Daphne Caruana Galizia murder: Suspect missed fishing trip on day of murder

The three men accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia were back in court on Thursday as magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit continued to hear the compilation of evidence

Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case: A timeline of events since the massive police and army raid on 4 December
Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case: A timeline of events since the massive police and army raid on 4 December
The trial of three men accused of carrying out the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continued today
The trial of three men accused of carrying out the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continued today

George Degiorgio, one of the three men accused of the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had failed to show up for a fishing trip on the day of the murder, according to his fishing buddy.  

This emerged from witnesses testimony as the compilation of evidence against George Degiorgio 55, from St Paul's Bay, known as Ic-Ciniz, Alfred Degiorgio, 53, also St Paul's Bay, known as il-Fulu and Vincent Muscat, 55, known as il-Kohhu continued today. 

The men are charged with murder and a number of charges relating to explosives.

GO Mobile employee Miguel Caruana, told magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit how, on the day that he was supposed to go fishing with George Degiorgio, the 16th of October, Degorgio had called him and said he needed a mobile top-up.

“I bought a top-up card, scratched it to reveal the number and texted it to him. It was around midday as the shopkeeper was about to close. The topup was for a Vodafone number," he said.

“The last time we were supposed to go fishing but we didn’t. I went to Marsa to wait for him, called him and he didn’t answer so I had a coffee at the regatta club, then he messaged me to say he wasn’t coming so I went to work.”

I bought a top-up card, scratched it to reveal the number and texted it to him

“We were fishing buddies. We would go 30 miles, 40, offshore and fish”

He recognized the accused in the dock. “George, on the right, Alfred and Vincent. Ic Ciniz, il-Fulu and il-Kohhu.” He had gotten to know them when he would go fishing at Marsa “near the potato shed, behind the regatta club.”

George Degiorgio owned the boat, Maya, from which police think the call, which triggered the bomb was made, said Caruana. He had got to know Degiorgio shortly before he bought it. 

Several other witnesses testified, including a couple who live near Caruana Galizia’s home. They had spotted a suspicious-looking car parking close to their house for a number of days before the murder.

It stopped parking there immediately after the explosion and was never seen again. The husband said he had seen a person in the car on one occasion. That person "looked like an Arab, like a Libyan. Dark skinned," he said.

The first police officers on site gave an account of the horrific scene of the bomb’s aftermath, with debris and human remains strewn over a wide area. The victim's son was seen arguing with a passer-by who was taking photos of the blast, the officers said.

Lawyer Martin Fenech told the court that the accused men, who are being remanded in custody, were claiming discriminatory treatment in prison. The case continues.

George Degiorgio, Ic-Ciniz, is represented by legal aid lawyer Josette Sultana; Alfred Degiorgio, il-Fulu, is represented by privately engaged lawyers, Martha Mifsud and William Cuschieri; Vince Muscat, il-Kohhu, is represented by legal aid lawyer Martin Fenech.

