Everything neatly wrapped up... except the motive

With investigators excluding the involvement of anyone else in the murder, we are all left with no other option but to piece together a scenario, for ourselves, that translates into a plausible reason to convict Yorgen Fenech – and only him – for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

After decades of careful deliberation, I think I have finally figured out why people seem to have such low expectations of the criminal justice system. And the answer is so simple, it can be summed up in just two words:

Scooby Doo.

Oh yeah, and Shaggy, too. Not to mention the rest of the ‘Mystery Incorporated’ gang, who raised my entire generation to believe in a number of deeply inaccurate myths about crime detection. Such as:

a) that all crimes can be solved by simply ‘unmasking the villain’ at the end;

b) that villains always have simple, one-dimensional motives (as a rule, to scare away people from the scene of their illegal activity, etc.);

c) that villains always spontaneously confess to their crimes when cornered (Remember? ‘And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for you pesky kids…’), and lastly;

d) that the results of the gang’s investigation will always be enough to confirm that justice has, in fact, been upheld by the end of every episode (‘Well, that just about wraps everything up’…)

There are, however, a few snags with the traditional Scooby Doo formula. For starters: a case can only be described as ‘closed’ once the suspects are duly found guilty of their crimes in a court of law (and, even then, only after the final appeal).

But those cartoons never really delved into the aftermath of all the mysteries they claim to have ‘solved’. Who’s to say, for instance, that the ‘unmasked villain’ would not go on to hire a top criminal lawyer, exploit weakness in the prosecution’s case, and eventually get acquitted by the law-courts on all charges? (You never thought of that, did you, Scoob?)

Much more seriously, however: our collective experience of the criminal justice system rarely, if ever, gets ‘wrapped up’ quite so neatly. Consider, for instance, the latest developments in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation: which, on closer scrutiny, seem to mirror some aspects of the archetypal Scooby Doo plot almost to the letter.

First there was the (not-exactly spontaneous) confession of Vincent ‘Il-Koħħu’ Muscat (who ‘would have probably got away with it, too… if it wasn’t for the pesky FBI’).

Then there was a press conference by the Police Commissioner, who claimed that: ‘every person, from mastermind to executioners […] had been apprehended’. And all you have to do, to turn that into a precise replica of the classic Scooby Doo final scene, is simply replace the word ‘apprehended’ with: ‘unmasked’.

Lastly, there was the same premature declaration of ‘case closed’… when the legal trial (of all but one of the suspects involved: Vincent Muscat, who has already been jailed) has yet to even begin in earnest.

So much for the similarities. There is, however, at least one significant difference. For regardless how lame or repetitive the cartoon’s resolution always was… in the end, Scooby and co. invariably gave us a good reason (even if it was, ultimately, always the same) for the bad guys’ behaviour.

We were not just told ‘who’ they were… but also exactly ‘why’ they did what they did.

Unfortunately, however, there is no equivalent for this anywhere in the official conclusions of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder inquiry.  With Vincent Muscat’s confession, we may indeed be one step close to answering the question: ‘who killed Daphne Caruana Galizia?’; but we remain none the wiser as to precisely ‘why’ she was killed in the first place.

In a nutshell, the investigators have provided everything except the murder motive. And it is a lacuna that they will sooner or later have to close, when (ideally, before) presenting their case in court.

For even if we blindly accept Angelo Gafà’s claim – i.e., that there are no further arrests to be made, because the police have already caught all the protagonists involved – when it comes to actually proving their guilt, the police are also going to have to provide the jury with a plausible, ironclad thesis to explain: a) why the murder took place, and (much more pertinently); b) why it was committed specifically – and exclusively – by those particular people.

Or at least, they would have to do that with regard to Yorgen Fenech: the man accused of having commissioned the entire murder to begin with (the rest, being lower down the criminal pecking-order, have an obvious, inbuilt motive for all their crimes: money).

