Update 5 | Cell phone antenna placed suspect just metres away from murdered lawyer
Investigators reveal how cell phone antenna placed Nizar El-Gadi just metres away from where his estranged wife – lawyer Margaret Mifsud - was the night she went missing.
8 August 2012, 12:00am
Further evidence showed that El-Gadi had phoned Mifsud at 11:30pm that night, and placed him in the same street in Bugibba where she had driven a close female friend back home.
In over three hours of testimony before Magistrate Saviour Demicoli, Police Inspector Keith Arnaud gave a detailed account of a complicated and elaborate murder investigation, which took almost three months to be concluded.
"This evidence not only places the accused close to the victim, but clearly indicates that she was being followed," he said.
Arnaud explained how Margaret Mifsud was found dead in her Daihatsu car in Bahar ic-Caghaq on April 19, adding that from initial on-site investigations it was clear that she had been murdered given that she was found with blood oozing from her nose and mouth.
A pathology report which followed an autopsy, confirmed that Mifsud was killed by traumatic asphyxia, where the victim was subjected to severe pressure to the chest.
"She was suffocated by pressure, where her chest was not given the space to expand while breathing," Arnaud explained, adding that further investigations revealed how Mifsud's corpse had been moved from its original position. Evidence of this was found through the blood trails on the victim's face.
Arnaud said that Mifsud was found to be sitting straight on the driver's seat of her Daihatsu Sirion car, with her head tilted against her window.
"The blood however didn't trickle down her face," he explained, adding that Mifsud was found with blood which oozed from her nose but settled under her left eye, clearly indicating that she bled while she was laid down. The same was to be said about the blood from her mouth which trickled backwards across her cheek and towards her hair.
A clean shaved Nizar El-Gadi sat motionless in the dock, practically starring at Inspector Keith Arnaud, who recounted details of his investigations and numerous interrogations which led to the arraignment and murder charge.
It was no easy task for the Police to arrest El-Gadi the day Mifsud was found dead.
He was arrested after he presented himself at the Birkirkara Police Station hours after the police looked for him in all the Ghadira bars and restaurants, where he was said to have been working as a chef.
"We spoke to him once over the phone, to tell him that we wanted to speak to him, and never did he ask us about Margaret Mifsud, when he knew the mother of his children was missing," Arnaud told the Court, adding that El-Gadi didn't respond to a further 36 subsequent calls.
He was later located at an establishment in Ghadira Bay, but managed to abscond from a back door and get a taxi to Bugibba where he was renting a room at the Eurostar Hotel.
While escaping from the establishment, El-Gadi threw away his shoes, saying that his employer had told him he didn't want trouble with the police, and feared his shoes could have "traces of the kitchen he was working in."
On his arrival at the Police Station in Birkirkara, the Police Inspector there, Elton Taliana had seen El-Gadi enter the main door, purposely slamming his hand against the door in a bid to make noise, and then he threw himself on the floor.
"He gave the impression he fell ill, but came back to his senses when we arrived on the scene and transferred him to the Police Depot in Floriana for interrogation," Arnaud said.
During his first interrogation, El-Gadi said that he was "close" to his estranged wife, and that he had last seen her shortly before she had gone out to meet her friends for a farewell dinner in Xemxija.
El-Gadi said that he had waited for her in the street outside her house shortly before 8pm on April 18, where they discussed matters relating to CV's of his which she had to print from her computer and give them to him.
El-Gadi said that while Mifsud didn't give him teh CV's because she had a problem with her printer, they kissed and had quick sex in her car, a point which Arnaud said was very unlikely due to the fact that the car was parked right in front of a playing field and it was not yet dark.
El-Gadi was also confronted with another issue about his encounter with Mifsud that night, as he said that she had told him about a message she had sent him earlier - and which he did not see - about a "change of plan" about giving him the CV's.
"He told us that he opened his phone to show her that he had just seen the message, when an accurate phone profile showed that he was not even in the area at that time but on the other side of the island," Arnaud said.
Following his initial interrogation, El-Gadi was placed in a holding cell at the Floriana CID headquarters, and attempted to kill himself by tearing his bed sheet, tie it around the cell bars and then his neck.
