Man threatened to shoot three children in Easter Sunday row with ex partner

Police to exhibit 10-minute audio clip of the incident, recorded by the 15-year-old victim • Man denied bail

A court has been told that a man from Gharghur allegedly threatened to shoot three children, including his 10-year-old daughter, during a domestic argument with his estranged wife on Easter Sunday.

Inspector John Spiteri arraigned the 37-year-old man before duty magistrate Nadine Lia on Monday.

He charged the man with having held his 10-year-old daughter, his 15-year-old foster daughter and her friend, also 15-years-old, against their will at their Gharghur home late on Easter Sunday.

The man was also charged with slightly injuring the foster daughter with a weapon, attacking his estranged partner, carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime against a person, failing to abide by the conditions of his arms licence by storing the weapon in an unsafe manner and causing the woman and children to fear violence.

Inspector Spiteri explained to the court how last night the Naxxar police had received a report saying that a domestic argument had escalated and a firearm was involved.

Police went to the scene, where they found the daughter, foster daughter and the daughter’s friend, he said. The couple were in the midst of separation proceedings, explained the inspector, telling the court that the accused had thrown his wife out of the house but had subsequently called her, asking her to come back and that she had refused. The accused had subsequently threatened to shoot the children dead, Inspector Spiteri said.

The court asked how the accused was pleading. After consulting with his lawyer, Arthur Azzopardi, the man entered a not guilty plea. Bail was requested.

Inspector Spiteri exhibited the accused’s audiovisual statement and other documents.

The inspector objected to bail, arguing that although there is a sacrosanct right to bail and no fear of him not appearing for sittings, the prosecution was concerned by the fact that the witnesses included a 15-year-old foster child of the accused and another 15-year-old girl who is a friend of the foster child, and who had taken a voice recording of everything that happened. 

The children had managed to escape when the police arrived, said the inspector. “You could hear their shouts of relief,” he remarked.

The 10-year-old girl is autistic, added the inspector, warning that the witnesses could still be influenced, even if a protection order were to be issued at this stage.

“There is great fear on the part of these two girls in particular. Even a simple gesture [by the accused] would influence their testimony, and justice would not be served. The fear of tampering is clear and manifest,” he submitted.

Defence lawyer Arthur Azzopardi argued that the entire incident was recorded in the 10-minute audio clip. “Whatever the witnesses say, we have the actual recording,” he said, adding that the accused had a separate address in Valletta where he could reside whilst on bail and could make arrangements with third parties in order to feed his animals.

“The minors, at 15 years of age, know to inform their parents and the police if the accused attempts to make contact with them,” Azzopardi went on,

The lawyer asked the court to impose a psychiatric treatment order on the accused immediately, explaining that his client had been under the care of a psychiatrist since December. “Why wait for months for a treatment order?” asked the lawyer, insisting that it was an important matter for the proceedings and also for the defence. The lawyer specified that his client was not pleading insanity.

“It is important that treatment begins immediately, not months later,” said Azzopardi. “I do not want a repeat performance.”

The court imposed an immediate treatment order on the accused.

Inspector Spiteri said he agreed with the defence, arguing that this was precisely why it was premature for bail to be granted. “Until these indispensable witnesses testify, there is more fear as to whether the accused can follow his bail conditions.”

In its decree on the man’s bail request, the court observed that three minors were involved in this case, one of whom was autistic, as well as the man’s estranged wife. It also took into account the alternate address offered and the arrangements already in place for the care of his Gharghur fields, together with the fact that the man was already under psychiatric care.

At this stage, the accused was also vulnerable in the sense that he was under psychiatric care, said the court, before going on to point out that until the witnesses testified, the possibility that there could be tampering with evidence or subornation of vulnerable witnesses could not be ignored.

The accused crashed down onto his chair at this point, his head in his hands.

The court denied the request for bail, ordering the prosecution to summon its witnesses as soon as possible.

A protection order was also imposed, restricting the accused from approaching or following the alleged victims.

A ban was also imposed on the reporting of the name of the accused or the alleged victims in the media, in order to protect the minors.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi was defence counsel. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi appeared parte civile for the alleged victims.