Robbers handed suspended sentences for string of armed hold-ups

The three men were accused of carrying out five armed robberies at convenience stores and a lotto office in Gżira, Msida and San Ġwann in 2016

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A “last chance to reform” is how a magistrate described a suspended sentence handed to two robbers he convicted of being behind a string of hold-ups, whilst acquitting a third man accused of being their accomplice.

Kane Grima, Pierre Sciberras and Josef Galea were accused of carrying out five armed robberies at convenience stores and a lotto office in Gżira, Msida and San Ġwann. The crimes took place between January and March 2016.

Around €900 in cash were stolen by two hooded men during the first robbery, at a Gżira shop which they held up at gunpoint.

A second robbery took place a month later, also in a Gżira shop and also by two hooded men carrying a pistol. The robbers made off with €2,868 in cash, despite the shopkeeper pushing one of the thieves over as they escaped.

A San Ġwann lotto receiver was held up by a pistol-toting man wearing a black carnival mask a week later. €1,021.50 was stolen in that heist.

Only days after that, the thieves made off with some €1,400 in cash and 22 cigarette packets stolen from a shop in San Ġwann. The modus operandi was the same: two balaclava-clad men had walked into the shop, one holding a pistol, and ordering the shop assistant to empty the till.

Six days later they were involved in another armed robbery, making off with almost €2000 in cash and almost 600 mobile top-up cards from a shop in Msida.

Grima and Sciberras were arrested near a convenience store after a police patrol noticed them making suspicious driving maneuvers and chased their car, after confirming that it had false number plates.

Galea was arrested after he was mentioned as an accomplice during the interrogation of the two men.

The court, presided by Magistrate Joseph Mifsud, hears 89 witnesses testify in the proceedings against the robbers.

Having evaluated the evidence, the magistrate cleared Galea, ruling that there was no evidence against him, bar the statements issued by the other men.

Grima and Sciberras were found guilty, however, with the court noting that the pistol described by the victims was found in the area where they had been arrested and that Grima’s fingerprints matched those found on the weapon.

Balaclava masks and a cigarette butt, which were also picked up nearby, were found to have DNA traces on them which matched that of the accused men, observed the magistrate, also noting that the pair had been arrested in a car which matched eyewitness descriptions of the getaway car used in the robberies.

The court also heard the testimonies of a Caritas representative and probation officers, who told it that Grima had made considerable progress, having sought help to overcome drug problems and now led a stable family life.

With regards to Sciberras, the court was told that he had been using cannabis since his early teens and had used the drug to self-medicate.

In a 92-page judgment, Magistrate Mifsud, after weighing up the various factors surrounding punishment, decided to give the two men “a last chance,” observing that they had also spent time in preventive custody.

The men had been caught up in “the drug net,” which had done them a great deal of harm, said the court. Grima appeared to be making good progress, observed the magistrate, but Sciberras needed help with psychological issues which imprisonment would not help with.

Finding both men guilty, the court sentenced Grima to two years in prison, suspended for four years and placed Sciberras under a 3-year Probation Order.

Both accused were each condemned to pay €4,424 to the victims within three years, as well as to foot the €3,572 bill for the appointment of court experts.

Inspector Jonathan Ransley prosecuted.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri, Kathleen Calleja Grima and Lennox Vella were defence counsel.