Qbajjar murder trial | Accused: '‘I kept saying God Almighty, I'm going to die’'

67-year-old Gerald Galea gave jurors a vivid account of the incident that led him to be charged with murder

Matthew Agius
3 October 2017, 6:05pm
Gerald Galea, 67, is on trial for the 2013 murder of 54-year-old John Spiteri and the attempted murder of Spiteri’s son, Matthew, in an incident sparked by the accused’s objection to the mutilation of a tamarisk tree in Qbajjar car park, Marsalforn.

The accused, who said he had spent 47 years in America, spoke slowly but clearly, in a near-monotone. Galea said he had seen the white truck arrive from his window. A man emerged from the truck and started to hack away at some bushes with a small axe, before driving off after a few minutes.

He had prepared to accompany his, now 97-year-old, mother on her daily visit to Ta’ Pinu. As he walked to his car, he noticed the truck had returned to the parking area and he had decided to have a chat with the men about the tree.

Galea said he had pulled up alongside the Isuzu, stopping parallel to it, contradicting Matthew Spiteri’s claim that it had stopped at right angles, in front of it. The victim was standing close to the passenger door of the truck, he said, while the younger man was carrying a “big axe”.

“I spoke to the father first,” Galea recalled. “We live in Gozo. Everybody speaks to each other in Gozo. Where I live it's normal behavior to talk to each other. Even dogs smell each other in the street.”

Galea explained that the men had replied simultaneously, but that Matthew Spiteri had told him that the tree was breeding mice, whilst John Spiteri had said he needed space to set up – “biex ikolli fejn noqghod”.

Galea recognized John Spiteri and had asked the men why they were damaging the tree. He warned that if they continued to mutilate it, he would report the matter to the police, reaching for a notebook as he did so.

The accused and the victim never spoke, he said, but he recalled that the father was visibly “somewhat annoyed” and had ordered his son to take down Galea’s number plate to file a police report of their own.  The son had dropped the axe and squatted in front of his car to take note of the car’s number on his mobile. “I looked down to select reverse… and started my maneuver to turn right.”

Suddenly, said the grey haired accused, the father’s hand came in through the window around his throat and punched him.  “I was trying to push him away...hand on throat, other fist firing into my face like there's no tomorrow.”  After that, he said, all he remembered was darkness, his head spinning, and excruciating pain.

He could not find the gear shifter, he said. “My foot couldn't press any deeper” on the gas pedal.

The son then wrestled his father away from accused and finally succeeded in pulling the man away. Galea said he eventually found the gear lever and tried to drive away but the car started going around in circles.

“I can tell you, my head was splitting. No glasses, this eye can’t see, seeing stars… my car started going around in circles and all I wanted to do is get the hell out of there. I can’t tell you where I stopped. Then I hear the man say ‘Madonna I'm coming in there to kill you’.”

The victim opened the driver's door and lunged at Galea, who ended up pinned down under the combined weight of Spiteri and his son who was trying to pull him off Galea.

As the weight lifted, his hand could actuate the gear lever, but the steering wheel kept slipping from his hands.

Galea said his only thought at the time was to escape. “I was thinking: ‘two of them, an axe. Fine. I'm going to die.’ All I could think of was to get myself out of there. My head hurt, I kept saying ‘God almighty I'm going to die’.”

“My foot never released the gas pedal. When the father hit me the second time, I was frozen in panic, I wanted to get the hell out of there. All I can remember is telling him “why, for God’s sake why? For a lousy weed?”

The accused who suffered multiple head fractures, compared the pain he experienced to “a migraine multiplied by infinity.”

“It was horrific. Tell a mother who gave birth to a child to explain her pain to a woman who has not borne children,” said the accused.

“The driver's door was jammed. I thought I was going to burn or get blown up, so I crawled out of passenger side on all fours.”

The son came up to him and punched him in the head before people pulled him away. “Commotion, screaming, sirens. Someone saying ‘that man needs ice.’”

“All I could think of was that someone had to tell my mother that I could not take her to Ta’ Pinu.”

The psychological trauma persisted to the present day, he said. “If I'm in a car and go over bumps, I relive the whole ordeal.”

He no longer takes his mother to Ta’ Pinu, he said. “I go to churches to pray for family, myself, families of traffic victims, for the Spiteri family who lost a man.”

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