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Witness heard 10-year-old boy pleading for mother's life in panicked phone call

Alvin Pullicino, 26, and cousin Gavin Spagnol, 21, remain in custody after being arrested for allegedly pouring petrol over a woman in her car

Matthew Agius
18 October 2017, 3:00pm
A sobering testimony in court today, as the sister of a woman who was nearly burned alive in Zabbar earlier this year, recounted hearing the victim's 10-year-old son shouting at the assailants to leave his mother alone in the background of a panicked phone call from the victim.

Film industry worker Alvin Pullicino, 26, and his cousin, 21-year-old ELC employee Gavin Spagnol remain in custody, after they were arrested for allegedly pouring petrol over a woman and trying to set her alight as she sat in her car.

Pullicino and Spagnol are charged, as principal and accomplice respectively, with attempted murder and attempted arson after the 12 July attack, which is thought to have been motivated by a family feud and the fact that the victim, Michelle Camilleri, had provided financial assistance to her sister Pullicino's ex-partner.

From the witness stand this afternoon, Camilleri's sister, Chantelle, told magistrate Joe Mifsud how she had received a phone call from her sister on 12 July, asking her to take the children to the swings in the evening.

Camilleri had called again at around 7:20pm, said the witness.

“I heard shouting in the distance and the boy shouting 'leave mum alone!'” At that moment, she said she had recalled an argument with Gavin Spagnol from a few days before. The witness drove to Camilleri's house and found her sister in the front garden. “The place stank of petrol,” she said.

The accused were not on the scene when she arrived, she added.

“My sister said her abdomen felt like it was burning her. I looked and saw marks under her breasts.”

The witness recalled seeing a lighter on the parapet and the cap of a fuel can. “I don't remember seeing the can itself,” she said. In a previous sitting a police sergeant had told the court that a petrol can had been recovered from the street outside Pulicino’s house, with its cap missing.

Lawyer Veronique Dalli, appearing parte civile for Camilleri, asked about a prior incident, which the witness had made passing reference to, but was stopped by the magistrate, who said it was not relevant to the merits of the case.

Pullicino made no bail request. The court turned down Spagnol's request for bail – his third – on the grounds that the 10-year-old boy had not yet testified and the man was “still a risk to society.”

The child is expected to be testifying via video link in the next sitting.

Inspector Christabelle Chetcuti is prosecuting. Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are appearing for Spagnol, while lawyer Arthur Azzopardi is defending Pullicino. Lawyer Veronique Dalli is appearing parte civile for the victim. 

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