Man chopped up girlfriend’s credit cards, destroyed mobile phone to make her miss return flight

Court hears how man on on holiday in Malta with girlfriend destroyed her credit cards and placed her mobile phone in a bowl of water after the pair argued on their last day of the trip

A man has been charged with destroying his girlfriend's credit cards and placing her mobile phone in a bowl of water in a bid to stop her from catching a return flight after an argument.

The pair argued on their last day of their holiday in Malta.

Hassen Bananou, a 37-year-old Tunisian man, residing in Italy, was remanded in custody after being arraigned before Magistrate Doreen Clarke on Monday morning, accused of having stolen a mobile phone that he had borrowed from his Chinese girlfriend and damaging another phone which belonged to her.

The man pleaded not guilty to the charges of theft and criminal damage during his arraignment today.  “I didn’t steal the phone!” exclaimed the accused in court, after his reply of ‘yes’ was initially misunderstood to be an admission of guilt.

The victim also testified today, assisted by an Italian language interpreter.

She had been in a relationship with the accused for the last six months, she said. “There were problems and we would argue sometimes, but it is a normal thing. I didn’t expect him to do such things.”

She told the court that on 2 April, she had been involved in an argument with her partner at around midnight. “He wanted to go away and leave me alone. I told him it was midnight; why don’t we wait until we get back to Siena, as it was our last day in Malta.” 

The man had insisted on leaving, and so she had told him to go and leave all his things with her, with the couple agreeing to talk things through once they returned to Siena, she said.

“The next day, Saturday, when I woke up, I couldn’t find my partner and neither could I find my iPhone or the phone I had lent him. It is a Huawei.”

The woman testified that she had later found her iPhone in a container full of water and her credit card destroyed, she said. Unable to use her credit card, she went to the police. “I was also unable to access the ticket for my flight,” explained the witness.

Her voice trembling at times, she told the court that she was certain that they had been destroyed by her partner, even if she hadn’t seen him do it with her own eyes, as they were the only people in the hotel room.

At the police station, she was informed that her boyfriend had checked in to the flight and was due to depart from Malta that evening. “I realised that this meant I could find my boyfriend at the airport. So I decided to wait for him at the airport. I finally found him at the airport and took him to the police,” she said, explaining that she didn’t know anyone else in Malta.

“I didn’t know how to do anything without my belongings.”

Asked by the inspector, she said she had lent her Hwuawei phone to the accused some five months ago but had made it clear that she wanted it back.

She insisted that it was unlikely to be a case of theft, telling the court that had a thief entered the hotel room, they would have taken her cards and phone and not destroyed them. She had no motive to do so herself, she added.

The damaged phone was worth some €500 and so was the stolen one, she told the court.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Martha Mifsud, the woman confirmed that she had not seen the accused steal the phones or place one in the water. “Because I was asleep at the time and thought that he was going to just leave,” she explained.

“You can check the CCTV at the hotel and see that he left by himself and damaged the things. I already explained that I have no interest in damaging my devices. It was only us two at the hotel.”

The inspector said there was a problem, in that while it was true that the woman needed her mobile phone to access her funds and to catch her flight home, the device was also evidence.”

He told the court that the accused had been arrested at Malta International Airport before boarding a flight to Pisa, and the missing phone had been found in his possession.

In order to demonstrate that it was hers, the woman unlocked the phone in court as the magistrate looked on. She also confirmed on oath that the device belonged to her before the court returned the exhibit.

Bail was not requested.

After the sitting came to a close the man expected to be released and was upset when informed that he would be remanded in custody. He stood up and addressed the court directly, “I have work and a family in Italy!” he protested. The magistrate advised him to speak to his lawyer.