Paceville 'thief' beaten by mob before arrest, court hears

Inspector says accused was chased after someone allegedly spotted him stealing a handbag from a foreign couple

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

“Disturbing” is how a magistrate described the case of an 18-year-old man arraigned before her on charges of theft and resisting arrest in Paceville, after he limped into court with visible injuries after being beaten by an angry mob.

Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace heard Inspector Brian Xuereb explain how the incident took place at around 1am on 16 January in various streets around the nightlife district.

Inspector Xuereb said the mob had chased Sayfedine Bonavia, from St Paul’s Bay after someone allegedly spotted him stealing a handbag from a foreign couple, containing two mobile phones worth roughly €1,000 each. Bonavia was captured and beaten by the crowd, members of which then tied his hands together with a belt, before handing him over to the police.

The inspector told the court that as police officers tried to load Bonavia into their van, he told them that he had swallowed some pills. An ambulance was then dispatched to take him to hospital.

In court today, Bonavia pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated theft, criminal damage, threatening police officers, violently resisting arrest, breaching mask-wearing regulations, disobeying legitimate police orders, breaching bail conditions, committing an offence during the operative period of a suspended sentence and recidivism.

Bonavia suffered injuries to his head, face and nose in the fracas, the court was told.

Seeing the accused’s pitiful physical state, the magistrate said she was “very disturbed” by it. “It is very alarming to me that a person ends up like this. Nobody should end up before me in this state,” said the magistrate. “This must not end here,” she said, describing the case as alarming and adding that this was not how a person was to be treated in a civilised country.

Magistrate Micallef Stafrace urged the police not to stop investigating now that they had arraigned the accused.

Defence lawyer Daniel Attard said that whilst the validity of the arrest was not being contested, he was insisting that his client had been severely beaten and could not remember anything of what happened that night.

Inspector Xuereb submitted that the accused had cooperated with the police. Before his arraignment, the prosecution and defence discussed the accused’s medical condition. During questioning Bonavia had said he was feeling well, added the inspector. CT scans, blood tests and other medical examinations had been carried out on the accused by hospital doctors, he said.

The prosecution explained there was CCTV footage of the incident and that one of the stolen mobile phones had been recovered, with the other having been taken out of his bag by a bystander and found to be broken.

The accused had been chased by a group of youths who attacked him, confirmed the inspector, adding that another commotion had erupted while the police were trying to load him into their van, when the accused had alleged that he had swallowed some pills.

He said that during this commotion, there were some who alleged that Bonavia had tried to steal more phones belonging to members of the crowd, with one girl holding up a broken mobile phone and claiming the accused had damaged it.

Bonavia had spent two days on police bail whilst receiving treatment in hospital and had then gone to the St. Julian’s police station of his own accord, refusing further medical assistance, the inspector told the court.

Bail was not requested by the defence at this stage.