Jury told how weapon used to murder Hugo Chetcuti was found on accused

Entrepreneur Hugo Chetcuti had suffered life-threatening injuries after a stabbing, and passed away seven days later

Bojan Cmelik is accused with the murder of Hugo Chetcuti
Bojan Cmelik is accused with the murder of Hugo Chetcuti

The knife used to murder entrepreneur Hugo Chetcuti was found in a pouch-like holster on the person of the man on trial for his killing, a jury has been told.

Former Senior Police Inspector Nikolai Sant and other police officers testified to the arrest of Bojan Cmelik, who had to be subdued with tasers after leading police on a chase around Sliema and then resisting arrest, after being identified as a suspect in a stabbing.

The victim, who had suffered life-threatening injuries, turned out to be Hugo Chetcuti, the owner of several clubs in Paceville, said Inspector Sant.

The trial of Bojan Cmelik, who stands accused of the murder of the entertainment mogul revolves around the issue of positive indirect intent – the intent to put life in obvious danger. This was because Chetcuti did not die at the scene of his stabbing, but died after complications from surgery on the knife wounds, allegedly inflicted by Cmelik.

“Reckless indifference. I know that I might kill, but I am indifferent,” was how prosecuting lawyer Kevin Valletta described the accused’s intent, during his opening speech to the jury.

A knife was found in Cmelik’s possession and DNA testing subsequently linked it to the stabbing, after Chetuti’s DNA was found on it, the prosecution said. The police sergeant who had frisked Cmelik after his arrest, testified that “on his chest, under the top, I found a black plastic holster with a knife in it.”

Chetcuti had been sitting at one of the restaurants he owned when he was stabbed, Inspector Sant said. The assailant had fled in the direction of Axis club with people chasing him, but he managed to get away. The RIU was given his description and it was not long before he was spotted running towards Balluta. He was seen once at Snoopy’s bar and later on in Old College Street, Inspector Sant said.

RIU and district police officers caught up with the suspect in Rudolph Street but when they ordered him to stop, he did not comply and fled. He was finally apprehended in St. Helen’s street in Sliema. “He resisted arrest and police officers had to use their tasers to subdue him,” the jury was told.

The taser delivers an electric shock and paralyses the target briefly, explained the inspector. One of the two probes fired by the taser gun, struck Cmelik, who was then arrested and given his rights.

The victim was in danger of loss of life at the time and duty magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech appointed several experts to assist with the inquiry.

The next day the police went through the CCTV and noted footage of Cmelik picking up a knife and stabbing Chetcuti twice in the abdomen, Inspector Sant said. Jurors will be shown this footage at a later stage of the trial.

A legal aid lawyer assisted the accused during his interrogation, said the inspector. “Cmelik answered few of the questions, telling police that he had not taken alcohol or drugs and was living on the street. Investigations later revealed that he was living with his brother in Pieta. The brother gave the police the accused’s passport and documents.”

After seven days in hospital, Chetcuti lost his battle for life, the jury was told.

Investigations revealed that Cmelik had been employed by some of Chetcuti’s businesses, amongst them Baccos and Hugo’s Terrace. Initially he worked at Hugo’s Terrace as a kitchen helper in 2016 but was fired for absenteeism. He was later re-hired at Bacco, but was dismissed a second time for drinking alcohol on the job, Inspector Sant said.

Checks with Europol found that Cmelik had changed his surname in Serbia. Cmelik was born Bojan Mitic but changed his name in March 2016, less than three months before coming to Malta.


Prosecution stresses death was result of the stabbing

In his opening address to the jury, prosecutor Kevin Valletta said that the victim’s brother Isaac had told the police that “a person walked up to his brother and opened his arms as if to greet him, but was quick enough to stab Chetcuti twice in the abdominal cavity.” The assailant then ran away.

Cmelik, wearing a blue shirt and a large straw hat, had grabbed Chetcuti with his left hand and used his right hand to stab the victim twice, said the lawyer.

Seven days after Chetcuti was stabilised in hospital, his condition deteriorated and a second operation was needed to stop further bleeding. Chetcuti succumbed to sepsis after the operation, said the prosecutor.

“The cause of death was septicaemia from bowel perforations caused by the stab wounds,” Valletta said, but “had doctors not operated on Chetcuti, he would have died of the stab wounds anyway, from hypovolemic shock due to loss of blood”.

The prosecutor read out a long list of witnesses the prosecution will be producing; medical experts, pathologists, policemen and doctors, followed by a list of the exhibits.

“Sympathy, affection, fear, hatred and prejudice are feelings which you should leave behind and not allow them to affect your judgment… You have to judge solely on the basis of what you hear in the courtroom,” Valletta said

When Bojan Cmelik stabbed Hugo Chetcuti twice, he wanted to kill Chetucti or put his life in manifest jeopardy, the prosecutor said.

The trial continues on Wednesday. Cmelik is being represented by legal aid lawyer Simon Micallef Stafrace.

Lawyers Joe Giglio and Mario Spiteri appeared on behalf of the Chetcuti family. Lawyers Kevin Valletta and Maria Francesca Spiteri from the Office of the Attorney General prosecuted.