12:46 The sitting has ended. This concludes today's liveblog Matthew Agius
12:39 The case continues on February 5 Matthew Agius
12:37 Cuschieri told the court that the accused were not enjoying the same visiting rights as other inmates. “They want to be treated the same as everyone else” He has filed a court application in this regard. The court will decree on the issue from chambers. Matthew Agius
12:36 The prosecution told the court that there are no more witnesses to testify today. Matthew Agius
12:34 A police officer from the Mosta station said he had found three fires on the scene. "The vehicle was a ball of fire and it was unfortunately impossible to put it out. At that point I noticed there were body parts strewn all across the road." Matthew Agius
12:22 The broken mobile phone is in the hands of the police. Matthew Agius
12:20 A constable had told the man to show Caruana Galizia that there was nothing on the phone, but when he handed the device to the grief-stricken man he had thrown it to the ground. Matthew Agius
12:19 More police officers are testifying as to the incident between Matthew Caruana Galizia and the man who allegedly took photos of the victim. Matthew Agius
12:11 On the basis of the information they had gathered on the 23rd October, he had asked for Transport Malta's footage of the Grand Harbour of the 16th Matthew Agius
12:06 "If you go to Marsa, how many boats of that type do you think you'd see?" Matthew Agius
12:04 He had been given information about what to look out for in the footage, he said. "The investigation will show why it was interesting in that time at that place." Matthew Agius
12:03 Cuschieri challenged the identification of the boat as the Maya Matthew Agius
12:02 The witness explained that he would have been looking at the photos on a monitor. Matthew Agius
12:01 Fenech argued that the boat was too far away to be identified on the stills from the 16th Matthew Agius
11:53 George Degiorgio had been at the helm, he said. Matthew Agius
11:49 The sergeant is exhibiting a number of still photographs from footage taken of the boat on the 23rd October in court. Matthew Agius
11:47 “When it returned at around 2:55pm it came into the port, stopped near the siege bell and then stopped for a while. Then it continued on its way.” Matthew Agius
11:44 A CID sergeant who examined CCTV cameras of the Grand Harbour, he said the boat Maya had been observed leaving the harbour on 16th October. Matthew Agius
11:37 More police officers are testifying about the scene. The police response time was very rapid - "the call came in at 3pm, we were there at around 3:10pm" Matthew Agius
11:32 He confirmed the body was on the passenger side of the car. Matthew Agius
11:30 An RIU police officer is testifying to finding the burning car. Fire engines were already on the scene. “We knew that there was nothing we could do, so I took a photo which I later passed on to Inspector Cilia, and went up to the road.” Matthew Agius
11:26 Martin Fenech asked the inspector about the mobile phone which the man was allegedly using to take photographs. The situation was already under control at the time he arrived, he said. He was unable to say whether the phone was in working order. Matthew Agius
11:21 The car was extensively damaged, he said. The body of the victim was on the passenger side of the car. Matthew Agius
11:21 "As I arrived I found debris and body parts. Civil protection was putting out fires at the blast site and nearby trees." Matthew Agius
11:18 "As I arrived I found debris and body parts. Civil protection was putting out fires at the blast site and nearby trees." Matthew Agius
11:17 Inspector Antoine Cilia from the RIU is on the stand. Police had received a call from a man who had seen a car exploding and rolling into a field in Bidnija. Matthew Agius
11:12 It was the first time he had been asked to top up George's phone. He said it was odd because he knew George was on a contract with Vodafone. "I know this because I would try to win him over to GO Mobile, but he was happy with Vodafone." Matthew Agius
11:09 On the day that he was supposed to go fishing with George, 16 October, George had called him and said he needed a mobile topup. “I bought a topup card, scratched the number and texted it to him.” It was around midday as the shopkeeper was about to close. The topup was for a Vodafone number, he said. Matthew Agius
11:05 George owned the boat, he said. He got to know him shortly before he bought it Matthew Agius
11:03 Inspector Arnaud asked about the last time he had gone fishing with the men. It was the end of summer he said, but was unable to recall the exact date. “The last time we were supposed to go fishing but we didn’t. I went to Marsa to wait for him, called him and he didn’t answer so I took a coffee at the regatta club, then he messaged me to say he wasn’t coming and I went to work.” Matthew Agius
10:59 “ We were fishing buddies. We would go 30 miles, 40, offshore and fish” Matthew Agius
10:58 He recognized the accused in the dock. “George, on the right, Alfred and Vincent. Ic Ciniz, il-Fulu and il-Kohhu.” He had gotten to know them through fishing at Marsa “near the potato shed, behind the regatta club” Matthew Agius
10:57 Arnaud is asking him about how SIM cards are sold to retailers. There are told in batches of ten upwards. They have phone credit, but not data, he said. Matthew Agius
10:54 GO Mobile employee Miguel Caruana, who Arnaud said had initially been a suspect, is now on the stand. Arnaud declared that no criminal action would be taken against Caruana with regard to the investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The court warned the witness that if he thought he might incriminate himself he had a right to refuse to testify. He accepted to testify. Matthew Agius
10:50 Asked by the defence, the witness said he did not recognise any of the men in the dock Matthew Agius
10:49 The sprayer who worked on the car is on the witness stand, as the prosecution attempt to establish the chain of custody of the car and its keys. He had been engaged by the panel beater to work on the car. It was in winter last year, he said. The car had damage to its rear bumper. He had been given the key by the panel beater and taken it to his garage. He had one employee and had garaged the car for the three days he was working on it. He drove it back to the panel beater himself, he said. Matthew Agius
