No bail for Iklin shooter, lawyer says accused claimed self-defence

The victim suffered gunshot wounds to his shoulder, face and hands - but is not in danger of dying

Ryan Sultana apprehended by police (Source: TVM screenshot)
Ryan Sultana apprehended by police (Source: TVM screenshot)

24-year-old Ryan Sultana of Iklin has been charged with shooting and grievously injuring a 55-year-old man, in a dispute thought to revolve around fraud. The victim, fraudster Vincent Xuereb, known by his nickname of “Ċensu 'L-Oranġjo,” was shot multiple times and left grievously wounded.

Sultana is accused of firing three shots at the man, with a shotgun. He was charged with grievous bodily harm, carrying a firearm during the commission of an offence against the person, causing Xuereb to fear violence, attacking Xuereb and exceeding the limits of provocation. He is also accused of failing to store his licenced shotgun in a proper manner, and violating the conditions of his licence.
Sultana was further charged with breaching he peace and misuse of electronic communications equipment.

Before magistrate Victor Axiaq this afternoon, prosecuting officer Inspector Wayne Camilleri explained that yesterday at 3:30pm police received a report that a collision had resulted in  an argument which had escalated and during which shots were fired. RIU officers were first at the scene, finding Xuereb bleeding from gunshot wounds. Sultana, who lived nearby, was arrested shortly afterwards and admitted readily to shooting Xuereb, claiming to have done so in self-defence, the court was told.

Xuereb was grievously injured and was lucky that the pellets did not hit vital organs. He had suffered gunshot wounds to his shoulder, face and hands. He is not in danger of dying, confirmed the inspector, when asked by the defence.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, defence counsel did not contest the validity of the arrest.

Sultana, who told the court he worked as a gardener, pleaded not guilty. Bail was requested.

Prosecuting lawyer George Camilleri, from the Office of the Attorney General, objected to bail, pointing out that the case started with an argument between two people, Ryan Sultana and Vincent Xuereb. Xuereb was in hospital, under guard, said the prosecutor, adding that he feared there would be tampering with evidence.  The accused said he had acted in self defence because of fear, said the prosecutor. “The prosecution fears tampering with evidence not only because it fears Sultana might approach the victim, but also that the other witnesses might approach the accused too,” he explained.

“We want to reduce harm,” argued the lawyer.

Defence lawyer Arthur Azzopardi said that a magisterial inquiry was underway and that experts had been appointed. The civilian witnesses who are not the victim or the accused, have already tendered evidence to the police. CCTV is also in the hands of the police.

Furthermore, when Sultana was arrested, the police bodycams recorded it.

During his interrogation, Sultana had opted to reply to the questions and went into great detail, Azzopardi explained.

“The evidence is all preserved,” argued the lawyer. “What is he going to do? If his version to the police doesn’t match that said to the court, he will carry that responsibility. If Xuereb wants to change his version he will anyway independently of whether Sultana is out on bail or not.”

The CCTV evidence is in the hands of the court already. “It was gathered and it was gathered according to law. So the risk of tampering is not real.”

Attorney General lawyer George Camilleri counter argued that Ryan Sultana’s version is recorded and will be confirmed in court under oath, but that Xuereb’s version was very brief. “Also he is not going to be under guard after he is discharged from hospital,” pointed out the lawyer.

When discharged the victim would also be interrogated, said the AG lawyer. “Xuereb will be investigated too.”

Camilleri: there is a history between the victim and the accused and there is fertile ground for agreement.

“If Xuereb, who we have just learned is being investigated, is brought to testify and refuses to, in order to avoid self-incrimination, will this mean that Sultana should remain under arrest?” asked the lawyer.

Sultana thanked the police in his statement for the way he was treated by the police from the time of his arrest.

The court, having heard the submissions on bail, after taking into account the circumstances of the case – including the clean criminal record of the accused, the court said it still saw an objective risk of interference with the course of justice if it grants bail at this stage.

This situation can change in the coming days or weeks but at this stage the court is bound to reject the request for bail, said the magistrate.