Man on bail after allegedly setting fire to apartment and threatening landlord

A 26-year-old from Tarxien is accused of setting his rented apartment on fire and spray-painting a threatening message to his landlord on one of the walls

A man accused of setting his rented apartment on fire had spray-painted a threatening message to his landlord on one of the walls and made threatening phonecalls to him, a court has been told.

Kurt Lanzon, 26, from Tarxien was arraigned on Sunday morning before Magistrate Charmaine Galea, charged with an arson attack on his rented apartment in Tarxien.

Inspectors Mario Xiberras and Darren Buhagiar, prosecuting, told the court that the crime took place on Thursday 21st April between 10:45am and 2:25pm.

Lanzon, who told the court that he worked with a towing company, was also charged with voluntarily causing damage to the property and threatening a man. Further charges relating to driving a car without a licence or insurance were also pressed.

Inspector Buhagiar told the court that the police had been called to a scene of a fire at an apartment in Tarxien. He had gone to the scene, where CPD and district police were already there, as were the landlord and tenants. The Inspector explained that the accused had been renting the flat from the landlord and had initially been treated as a victim.

But a joint investigation by the police arsons unit and district police revealed that there had been an ongoing dispute with the landlord, the court was told.

Inspector Buhagiar said no signs of forced entry had been noted at the apartment and accelerant traces were later found on a sofa near the kitchen area.

Lanzon had told police that he had left for work with his partner on the day of the fire. He denied returning to the apartment before the fire broke out. But phone location data marked him in the vicinity of the apartment, said the inspector.

In view of the fact that one of the interior walls had been sprayed with the phrase “Sean waslet tieghek,” the police had checked nearby hardware stores for matching purchases and discovered that the accused had purchased a can of spray paint some 4 hours before the incident.

Lanzon was arrested and interrogated in the presence of his lawyers. He denied any involvement in the attack during questioning, repeating his denial in court.

He pleaded not guilty, with the defence requesting bail. Defence lawyer Franco Debono informed the court that the accused would be living at a separate address in Tarxien. The victim resided in Mosta, he said.

The prosecution objected to bail due to the gravity of the case, adding that just yesterday the owner of the property had reported receiving threatening phone calls from the accused, warning him that “tieghek ghada gejja,” (You’ll get yours).

Witnesses were also yet to testify, added the inspector.

Inspector Buhagiar said the crime was punishable with imprisonment between 5 and 9 years. He emphasised that 15 other apartments were there and neighbours could possibly testify. In addition, the address provided by the accused was just 2minutes away from the crime scene.

Debono countered, reminding the court that an inquiry had already preserved testimony and the law stated that witnesses who testified in the inquiry should not be made to testify in the compilation of evidence. “The inquiry takes place to preserve the evidence…” Debono said.

Accused had only a minimally stained  criminal record, he said.

“He told the police on two separate occasions that he was denying the accusations, so at this point in time these are simply conjectures.”

Every crime is serious, argued the lawyer, but this one “was at the lower end of the spectrum.” 

Debono, warned against police interpreting evidence, arguing that the threat was about future legal action to recover his deposit. His client was presumed innocent, insisted the lawyer.

After retiring to chambers for several minutes, the magistrate returned to the courtroom and announced that bail would be granted. 

She warned the accused that he could not contact the victim or other witnesses in any way or return to the scene of the crime. He was ordered to sign a bail book twice a week.

His release from arrest was secured by a deposit of €7000 and a personal guarantee of €20,000

A protection order was also issued in favour of the victim.