Dembska murder: Accused told police his mind was a 'cooker' and received ‘frequencies’

Abner Aquilina told police he compared himself to the protagonist of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ • Accused attacked two men before proceeding to rape and kill Paulina Dembska

Abner Aquilina (left), and Paulina Dembska (right)
Abner Aquilina (left), and Paulina Dembska (right)

Abner Aquilina, the man accused of the murder of Paulina Dembska, told police his mind was “a cooker”, and that he received "frequencies" when interrogated on the attack.

He made many references to conspiracy theories and Satanists, the court was told.

Magistrate Marseanne Farrugia heard police Inspector Jonathan Ransley testify for almost two hours about the investigation into the rape and murder of Polish student Paulina Dembska this morning.

Ransley said the accused had compared himself to the protagonist of Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian film “A Clockwork Orange,” during questioning.

Aquilina told them how he had parked his bike at level -1 in a car park nearby on January 2, and had gone to Sliema because there were many people.

The accused spoke of “enlightened persons and Satanists”, saying he went to meetings of evangelical movement River of Love.

The court heard how Aquilina had been arrested by officers from the St. Julian’s police station after they had received reports of a disturbance at Balluta church. Worshippers called the police, telling them that a man was shouting inside the church and had kicked over a lectern.

Sometime later, Ransley had received a report about a body being found in the Independence Gardens, in neighboring Sliema.

Officers from the St Julians police station had called Ransley as he was on the scene of the homicide, telling him that the man detained in connection with the church episode had made statements, which gave rise to suspicion of him being connected to the murder, he explained.

Before the murder, Aquilina had been involved in a confrontation with two men, who eventually overcame him and fled.

The court also heard how a Sliema resident had come forward to the police, them that he had been walking along the Sliema promenade during the early hours, listening to a radio broadcast of the Rosary, when he saw a man in a maroon top doing what he initially thought were push-ups, but then had seen a woman’s legs underneath him.

The police had also looked up and spoken to a male friend of Paulina’s. He had met her for a drink and the two had spent the evening together, having a bottle of wine, before going for a walk in Balluta. He had invited her home but she turned down his offer and had left for her home in Sliema. The man, from Colombia, said that he had not gone to the police after a friend advised him to keep a low profile.

The police had spoken to Aquilina’s mother, who told them that her son had stopped using marijuana, having found a new purpose in life, after joining a religious movement.

Blood and hair had been found on the accused’s motorcycle handlebars and seat. His mother explained that some days before Aquilina had cut himself with a knife.

The lawyer defending Abner Aquilina objected in court after hearing the lead police investigator explain that Aquilina had blurted out his confession to the murder before his lawyer was involved.

Lawyer Stefano Filletti appeared for the victim’s family, and lawyer Mario Mifsud appeared for the accused.

