Pitbulls who savaged elderly woman to death had fighting scars, court told

Relatives of the victim of a fatal pitbull attack had told the police that she had spent the last week of her life without electricity as the dogs’ owner had been trying to force her to leave her home

File photo
File photo

Relatives of the victim of a fatal pitbull attack had told the police that she had spent the last week of her life without electricity as the dogs’ owner had been trying to force her to leave her home, a court has heard.

95-year-old Inez Galea died of injuries she sustained in September 2020 after being savaged by two pitbulls belonging to her grandson, Andre Galea, whilst at her home in Msida. Andre Galea is charged with her involuntary homicide.

Magistrate Ian Farrugia heard several witnesses when the case was called this morning.

Dr Safraz Ali, who carried out the postmortem examination of the victim’s remains together with Dr Tiffany Buhagiar, presented the court with their report. The cause of death was hypovolemic shock as a result of severe external trauma consistent with animal bites, he said.

Former Animal Welfare Director Noel Montebello also testified. Animal Welfare inspectors had carried out inspections on Galea’s residence on several occasions after receiving reports from the public but had always found the man’s animals in a good condition, he said. After the incident, two of the dogs, which were thought to have been responsible for the attack, were taken away by the department. All of the dogs had been registered in Andre Galea’s name.

Evidence of dog fights

A veterinarian also took the stand on Thursday. She had been appointed by the inquiring magistrate to examine the dogs involved in the incident. Two pitbulls and a chihuahua were taken to the Ta Qali Animal Hospital, she said. The chihuahua was dead on arrival, and an autopsy was carried out on it by another veterinarian. It was found to have died from damage caused by extensive puncture wounds consistent with bites from a medium-sized dog.

Both pitbulls had scars, she said, one on its face. Asked to elaborate on this by defence lawyer Charles Mercieca, the vet said that the injuries were two to three weeks old and were consistent with dog fights.

The pitbulls weren’t aggressive towards her, she said. The female dog was fearful, and the male was happy to see her team, she said. Both dogs were healthy apart from the scarring.

A nurse stationed on the ambulance which arrived at the scene said that she had been told by neighbours that they had heard screaming coming from the garage. Civil Protection Department personnel warned her that there were dangerous dogs inside, and so the Animal Welfare Department was called in.

In the meantime, the accused had helped get the dogs out of the way, and the first responders were then able to enter the garage. “We saw the elderly woman and realised that she was lifeless. It was obvious that she was dead.”

Asked by defence whether the dogs appeared aggressive, she said her concern was for the patient but hadn’t seen the dog act aggressively. When the dogs went out, they went in.

No electricity

A police sergeant also took the stand, telling the magistrate that the police had received a call reporting that a neighbour was calling for help. They went to the scene and knocked on the door, but there was no answer. “From behind the door, we heard sounds of a small injured dog but no human sounds,” she said. The CPD was summoned to force the door open, at which point they proceeded inside and found the body.

The sergeant added that at one point, CPD officers had rushed out of the house. They had seen two pitbulls racing down from the neighbouring, adjoining house. Fearing for their safety, they had picked up the injured chihuahua and exited the building until animal welfare could assist.

The sergeant also told the court that relatives of the deceased had informed her that Ines spent the previous week with no electricity, as “Andre had cut off the electricity to force her out of the house.”

The case continues tomorrow.

Inspector Colin Sheldon is prosecuting. Lawyer Charles Merceica is defending the accused.
Lawyer Mario Mifsud appeared for the victim's family