Man accused of car arson had picture of car's numberplate on his phone, court told

Man denied bail over Qormi arson attack

A construction worker from Zebbug has been remanded in custody on arson charges in connection with a fire that consumed a car in Qormi in September.

Jean Claude Galea, 24, appeared before magistrate Charmaine Galea accused of arson, criminal damage and recidivism. The incident took place in the early hours of 5 September in Qormi.

The court heard how Galea had been put up to setting fire to the car by a third party, “to send a message.”

The unnamed instigator had also been arrested and was sentenced yesterday to two years’ imprisonment suspended for four.

Police had found a picture of the burnt car’s numberplate on Galea’s mobile phone.

Lawyer Alfred Abela entered a plea of not guilty on the man’s behalf. He asked for bail. The prosecution objected, arguing that the accused would tamper with evidence if released.

Abela argued that the “mastermind” had already testified yesterday under oath. Nobody could change his testimony, therefore, said the lawyer, adding the crime had taken place two and a half months ago.

“If there was to be tampering with evidence it would have happened by now. He was arrested 3 days ago and there was ample time for evidence to be tampered with yet nothing happened,” he argued.

“We have a 24-year-old man with a clean criminal record who is ready to not approach the alleged victims. He has no reason to approach Qormi. His father is also prepared to step in as a third-party guarantor.”

The court, however, denied bail in view of the fact that the person arraigned as the mastermind was handed a suspended sentence yesterday and therefore there was a real fear that the accused would approach or contact him. The magistrate called upon the prosecution to summon the person who ordered the arson to testify in the next sitting.

Abela asked that the court order the man be held at the forensic ward at Mount Carmel Hospital.

The court upheld the request and made the recommendation to the director of prisons.

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