11:48 The sitting is over. That's it for today. We will be closing this live blog here and we will shortly provide a summary of this morning's sitting. Karl Azzopardi
11:47 The court is setting the date for the next sitting. The case is adjourned to 4 February at 10:00 am. Sitting to last till 1:00 pm. Aquilina is expected to be out of quarantine by then. Filletti exhibits a note, asking that Dembska's family be admitted as Parte Civile. The court upholds the request. Karl Azzopardi
11:46 Lawyer Mario Mifsud excuses himself from the courtroom. He is replaced by his colleague. Karl Azzopardi
11:46 Ransley has finished testifying. He is replaced at the stand by a Transport Malta representative who is testifying about the motorcycle. A Kymco agility he said was registered to Abner George Aquilina. Karl Azzopardi
11:41 Mifsud asks the inspector directly why he had interviewed the man. "We went to arrest him. Then he started saying certain things. The affair is a simple one," Ransley replies. Karl Azzopardi
11:38 “Explain why you left a murder scene to go to the polyclinic, to speak to a person who had kicked a lectern.” The inspector says information had been received, and that he had decided to speak to Aquilina. The magistrate asks why he felt it was relevant. Karl Azzopardi
11:37 Mifsud says the inspector felt the need to leave the scene of the murder to return to the church. “Why?” asked the lawyer. Karl Azzopardi
11:35 He confirms that the inspector had been at the scene of the church incident before the murder scene. Karl Azzopardi
11:34 Mifsud cross-examines the inspector. Karl Azzopardi
11:33 Aquilina spoke repeatedly of Satanists, the inspector went on. Karl Azzopardi
11:32 Aquilina had described his mind as a "cooker" to the police, telling them that he received "frequencies" and that "the great one illuminates me." He had followed two men and had put his keys between his knuckles. A physical confrontation had ensued, but more on that would be said later, Ransley said. Karl Azzopardi
11:30 From these investigations, it was established that the accused could distinguish right from wrong. He had exhibited very strange behaviour initially, but after the inspectors told him that they had many years of experience in dealing with suspects, he had behaved normally. Karl Azzopardi
11:27 The accused was interrogated several times, always in the presence of his lawyer, Mario Mifsud, testifies the inspector. Karl Azzopardi
11:27 Ransley tells the court that he had watched A Clockwork Orange as part of the investigation. The main character had been sexually abused, had murdered someone and had then sought redemption in religion, said the inspector, adding that this had helped the police understand why Aquilina had compared himself to the character. Karl Azzopardi
11:25 Police had spoken to a male friend of Dembska's, who comes from Colombia. They had been out and had a drink before going for a walk. He showed the police a picture they had taken. She later left for home, leaving a white bag with the man. He had waited for the police to contact him and not come forward himself, on the advice of a friend. Karl Azzopardi
11:24 CCTV showed Aquilina walking, making the sign of the cross twice, Ransley said. Karl Azzopardi
11:20 He had not heard anything as at the time, the resident had been listening to the rosary on the radio, he had said. The police had confirmed that it was broadcast at that time. Karl Azzopardi
11:18 A Sliema resident had told the police that he had been walking on the seafront in the early morning and saw a man wearing a maroon top doing what he thought were push ups. Then he saw a woman's legs underneath him. Karl Azzopardi
11:18 Blood and hair had been found on the motorcycle's handlebars and seat. His mother explained that some days before Aquilina had cut himself with a knife. Karl Azzopardi
11:16 He then called upon the accused's parents, together with another officer. They said that he used to use marijuana but had stopped at a point and they had noticed a change after he started going out with another youth. Karl Azzopardi
11:15 Ransley had given instructions to have the accused taken to the forensic department. The inspector told Superintendent Keith Arnaud that the accused had used a motorcycle and a search for this vehicle was launched. It was found parked in an underground carpark in Balluta. Karl Azzopardi
11:14 Ransley continues: “Before Aquilina had described the victim and her clothing. Aquilina had told police that ‘The film that describes me is A Clockwork Orange.’” A film about a psychopathic delinquent, points out the inspector. At that point the accused was given his rights. Karl Azzopardi
11:10 They eventually agree to allow the inspector to continue testifying and then deal with the issue later. Karl Azzopardi
11:09 Mifsud tells the court that he will be requesting a constitutional reference on this issue. "It is useless to continue at this stage." Filletti argues that the defence can make all the references it wants, but the testimony is to continue. The lawyers shout over each other. Karl Azzopardi
11:06 Ransley saw the bodycam footage of the church arrest. He had spoken with Aquilina, whilst the accused was on a stretcher, "like friends". Aquilna had said "Don't ask me questions that I don't know the answers to." Karl Azzopardi
11:05 The accused had calmed down by the time the inspector spoke to him, he said. Karl Azzopardi
11:04 Officers from the St Julians police station had called Ransley as he was on the scene of the homicide, telling him that the man detained in connection with the church episode had said some things, giving rise to suspicion of connection to the murder, he explained Karl Azzopardi
11:02 The St. Julians police station received a call about a commotion in church. Later, Ransley received a report about a homicide, he clarifies. Karl Azzopardi
11:01 Ransley explains that he was working in tandem with the other squads. Karl Azzopardi
11:00 The magistrate asks why Abner Aquilina was not spoken to by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Karl Azzopardi
10:59 Ransley: “Whenever there is a suspicious death, the homicide squad is always informed.” Karl Azzopardi
10:58 His objection registered, Inspector Ransley is called back in. The magistrate asks him a question, which isn't clearly audible. Karl Azzopardi
