack at Yana Mintoff Bland’s Tarxien villa has told a court that he had only pressed charges against stabbing victim Gheorghe Popa, and not Mintoff Bland, because he was morally convinced that if she had stabbed him, she had acted in self-defence.

Popa stands charged with detaining Mintoff Bland – daughter of late Prime Minister Dom Mintoff and Popa’s former partner – against her will, attempting to grievously injure her, slightly injuring her and her son with a bladed instrument, carrying a weapon during the commission of a crime against the person, carrying a knife in public without a police licence, attacking Mintoff Bland and her son with a knife and uttering verbal threats. 

He is also accused of setting her Tarxien property alight after the incident.

The stabbing is alleged to have followed an argument, motivated by Popa’s jealousy, over suspicions that Mintoff Bland had been seeing someone else.

But curiously it was only Popa, who was found hiding up a nearby tree, while holding his intestines from spilling out of one of his four, allegedly self-inflicted, stab wounds, who was charged after the incident.

Asked by Popa’s lawyer Benjamin Valenzia why this was so, inspector Spiridione Zammit replied: “I had no reason to charge Yana… If she hit Popa it was in self-defence… I had interrogated both Yana and him… I was morally convinced that Yana was sincere under interrogation and that he hadn’t been.”

The indication was that it was a case of arson and that the man’s wounds were self-inflicted, he said, pointing out that Mintoff Bland and her son had initially also been treated as suspects.

Inspector Zammit said that he had no reason to believe that she had acted other than in self defence after hearing the version of events as told by Mintoff Bland and her son. “You don’t need to wait for a report by Mario Scerri if the investigator feels there is enough to charge.”

“By ‘investigator,’ do you mean yourself?” probed Valenzia.

“Yes.”

“So you didn’t wait for the conclusions of the report?”

“I charged him to protect Yana and her family,” the inspector explained.

“Because you had already concluded that he was the aggressor,” suggested Valenzia.

“I am morally convinced it was so,” he replied.

“I scrutinised Popa’s statement. I noticed where he avoided answering questions. When someone stabs you, you mention it. That’s why we insisted with him to tell us what happened. A person who has been stabbed can normally say he had been stabbed, but he said nothing.”

Popa had already threatened suicide if the relationship ended and had been having problems at his workplace, added the inspector.

Mintoff Bland had told the inspector that some weeks before the incident, Popa had expressed a wish to jump off a crane, he explained.

Valenzia pointed out that the psychiatrist had testified that the man had not appeared to be suicidal. “The interrogation took place before psychiatrist had seen him,” replied the Inspector.

Valenzia pointed out that there were several bloody handprints in the bedroom that hadn’t been forensically tested. Inspector Zammit replied that he believes they were sooty handprints.

When the defence began to ask if the police had actually investigated the arson, Magistrate Joe Mifsud intervened, warning the lawyer not to “play to the gallery because the press are here.”

“If you’re alleging that the stabbing was done by someone else and the fire started by someone else and that this is a frame up then say it clearly, don’t beat about the bush,” warned Magistrate Mifsud.

From Valenzia’s cross-examination, it also emerged that the accused’s hands had not been tested for sulphur or accelerant at the scene nor had efforts been made to preserve this kind of evidence before he went to hospital.

‘He was trying to stick the knife in my heart’

Yana Mintoff Bland also took the witness stand today.

Despite the relationship having been over, she said she had allowed Popa to sleep at her villa for a couple of weeks because he there had been an explosion at his apartment and he couldn’t sleep in his bed. “I told him that he could stay a while at my house again.”

The witness was unable to recall how long the incident took. “Have you ever been attacked with a knife? It could be 10 minutes… I have no idea. It was a life or death struggle,” she said.

“I was fighting for my life. I was shouting and he was shouting. He said ‘I’m going to kill you’ I asked him why and tried to reason with him right to the end. Shouting, of course. Otherwise what? Close my mouth and die without a fight?

“I saw him running towards me with the knife… he shot towards me and I tried to defend myself and started shouting.”

She had suffered a wound to her left arm whilst she was still on her feet, she said. “When I was on my back he was already trying to stick the knife in my heart.”

The attack had been disrupted by the appearance of Mintoff Bland’s son, Daniel. “He turned on my son and stabbed him and I escaped right after my son. I don’t know what he did after that.”

There had been no blood on Popa when she had escaped, she said.

The case continues. 

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...