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‘Independent inquiry or none at all,’ Nicholas Azzopardi’s father insists

‘The inquiry must now be totally independent of government. If not, the inquiry would mean nothing to me and my family’, Joe Azzopardi says

Miriam Dalli
25 March 2012, 12:00am
Joe Azzopardi (centre) listening to his son Nicholas's last words
Joe Azzopardi (centre) listening to his son Nicholas's last words

Nicholas Azzopardi's father, Joe, has insisted that the inquiry looking into his son's death must be "independent or none at all".

On Friday, Police Commissioner John Rizzo asked the Attorney General to reopen the magisterial inquiry into the death of Nicholas Azzopardi, who died after sustaining serious injuries when allegedly 'jumping off' the bastions beneath the Floriana Police Headquarters in 2008.

The Commissioner's request was made following media reports about the case which have emerged in the past week.

Last Sunday, MaltaToday revealed that Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici had refused to reopen the inquiry.

However yesterday six days after the publication of this statement on Carm Mifsud Bonnici denied that he had opposed the re-opening of the inquiry.

MaltaToday's call for a fresh inquiry was made following the arrest of former police sergeant Adrian Lia, who was crucial in determining the outcome of the Nicholas Azzopardi inquiry.

 The former police sergeant had also deceived the police force and the government into believing he had saved a woman from drowning 14 years ago.

"The inquiry must now be totally independent of government. If not, the inquiry would mean nothing to me and my family," Nicholas Azzopardi's father insisted with MaltaToday.

He added that the lack of an independent inquiry would "only be a repetition of the two inquiries held soon after Nicholas's death".

Nicholas Azzopardi died 13 days after he was arrested and was allegedly beaten up by police officers at the Floriana police headquarters on 8 April. Hours before he died on 22 April, he told his family and inquiring magistrate that he had been heavily beaten up by his interrogators while under arrest.

His family believe Azzopardi was attacked by an officer who flung a side kick, breaking his ribs and puncturing his lung.

His death was the subject of a magisterial inquiry by Antonio Vella, and of a parallel inquiry by retired judge Albert Manchè launched by the government following the publication of the revelations made by Nicholas Azzopardi in MaltaToday.

Both inquiries had concluded that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the police.

In fresh comments to MaltaToday, Joe Azzopardi said that during the magisterial inquiry, both Vella and the assistant commissioner had failed to record Nicholas Azzopardi's interrogation.

"Nicholas had told them what had happened at the depot, but because they didn't record it, there's nothing that proves it. Three hours later, he died," the father said.

On the inquiry launched by government, Joe Azzopardi said the board of inquiry was meant to look into the way the police had dealt with the case.

"However, the inquiry had focused on the accusations which Nicholas faced and had cleared the police of any wrongdoing," he said.

"Until my appearance on One TV this week, holding both of them responsible for my son's death, both the home affairs minister and commissioner Rizzo were against the re-opening of the inquiry," Joe Azzopardi said, adding that the police officers who were with his son should have been at least suspended.

He explained that when a European commission against torture had come to Malta some three years ago, it had found that the officers who were with Nicholas Azzopardi had failed to safeguard him and that he should never have been hurt if he was under police custody.

"Moreover, the commission was not allowed to investigate in depth as it wanted to and were even stopped from speaking to Antonio Vella and Albert Manchè on their inquiries," he said.

Joe Azzopardi added that the report had been sent to Mifsud Bonnici.

In a recorded interview revealed by MaltaToday in 2008, Nicholas Azzopardi had alleged police brutality while being interrogated in a cell at the Floriana depot.

The brief statement was made after regaining his senses 13 days after the incident.

Nicholas Azzopardi was being investigated over reports filed by his estranged wife for allegedly abusing his daughter.


Miriam Dalli joined in 2010 and was assistant editor fr...