Updated | Lead suspect in Qormi murder charged with wilful homicide

Police arraigned only one person, lead suspect Elliot Paul Busuttil, in court today

Updated at 3:23pm with arraignment time

The lead suspect in the murder of 62-year-old Mario Farrugia pleaded not guilty in court on Friday after he was charged with wilful homicide and illegal arms possesion, among other charges.

Elliot Paul Busuttil was arraigned on Friday afternoon two days after he was arrested following police raids across three properties.

He was escorted into the courtroom with an entourage of police officers.

The charges brought against him include wilful homicide, illegal arms possession, possession of a sharp weapon, hiding a cadaver, breaching bail conditions, and recidivism.

His lawyers said he will be pleading not guilty to the charges, and did not request bail at this stage.

Busuttil already faces attempted murder charges. In 2020, he was charged with attempting to murder a man and steal his money in Ta' Qali. He had been accused of stabbing a 57-year-old Bulgarian man found lying on the ground in a pool of blood.

Police had detained four suspects, including Busuttil, at the force's headquarters in Floriana after they were arrested on Wednesday evening. Police raided three properties in Attard, Msida and Mosta before arresting the four suspects.

One man was arrested in Attard, a man and a woman in Msida, and another woman in Mosta.

Like Busuttil, one of the men arrested also faces an attempted murder charger.  In 2018, Ramzi Abdulhafid Ib Abukem was charged with the murder of Mahmoud Elmejdi in Ħamrun, while in 2017 he was accused of committing aggravated theft while caught in possession of cocaine. 

In 2019 Ib Abukem faced two separate arraignments in the same month. He was first accused of robbing a family and being in possession of an illegal firearm. He was granted bail on 7 August, and eventually arrested on 19 August for robbing an elderly woman at knifepoint together with two other persons.

Mario Farrugia, the victim of the Qormi valley murder, was last seen on 28 March in the vicinity of his Pembroke home. A police missing person’s report had also indicated that the man was using a grey Peugeot 407.

The car was found on 5 April in a valley in Qormi, and Farrugia’s heavily decomposed body was found in the trunk. The body had to be identified through DNA tests.

An autopsy found that Farrugia sustained multiple stab wounds to the chest.

Sources had told MaltaToday that the area where the car was found is a notorious hotspot for drug trafficking, and Farrugia was often seen in the area, sometimes soliciting small change from shop owners and asking to use their phone.

Inspectors Wayne Camilleri, Kurt Zahra and John Paul Attard prosecuted. Lawyers Edward Gatt and Ishmael Psaila appeared as defence counsel.

Lawyers George Camilleri, Kaylie Bonnett, Maria Schembri appeared on behalf of the Attorney General. Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi, Keith Borg and Jacob Magri are representing the victim's family as parte civile.