Cocaine deal and a missing phone were factors in Tigne beach stabbing, court told

A court has been told that the disappearance of a phone during a drug deal led to a stabbing in which the victim was grievously wounded

A court has been told that the disappearance of a phone during a drug deal led to a stabbing in which the victim was grievously wounded.

Magistrate Doreen Clarke heard the testimony of two of the victim’s friends this afternoon as the compilation of evidence against Hisham Abuagilla continued.

The 38-year-old Libyan stands charged in connection with the alleged attempted murder of a 21-year-old Englishman at Tigne Point in August 2021.

Abuagilla, who told the court he was a self-employed plasterer, had been apprehended at Qui-Si-Sana, following a joint operation between Sliema District police and the Homicide Squad.

In today’s sitting, a witness to the incident, Matteo Occhialini, testified in Italian through a court-appointed interpreter.

Police Inspectors Wayne Camilleri and Colin Sheldon, prosecuting together with AG lawyer Etienne Savona suggested that the witness be administered a caution as his testimony could potentially lead to criminal proceedings against him. But despite being warned by the court that he could face charges as a result of his testimony, the witness insisted on testifying.

Asked by Savona, the witness identified the accused in the courtroom as “Hisham.” They had met once on the bay, on the night of the incident, he said.

Occhialini said he had gone, together with his friends Luke Jones and Arvid Lind, to Hisham’s home Sliema and then to Tigne beach, where they had some alcoholic drinks. After a few hours,  Occhialini's Swedish friend lost his mobile phone and started to look for it in the accused’s bag.

The phone wasn’t found in Hisham’s bag, but the accused had noticed the man rummaging in it and had pushed him, said the witness, adding that Lind had then apologised and the accused had accepted the apology.

He recounted how, just a few minutes later, the witness and Lind had gone to the nearby bay.  Occhialini said the fight took place there. “I saw Hisham go up to Arvin and push him to the ground. Luke had intervened to protect Arvin from the accused, and they started to fight.

“The accused pulled out the knife and stabbed Luke…” said the witness, using his hands to indicate a knife with a blade approximately 4 inches long.

“He stabbed Luke more than once in his back, side and near his throat. The last stab wound was near his neck. When I saw this scene, I grabbed the accused and threw him to the ground. The accused then grabbed the knife and ran off with it,” Occhiarini recalled.

The police and an ambulance arrived at the scene soon after, he said.

Shown a photograph of various items which the police had seized from the accused, including a knife, the witness said the knife was familiar.

“Luke was supposed to acquire cocaine from Hisham,” the witness explained to the court. “It was dark, but I saw him. When I saw him on top of Luke, at that time, I hadn’t realised that he had stabbed him in the neck. I grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He ran away.” The witness said Hisham said something in a foreign language before he fled, but he didn’t understand the words.

Asked how many times the victim was stabbed, the witness said he didn’t know how many but could say where he was stabbed.

The second witness, Arvid Lind, also testified today after receiving a similar caution to the previous witness. The court told him that he had the right not to answer any questions if he felt that his answers could incriminate him. He told the court that he wanted to testify nonetheless.

Lind said he used to work with a gaming company and had gone to visit some friends at their flat, Luke amongst them. “We were drinking,” he said. I was very tired but they wanted to go to Paceville, so we ended up going to Paceville. I was getting pretty drunk.” They had been drinking in a pub. From there, as I was very drunk, my memories are not clear, he said. “I don’t remember how but we ended up in Sliema. I remember being in an apartment; I think It belonged to the accused,” explained the witness, who pointed out Abuagilla and identified him in the courtroom today.

“Then we went to a bay near the Point. I was very drunk. I remember speaking to some people there. Soon after speaking to them, I got hit in the face. I’m not sure who hit me, but I think it was Hisham. I remember being very scared. I remember running, not from the beach, but after. I don’t know in what direction I was running. I was looking behind me to make sure I wasn’t being followed.”

Asked why he had run away, Lind said he was unable to recall. “I knew I was scared, but I don’t remember the reason.” The witness said he did not remember anything else about that night.

“I remember waking up in my bed the next day and receiving a message…that Luke had been stabbed.”

He said he only knew that Hisham was angry, and this was because the man had hit him in the face.

Cross-examined by Lawyer Noel Bianco, he said that his friends had known the accused but that he did not. Confronted by the suggestion that he had arranged the meeting with the accused, he said he didn’t know.

The compilation of evidence was adjourned to a date in April.