10:43 Cross-examining, Fenech asked the witness whether the cars had stickers. Normally they would have, he said, but he was unable to recall whether Caruana Galizia's second rental had a sticker. Matthew Agius
10:37 All cars have two sets of keys. The spare was kept in his office. It had been used once to move the car from Bidnija to their garage. He had driven the car on that occasion, in the presence of the previous witness, his brother. Matthew Agius
10:34 A manager from the car hire company has now taken the stand. Matthew Agius
10:31 The witness did not recognize any of the accused in court, he said when asked by the defence Matthew Agius
10:30 Caruana Galizia’s car had no stickers on it, he said. Matthew Agius
10:28 Whilst being repaired, the car had spent the weekend in the Percius garage, which is protected by CCTV. It’s keys were kept inside the garage office, he said. Only he and his five siblings could access the office, he said. The new car was in the Percius garage maybe 5 times in the 3 months it was rented out, mostly for washing whilst Caruana Galizia was settling her bill. Matthew Agius
10:24 He had picked up the car from Bidnija to repair a dent whilst Caruana Galizia went abroad in September. The company had a spare key, he said. He had taken it to a panel beater on the same day and later dropped off the key in Caruana Galizia’s letterbox. Matthew Agius
10:20 The company had leased the car to Caruana Galizia for around 6 months and before it, another car for around 4 months. “She had wanted a brand new car, so we had got her one. The first was white, the second was grey.” Matthew Agius
10:18 Witness number 3, an employee of Percius car hire has taken the stand. Matthew Agius
10:16 Lawyer Martin Fenech asked the witness why she hadn’t taken note of the numberplate of the suspicious car. “Normally I would have, when I see a suspicious car coming regularly I do. But this time I didn’t. There was no particular reason.” Matthew Agius
10:14 The witness said she hadn’t noticed anyone in the car. After 16 October she hadn’t seen the car again, but around two or three weeks before, her husband had told her that there was a suspicious car parked in the vicinity. “It was the same, a small, white car. One of those that you can’t distinguish the type.” Matthew Agius
10:11 She had spotted a small white car parked near her house, facing the direction of Mgarr in the morning, when she left home at around 9 am. As she left her house again in the afternoon, at around 2:30pm, she had noticed that it was still there. She could not make out the model. The numberplate had “QZ” said the woman, but she was unable to recall the other letter or numbers. Matthew Agius
10:07 The second witness is the wife of the first. Her details are also not to be published. Matthew Agius
10:05 Inspector Arnaud asked if it had any distinctive marks, the witness said it had a rental company sticker on the rear window. He had noticed it on a several occasions, he said. He was unable to see the rear window of the car on the 16th October, however. Matthew Agius
10:03 William Cuschieri asked whether he had seen more than one person in the car. Only one. “Could it have been a different car of the same make and model?” “It could have been. It was identical though. Since then I hadn’t seen any compact white rental cars near my house.” Matthew Agius
10:01 Martin Fenech asked why he hadn’t taken down the numberplate of a suspicious car. “It was a rental car...I didn’t know what was coming. My wife later took a photo of a car but it wasn’t this one. I know the numberplate was DQZ, the colour was white, it was a small car, like a Kia Picanto...something like that. Hindsight is 20 Matthew Agius
09:59 The car would tend to be there at around 10 in the morning and 1pm in the afternoons, said the witness. Asked who else could have seen it, he said his wife had observed the suspicious car too. Matthew Agius
09:57 The man in the car "looked like an Arab, like a Libyan. Dark skinned." Matthew Agius
09:56 He recalled commenting to his wife about the car on one occasion, as he had seen a man in the car and he was doing nothing. He told her to keep her eyes open, he said, but had no idea what the man could have been doing. The car was parked near a quarry known as ta’ Macedonia when he had seen a man in it. “It’s not a traffic heavy area. When someone goes there, it’s for a purpose” Matthew Agius
09:54 He never saw the car again after the 16th October. Matthew Agius
09:53 He had checked his post at midday. The car had been parking there for a few days. It was a rental car, numberplate ending in QZ, he said. The car was empty. Matthew Agius
09:51 "On 16 October, I was at home in bed with a broken leg. At 3pm I heard a loud noise, I thought it was a door slamming. Shortly before I had gone to check the post and saw a white car parked outside my gate. It was empty. When I went out to see what happened after the noise, the care was not there anymore." Matthew Agius
09:50 The first witness, who lived in the vicinity, has taken the stand. The prosecution requested the media not publish his name or details Matthew Agius
09:46 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi informed the court that the request could impinge on the rights of the parte civile, the injured party, in this case the Caruana Galizia family. Matthew Agius
09:45 Galea Farrugia invited the defence to declare under the article of the law he is basing his reservation Matthew Agius
09:43 The AG has a quasi-judicial role, said the lawyer, and should not be assisting the prosecution. On the prosecution’s part, Galea Farrugia said the argument is “pathetic to say the least” and will be responding in writing. Lawyer Martin Fenech warned the court that he would be reserving the right to request the removal of every deposition made before the court in the presence of the AG Matthew Agius
09:39 Cuschieri filed an application, objecting to the presence of the deputy AG in the courtroom. Matthew Agius
09:36 Defence counsel, lawyers William Cuschieri, Martha Muscat are in court, as are Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia and Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra for the prosecution. Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Commodini Cachia, parte civile are in the courtroom Matthew Agius
09:23 The hearing is expected to begin at 9:30am. Matthew Agius
09:23 Good morning: we'll be live from the Malta law courts where the compilation of evidence against the three men accused of the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continues. Matthew Vella

