Man admitted to police he waved penknife at victim, jurors in murder trial hear

Etienne Bartolo, the man accused of murdering Roderick Grech, admitted to police he knifed victim after Grech refused to give him cocaine on credit

Accused Etienne Bartolo (centre) conversing with his lawyers, Mark Vassallo (left) and Edward Gatt (File photo)
Accused Etienne Bartolo (centre) conversing with his lawyers, Mark Vassallo (left) and Edward Gatt (File photo)

A man on trial for murder had admitted to police that he had waved a penknife at the victim when he refused to give the accused cocaine on credit, a jury has heard.

Etienne Bartolo told investigators that he had taken out the penknife from his pocket when the victim, Roderick Grech, had punched him in the shoulder after refusing to allow him 24 hours to pay for a sachet of cocaine.

He also expressed his remorse for what he had done, police inspector Kurt Zahra told the jury on Tuesday.

Grech was stabbed to death after having allegedly been involved in an argument with Bartolo, over a drug deal.

Bartolo, 39, is pleading not guilty to murder.

“When he was called in for questioning, he was upfront with us and told us that he had stabbed him and also gave us a blow-by-blow account of what happened on the night of 29 March, 2017. The following day, when I told him he had died, Etienne was sorry for what he had done,” inspector Zahra told the jury.

The police also spoke to two men who had seen Grech on the ground and realised he needed assistance.

One man had said that Grech was unresponsive but had said “il-Vojt,  il-Vojt, il-Vojt”.

“For the police that was a turning point,” said the inspector. Police were anonymously informed that the murderer lived in Triq il-Laqxija in Birkirkara and it emerged that there was a person there whose nickname was “il-Vojt” and that person is Etienne Bartolo.

The victim’s mobile phones were examined and checked for links with Bartolo, said the inspector. It emerged that on the Nokia in the car there were two calls at the time of the incident. They were relatively short – 22 and 17 seconds. They were from Bartolo’s phone number to the phone belonging to Roderick Grech. Several messages from other people who wanted to buy drugs were also found on the mobile phone.

These three things, the fact that Bartolo lived nearby, that the deceased said “il-Vojt” and the mobile phone contact, led to the issuing of an arrest warrant for Etienne Bartolo. A search of his home had found bloodstained shoes, which were sent for forensic testing.

The jury were shown recordings of his videotaped statements to the police.

Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera is presiding over the trial.

Lawyers Kevin Valletta and Maria Francesca Spiteri from the Office of the Attorney General are prosecuting.

Lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo are defence counsel.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia are appearing parte civile.