Updated | Man accused of arson says peaceful resolution of disputes 'only happened in the world of the police'

He passed the comment after police offered to help him settle the dispute amicably

Photo: Malta Police Force
Photo: Malta Police Force

A 21-year-old man from Paola has been remanded in custody on arson charges relating to the setting alight of a car on New Year’s Eve.

Inspectors Mario Xiberras, Jeffrey Scicluna and Paul Camilleri arraigned Denilson Manicaro, 21 from Paola, on charges of arson, voluntary damage and drugs possession, before magistrate Neville Camilleri.

The prosecution told the court that Manicaro had been arrested in connection with the burning of the car in Fgura, which belonged to a policeman, following analysis of CCTV footage. A Grey VW Polo with distinguishing features was identified. Surveillance revealed that Manicaro was using the car. Mobile localisation placed him at the scene of the crime at the time of the arson. 

He was subsequently arrested, and in his underpants a vehicle key was found. The car matching the set of keys was found by the police and a number of cocaine and crack cocaine packets containing around 12 grams of the drugs were found in the vehicle.

The inspector said that Manicaro had admitted to setting the car on fire, but had said that he hadn’t wanted to destroy the policeman’s car but one belonging to another person.

Defence lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia pointed out that the man had cooperated with the police. A magisterial inquiry had preserved witness evidence, said inspector Sciberras.

The court said it was satisfied that the arrest was valid at law and asked the accused what his plea was. Accused was employed.

Manicaro pleaded not guilty to the charges

Bail was requested.

Inspector Scicluna objected to the request. There were other people possibly involved, he said. He also told the court that Manicaro had set the car on fire by mistake as he wanted to harm another person. The police had offered him help in settling his dispute amicably, but the accused had said that this “only happened in the world of the police.”

Debono said that the prosecution had made no mention of a risk of the accused tampering with evidence, and that the man had a clean criminal record. “The mention of ongoing investigations worries me, as there is police bail for ongoing investigations,” said the lawyer, arguing that the police shouldn’t arraign before their investigations were complete. 

There was an inquiry, witnesses were heard and evidence preserved, said the lawyer. Manicaro had also cooperated fully with the police with regards his involvement. 

Inspector Scicluna interrupted, explaining that the man had cooperated “but not to the extent that we could verify his information.” The police Investigation was now seeking to establish the motive behind the arson attack.

The court after seeing the charges against the accused, and after being told that a magisterial inquiry is underway, said that it was not informed of what was covered by that inquiry and denied bail due to fear of the accused tampering with evidence.

The court also however ordered that the magisterial inquiry be exhibited in the acts of this case in order for the court to be in a better position to decide on future bail requests, a move praised by the defence as “being in the spirit of the law.”

Prior to the man's arrest, police had been observing the man's movements for days. Late on Tuesday night, police from the Arsons Unit within the Major Crimes Squad arrested the man in Valletta.