Police Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are prosecuting. The Caruana Galizia family is represented party civile by lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia and Eve Borg Costanzi.

LIVE BLOG

 

WHAT WE KNEW GOING INTO THURSDAY'S SITTING

Caruana Galizia, an influential blogger and newspaper columnist was killed on 16 October last year, when a bomb placed inside her rental car was remotely detonated as she left her home in Bidnija, limits of Mosta.

Police had arrested a number of suspects in a raid on Marsa in December. George Degiorgio 55, from St Paul's Bay, known as Ic-Ciniz, Alfred Degiorgio, 53, also St Paul's Bay, known as il-Fulu and Vincent Muscat, 55, known as il-Kohhu were subsequently charged and are pleading not guilty to charges of homicide, involvement in organised crime, criminal conspiracy, criminal use of explosives and relapsing.

The compilation of evidence against the men has gripped the collective attention of the nation as it plays out under the harsh spotlight of international scrutiny of the rule of law in Malta.

So far, nobody has been charged with commissioning the murder. The investigation into who ordered the journalist’s killing is ongoing and is understood to be making progress.

Caruana Galizia’s car

  • The Peugeot car Daphne Caruana Galizia was driving at the time had been leased four months before

  • Her son Matthew Caruana Galizia had occasionally used the car in the period

  • Matthew was the last person to have parked the car outside the gate of the family’s Bidnija home

  • Investigators dismantled a similar model of the car to determine whether any debris collected from the crime scene was extraneous

  • This led the police to discover the presence of an electronic board, which was part of the SIM card dock on the explosive device

The ‘small white car’

  • A person who spoke to the police had noticed a “small white car” frequenting a particular area at Tat-Targa Battery, part of the Victoria Lines

  • On the day of the murder the white car was there but unlike previous occasions the driver was not inside

  • Police noticed that next to where the car used to be parked part of a wall had collapsed and led to a place with a birds-eye view of Bidnija

  • Forensic experts combed the area for any clues, including cigarette butts

  • After the murder, the car was never seen again

  • Given Caruana Galizia did not have a fixed pattern of movement, police believe someone was shadowing her movements

The detonator

  • Location data from the Bidnija area led the police to home in on a number that received an SMS at 2.58pm and stopped broadcasting thereafter

  • The number was linked to an electronic device normally found in appliances that can be activated remotely

  • This device acted as the detonator of the car bomb

  • The device was switched on in the Bidnija area at around 2am on 16 October

  • It remained in a static location for the day until it received an SMS and disappeared

The killer SMS

  • The SMS that triggered the bomb was sent from a Nokia 105 mobile phone connected to the cell tower near the YMCA in Valletta

  • This phone was switched on, on the day of the explosion and started broadcasting from a cell ID near the Curia

  • The signal moved to Paceville, Senglea, Rinella, Zabbar and Xghajra as it bounced from cell towers north and south of the country every hour

  • The cell towers all faced seawards that led police to suspect the mobile phone was on a boat circling the island

  • The number linked to the detonator and the number that sent the SMS had been set up in November 2016 and had only corresponded with each other on three occasions

The pleasure boats

  • The Degiorgio brothers both own pleasure boats

  • CCTV footage showed that one of them – the Maya – was spotted leaving the Grand Harbour at around 8am before turning north

  • At the time the killer SMS was sent, the Maya was spotted under the Great Siege Bell area, where it stopped for a few minutes before heading towards Marsa

The top up call

  • The Secret Service had intercepted a call from George Degiorgio’s phone, asking the recipient to top him up with €5

  • The person was unable to and Degiorgio called another person, asking the same question “Don’t take long, if you can,” Degiorgio told the person

  • The person complied and minutes later topped up the number identified by George Degiorgio

  • Police obtained call profiles relating to George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat

  • All mobile numbers involved were activated within 20 minutes of each other – two were activated in Senglea and the third in Hamrun

Other points

  • Alfred Degiorgio's DNA matched that found on a cigarette butt, which was picked up from the Victoria Lines

  • Police say Alfred Degiorgio was the spotter monitoring the Caruana Galizia household and is believed to have remained all night at the vantage point

  • Alfred called his brother George Degiorgio to inform him Caruana Galizia had left the house

  • The call lasted 107 seconds, which is the time it takes to drive from the house to where the bomb exploded

  • After detonating the bomb by SMS, George Degiorgio messaged his wife with the words: "Buy me wine, my love."

  • George Degiorgio had been telling people the day before the murder that he was going fishing

  • After the incident George was heard boasting "I've caught two big fish today".

  • Though unemployed, the Degiorgio brothers each owned a boat and luxury cars

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