Two cleared of attacking and injuring man with revolver and wooden plank

The incident took place in 2007 outside a football supporters club

Two men have been cleared of attacking and grievously injuring a man in a fight in 2007.

Magistrate MarseAnne Farrugia acquitted Paul Spagnol and Francis Ebejer of injuring Mohammed Tuoarha, who had staggered into the Sliema police station at midnight on 25 October 2007 with a bleeding head wound.

Tuohara had told police that he had been having a drink at a football supporters club in Sliema when Francis Ebejer had asked to speak with him outside the club. Once outside, Ebejer had allegedly put a revolver to his head whilst Spagnol hit him over the head with a piece of wood.

Tuoarha escaped and made his way to the police station. He was taken to hospital and found to have suffered lacerations to the side of his head and face.

Between them, Spagnol and Ebejer were charged with grievous bodily harm, breaching a suspended sentence and recidivism.

The alleged victim had testified to having been at the football clubhouse when Ebejer had asked him to leave. This was because Tuohara, who was in charge of a bar at a local band club had previously barred Spagnol from entering the bar. He claimed that Ebejer had drawn a revolver and pointed it at him whilst Spagnol fetched a wooden plank from his van and started to beat him with it, also biting his ear.

Ebejer had claimed that he had asked the man to leave as he wanted to try and have a quiet word with him about his conflict with Spagnol. He denied pointing the gun at him and claimed that he was not present when the injuries were inflicted.

On his part, Spagnol had denied arguing with the victim over admittance to the band club, but admitted that he hadn’t gone there for around two months, claiming that this had been out of his own free will and not because he was barred.

The court, presided by magistrate Marse Anne Farrugia had observed that although the police had found bloody handprints on a nearby vehicle, they had not taken blood samples or fingerprints for comparison.

Neither had they summoned the barman at the football club to testify, although one witness had said that he had closed up right before the police arrived.

The revolver and plank allegedly used were never found by the police.

The only person, apart from the victim, who said he saw Spagnol near the club’s front porch was the other accused, Ebejer. Noting that Maltese jurisprudence had long established that the testimony of a co-accused was not admissible against the other co-accused, both if in favour or against. Therefore Ebejer’s testimony was inadmissible.

“At the end of the day, what the court has before it as evidence is the testimony of the parte civile against the testimony of the accused Ebejer and the statement of the accused Spagnol,” observed the magistrate. The police report by the victim had indicated the possibility of there being more people involved in the aggression he had suffered.

Also relevant was the fact that although Ebejer was arrested just minutes after the report by the still-bloodied victim, nothing was found on his clothes or body that could support the allegation made by the victim. Likewise, when the police had knocked on Spagnol’s door at around 3pm the next day, they found nothing incriminating.

The court noted that the “only thing that emerges from the evidence is that Spagnol and the parte civile had some form of argument between them before this incident. Therefore this court cannot reasonably exclude that the parte civile did not have a motive to accuse Spagnol over the injuries he suffered.”

The victim had also later left Malta without giving the police any contact details and had not indicated having any continuing interest in the outcome of the proceedings, said the court.

For these reasons, the magistrate declared the charges had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt and acquitted the men.

Assistant Commissioner Stephen Gatt prosecuted.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi appeared for Spagnol, while Lawyer Edward Gatt defended Ebejer.