But Yorgen Fenech? If we are to believe that he really was the ‘be-all and end-all’, behind the entire chain of events culminating in that grisly event of October 2017… then – unlike any of the others – ‘money’ can’t exactly be the prime motive.

Nor can it be that other usual suspect, when it comes to previous potential suspects in the same murder. Unlike, say, Chris Cardona, Yorgen Fenech had no evident reason to viscerally hate Daphne Caruana Galizia so much. He was hardly one of her more habitual targets (indeed she barely ever mentioned him on her blog at all).

Naturally, this brings us to all the theories and speculation that have accumulated in the 14 months since Fenech’s arrest; the most popular of which is arguably that Fenech had intimated (correctly, it seems) that Daphne Caruana Galizia would eventually unmask him as the owner of 17 Black.

But while I can see that to be a major cause for concern, on Fenech’s behalf… is it really enough, on its own, for him to have risked so much by murdering her? In other words, to throw away an entire multi-million business empire, in exchange for a (possible) life sentence in Corradino prison?

Well… perhaps. For even if the news did eventually come out anyway (in November 2018: a full year before his arrest for Daphne’s murder); and even if there were no immediate legal consequences for Fenech himself, as a direct consequence of that revelation…

…it still spelt an instant end to his public credibility, as a leading Maltese business figure; and it still eventually got him fired, from his all-powerful role as CEO of the Tumas Group.

But then, you have to weigh it up against (or, if you prefer, in tandem with) some of the other popular theories. We are told, for instance, that Daphne Caruana Galizia was investigating a leaked cache of Electrogas e-mails at the time of her murder; and that the motive may be linked to Fenech’s position as an Electrogas shareholder (and therefore, by extension, to the Panama Papers scandal).

The problem with this hypothesis, however, is… well, for starters, it would instantly point towards the possible involvement of others apart from Fenech – who was not exactly the only (nor even the most prominent) protagonist in that particular scandal.

So if the police are going to claim, in open court, that Yorgen Fenech murdered Daphne ‘because of what she was about to reveal about Electrogas’… it wouldn’t sit very easily with their simultaneous hypothesis (i.e, that he also acted alone and unaided).

On a separate level, however, that same leaked cache is now in the hands of the investigators (and has been since 2017); and while there may be room to argue that the Maltese police simply can’t be trusted to evaluate the information… what about Interpol? Europol? Or the German police, who have (allegedly, at any rate) been in possession of Daphne’s laptop for three whole years?

Unless those, too, are somehow involved in a conspiracy to obstruct the course of justice in this case… there is no reason why they would withhold any evidence those emails might provide (against Yorgen Fenech; or anyone else, for that matter).

Yet nothing has so far come out, a full three years later. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there is ‘nothing further to come out’; but it does mean that, unless this presumed evidence does one day materialize – ideally, in time to actually be used against Yorgen Fenech in court – it is, quite frankly, useless.

In any case, I could go on with the conspiracy theories – there are even those who believe that Yorgen Fenech is being ‘framed’; and that the real murderers are none other than Daphne’s own family (How’s that for a classic Scooby Doo ending, huh?)  – but… well, that example alone proves just how unhelpful all this speculation really is.

Yet this, I fear, is the only possible outcome of the police’s premature victory declaration this week. For with the investigators now excluding the involvement of anyone else in the murder - and, worse still, with the police themselves failing to provide a reasoned explanation for how they even reached that conclusion at all - we are all left with no other option but to piece together a scenario, for ourselves, that translates into a plausible reason to convict Yorgen Fenech – and only Yorgen Fenech – for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

All things considered, then: I am probably far from the only one feeling vaguely unsatisfied by the final ‘closure’ (if such it can be called) of this particular investigation. Certainly, I don’t come away with the same sense of absolute certainty – which you do, at least, get from watching Scooby Doo – that ALL the bad guys really have been unmasked in final scene…

… but then again, I guess that’s what happens when you watch too many cartoons as a kid.