10:58 Mifsud said it was his understanding that even shops equipped with CCTV were obliged to have warning signs. Filletti asked whether police officers should wear a sign around their neck with "you are being watched" on it. Karl Azzopardi
10:55 Filletti: "Yes, the moment of suspicion and the moment of giving him rights should be addressed and underlined by the inspector as it isn't yet clear when this suspicion started and when his rights were given to him. This led to the importance of the bodycam. It protects officers from aggressors and also records audio visually what is said between the police and the accused.” Karl Azzopardi
10:54 Filletti: “The inspector was forthright. The police could not have immediately realised that a person they were speaking to about the pulpit incident was connected to the body they just found,” he argues. Karl Azzopardi
10:53 Mifsud: "These are serious charges. At least say that you decided to interview him and it was captured on cameras and afterwards realised we hadn't given him his rights. Afterwards, we started to suspect him" Karl Azzopardi
10:52 Mifsud: "So the right to legal assistance during questioning is introduced and we are seeing cases of breathalyser evidence being declared inadmissible because no legal assistance is given and here, where the police are already suspecting him of something." Karl Azzopardi
10:48 The bodycam is there to provide evidence of assault or insults directed at police, submitted the lawyer. "In this case...the rights of the accused are going to be affected." Karl Azzopardi
10:47 "These are small details which are sometimes fudged," the lawyer says. Pointing to the journalists, he says that they must hear all the parties if they are to do their job well. Karl Azzopardi
10:47 Mifsud replies that from the evidence heard so far, although it would become "clear" that in church he was already a suspect, if the police suspected that the accused had a part in the crime, he should have made him aware of his rights. Karl Azzopardi
10:43 Filletti: “In any case, procedurally, this question should be raised in a different forum, as the admissibility of evidence is not debated in the compilation of evidence. The defence has the sacrosanct right to do so after the bill of indictment is issued and it is the Criminal court which decides on the admissibility or otherwise of pieces of evidence.” Karl Azzopardi
10:42 The law supports his argument, Filletti says, as it is very specific. The Criminal code speaks of suspects, witnesses, persons charged and persons accused. The habeas corpus rules apply to suspects. "So if I don't suspect you of anything at that stage, the law doesn't give you those rights." Karl Azzopardi
10:41 Filletti: “Information which the person volunteers to the police out of his own free will, is not automatically inadmissible. The police cannot read arrest rights to everyone who simply speaks to them. This would stultify the entire police modus operandi.” Karl Azzopardi
10:40 Filletti: "The law prohibits the use of statements made by the accused without legal advice, where he is suspected of a crime and where he is asked questions about that crime. In this case, at that point he was not a suspect in the murder of Paulina Dembska. The police were simply physically holding him in connection with a commotion." Karl Azzopardi
10:38 Lawyer Stefano Filletti asks the witness be sent out, so he can make a point. Karl Azzopardi
10:38 Defence lawyer Mario Mifsud asks the court whether Aquilina had been given his rights at that point. He insists the prosecution deposit evidence that Aquilina had been given his rights by then, threatening to make a Constitutional reference. Karl Azzopardi
10:36 The interview, in which he says this, was captured on a police officer's body cam. Karl Azzopardi
10:34 Aquilina had told the police that the beanie described wasn't his. The brands matched. Karl Azzopardi
10:33 The accused had told the police that he had raped a woman, who was wearing a beanie of a certain brand. In fact a black beanie suspected to belong to Aquilina had been found at the scene. Karl Azzopardi
10:32 Aquililna had told an officer that "the devil made him do it". Aquilina said that he had followed a woman, who had picked up her pace at one point. He said the woman appeared to be Maltese, although she hadn't spoken to him. Karl Azzopardi
10:30 Ransley gave instructions to his subordinates that they were not to mention anything about a murder in front of Aquilina at that stage. Karl Azzopardi
10:30 Ransley goes on to say that he had also been informed that Aquilina had gone inside Balluta church and created a disturbance, kicking the lectern. He had demanded that the priest write a paper saying he was not a criminal, said the inspector. Karl Azzopardi
10:28 He says a sergeant, first on the scene, had seen Dembska's body, describing what she had been wearing. It had been found by a passer-by who called the police. The body was identified as Paulina Dembska and she was certified dead. Karl Azzopardi
10:25 Inspector Jonathan Ransley testifies. Karl Azzopardi
10:23 A prison guard takes the stand first, exhibiting a certificate confirming that the accused is in quarantine. Karl Azzopardi
10:22 Lawyer Stefano Filletti, for the Dembska family, informs the court that the family had been unable to attend today, but would be present for future sittings. Karl Azzopardi
10:19 Aquilina is following proceedings via video link from the forensic section of Mount Carmel Hospital. Karl Azzopardi
10:19 Problems with the accused’s video link have been resolved. We can now see Aquilina, who faces the camera with a blank expression. Karl Azzopardi
10:18 Magistrate Marseanne Farrugia has emerged from her chambers. Karl Azzopardi
10:09 Defence lawyer Mario Mifsud has also arrived. Karl Azzopardi
10:08 The prosecuting police inspector Jonathan Ransley and parte civile lawyer Stefano Filletti have entered the courtroom. Still no sign of Aquilina on the video link, or the defence at this point. Karl Azzopardi
10:08 We are inside the courtroom. Karl Azzopardi
09:42 Our senior court reporter Matthew Agius has just confirmed Aquilina is in quarantine. He will be following proceedings via video link. Karl Azzopardi
09:35 TVM reports the accused, Abner Aquilina, will not be in court because he is in quarantine because of COVID-19. Karl Azzopardi
09:35 Our senior court reporter Matthew Agius is waiting outside the courtroom. Karl Azzopardi
09:35 Good morning. Karl Azzopardi

READ ALSO: Abner Aquilina charged with brutal rape and murder of Paulina Dembska