Custody battle alleged to be behind Rabat shooting incident

Man accused of shooting at partner’s boyfriend’s car with shotgun remanded in custody

A man has been accused of shooting at his partner’s boyfriend’s car with a shotgun, has been remanded in custody, with the court commenting that it could not understand how the other party had not been arrested too.

Truck driver Joseph Cardona, 29 of Siggiewi, was arraigned before magistrate Rachel Montebello this afternoon, accused of attempted grievous bodily harm on Simon and Raymond Azzopardi and his children.

Cardona was also accused of causing fear of violence, causing criminal damage, uttering insults and threats, carrying a firearm in public without a licence, firing the weapon in an inhabited area, breaching conditions of his arms licence and carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime.

He pleaded not guilty to the accusations, through his lawyer, Joe Giglio.

Inspector Stacy Attard told the court that on 30 June, police were informed that a shot had been fired in Rabat. Police arriving at the scene found Simon and Raymond Azzopardi with the two children. They told the officers that they were going back to their farmhouse when they saw Angie Azzopardi, ex-partner of Raymond and girlfriend of the accused. She had honked the horn and at that moment, a shot was fired from the direction of the other car.

Upon arriving at the scene, the police found a shotgun in the possession of Cardona.

The court drew the attention of the prosecuting officer about the circumstances and observed that it could not understand how the other person – Raymond Azzopardi- involved in this incident was still not arrested, despite it appearing that other crimes meriting arrest, namely abduction and disregarding court orders, had occurred.

Giglio explained that Cardona was in a long-term relationship with Raymond Azzopardi’s ex-wife. The two children are from the previous marriage. Whenever the woman would go to collect the children, Raymond would make it difficult or impossible for the children to be returned at the time specified in decrees of access.

The police’s assistance was always requested in these situations, every time access was required, he said. Azzopardi would be convinced by the police to return the children most of the time, but sometimes they would tell the mother that the police could do nothing and to speak to her lawyer.

“This time was one of the occasions where the police told her that ‘we can do nothing so speak to your lawyer,’” Giglio went on, explaining that the woman had repeatedly tried in vain to contact her children. “You have a mother fighting for the nth time to take custody of her children as the court decree states.” The children have been missing since Saturday, he added.

Six days later, she was informed that the Azzopardis were staying in a nearby farmhouse. “It is alleged that a gunshot was heard and that it was fired by Cardona. Cardona, who after spending days running around trying to find the children is accused of trying to hurt them by shooting at the car,” Giglio said.

The car was not even scratched and Raymond and Simon Azzopardi were likewise unharmed, claimed the lawyer. “An expert in the inquiry was appointed to hear witnesses later today. The depositions of these people will be preserved in the inquiry,” Giglio said, requesting bail and calling on the court to find the children.

Inspector Attard said that the woman could have reported that the man was not obeying his access conditions in any police station, saying that Prosecution could not understand how a man searching the islands for his children was doing so while armed. “That is an allegation” interjected Giglio.

After hearing these submissions, the court denied bail, pointing out that it could not put aside the risk of interference with witnesses and evidence at this stage. It, however urged the case to be appointed as soon as possible and the prosecution to bring all the civilian witnesses at the next sitting.

Lawyers Joe Giglio and Roberta Bonello were defence counsel to Cardona.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri were parte civile.

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