"The fabric was not strong enough and when El-Gadi threw himself to the floor, it snapped and the noose didn't work," Inspector Arnaud said.
Following that incident, a doctor admitted El-Gadi to a psychiatric ward at Monte Carmeli hospital where he was kept for some weeks, before being discharged and re-arrested for further investigations.
'I can find you anywhere'
Margaret Mifsud had every reason to fear her estranged husband.
While Police followed-up on the alleged attempted strangling just weeks before she went missing, her mother Theresa Mifsud and friends told police about a string of incidents where the murdered lawyer had found El-Gadi in places she nmever expected to find him.
"She feared she being followed everywhere," Arnaud told the Court, explaining how friends told him that one day Mifsud had attended a wedding and El-Gadi told her every detail on how she got there, what she wore, ate and whom she spoke to.
Another time, Mifsud was startled by El-Gadi who hid inside her car booth, telling her that it was just a reminder that he could find her "anywhere."
The Pink Samsung
In a search Police conducted at El-Gadi's hotel room in Bugibba, they found three cell phones, a Blackberry, an iPhone4 and a pink coloured cell phone.
Investigators were surprised to find El-Gadi normally used the Blackberry phone but on the night Mifsud went missing, he only used the pink Samsung phon.
According to El-Gadi, he resorted to that phone because his two other phones were without charge.
Experts found that the phone emitted signals that placed him in the areas not far from where Mifsud was on two occasions that night.
The missing details
The Police still have to reveal how they actually managed to pin Margaret Mifsud's murder on Nizar El-Gadi, as Magistrate Saviour Demicoli interrupted Inspector Arnaud to suspend his testimony and continue next Monday morning.
While sources close to the investigations told MaltaToday that there is "damning evidence" which is yet to be revealed, that places El-Gadi inside Mifsud's car in Bahar ic-Caghaq the night she died, Inspector Arnaud concluded this morning's marathon session by recounting the 'holes' in El-Gadi's alibi on what he did between 11:30pm of April 18 and dawn the next day.
According to El-Gadi, he had phoned Mifsud at 11:30 not knowing he was in her vicinity near the Empire Cinema in Bugibba, to ask her about a restaurant he had visited some time ago with her, as he searched for a job.
He said he couldn't find the place, and thought she could remember, but her phone was off, specifically because Mifsud didn't want El-Gadi to call her.
Before leaving home that night, Mifsud told her mother that if she needed to speak to her, she would find her on her friend's phone.
In fact Mifsud's mother had called on her friend's phone, and the lawyer called back on her phone to find her children asking her when she would be back home.
"I will be back in about an hour," was Margaret Mifsud's last words to her children over the phone that night.
But after El-Gadi's traced call at 11:30pm, he said he drove back to St. Julian's to take the Russian girl to where he had picked her up.
Subsequently, El-Gadi went to Champ's pastizzeria in St. Julian's where he bought something to eat and disappeared.
He returned to Champ's pastizzeria at 4am where he asked the employee there for a lighter and again disappeared.
CCTV footage from the shop showed El-Gadi entering, asking for a lighter and leaving after a short giggle with the employee and another man who was present.
But El-Gadi doesn't smoke and it seemed odd, even to the employee at Champ's pastizzeria - who was questioned - that he asked for a lighter.
When questioned about this, El-Gadi said that he asked for the lighter to go to St. George's Bay and seek young women, by asking them if they needed "a light."
Inspector Arnaud said that this chat-up line was non-convincing to the police, and the lighter was used for something else.
Police have yet to say whether they recovered Margaret Mifsud's handbag, scarf and cell phone, which were not found inside her car, despite having them right until she gave her friend a lift back home.
"Her friend told us that she saw Mifsud put the scarf on the back seat," Arnaud said, adding that the witness was not sure about the bag, as she may have folded the scarf around it.
The bag and the scarf appear on a number of photographs taken that night during the farewell dinner at the Fortress Restaurant in Xemxija.
As Magistrate Saviour Demicoli adjourned the sitting until next Monday, Nizar El-Gadi was remanded in custody and escorted back to Corradino Prisons.
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