Man’s violence against daughter caught on audio recording of Easter incident

Girl describes how man grabbed eldest daughter by the hair and slammed her head on wardrobe, as court hears audio recordings illustrating violent Easter Sunday domestic incident

Audio recordings of a domestic incident on Easter Sunday in which a man threatened to shoot his partner’s three children and himself have been played in court.

Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo continued to hear evidence as the compilation of evidence against the 37-year-old from Gharghur continued on Wednesday afternoon.

At the end of the sitting, the man was granted bail.

The accused’s wife chose to testify in criminal proceedings against her husband via video link as she was deemed a vulnerable witness. Before she testified, the court was informed of the possibility of the woman facing charges in connection with a prior incident.

The witness was instructed to testify only about the Easter Sunday incident so as not to prejudice her legal position. 

She told the court that she had been married to the accused for 12 years, and had two children, going on to say that her husband had left home in March after an argument with the eldest child during which the woman had stepped in to defend her. The couple’s matrimonial situation was not a happy one, the court was told.

Two days later, she received a letter of separation, she said. Although she had been trying to save the relationship, the woman said, she now had evidence that for the past 4 years, the accused had been involved in an extramarital relationship with another woman from Gharghur and had accepted to separate.

She told the court how on the day of the incident, she had taken her mother and children for lunch. Her daughter had insisted on meeting her birth father, who is not the accused, and so a meeting was arranged at a restaurant in Sliema later that evening. “We had a drink and the daughter socialised with his family members and then we left.”

The accused had been loitering nearby and had been spotted by some of the wife’s friends, she said.

She received a WhatsApp message and a phone call from the accused at around 8:30pm as they left the restaurant. 

“He told me you went to meet [the other man] and I hung up. I was scared. I knew how he would react…that he would get mad and do something.”

Asked if similar incidents had happened before, she said “he would swear at me, telling me to go ‘get fucked’ and that I couldn’t see a man without fancying him.” The woman explained that she had been concerned that the accused would suspect that she was, in fact, seeing the other man.

“I went home and he continued to send me messages, telling me that I was out with the other man and having a good time.”

The witness said she had gone to sleep with one of the daughters in the children’s bedroom at around 11pm.

She woke up with a fright at around 3am after hearing the front door slam. “He came in, furious and started banging things and trying to open the locked bedroom door.”

“I thought we were going to have a big argument again. All I did was say ‘Oi!’.”

The woman testified to having heard the accused speak to her other daughter and tell her to choose between him and her mother, before telling her to get out of the house. 

“I was afraid but I went outside of the bedroom and told him off for sending the girl out,” she said, but the accused then threw the woman out of the house too. 

One of the children went back inside and retrieved the woman’s mobile phone. The woman said she panicked and called the emergency number when she heard the accused shouting at the girl and then loud footsteps heading towards the front door. 

The accused had called her up, telling her to come back or he would shoot the children and himself, she said. “I called the police station again. The police arrived shortly afterwards and he called me again. I put it on speaker mode and they heard him tell me to come back within a minute or he would shoot the kids and myself.”

RIU officers were immediately dispatched to the scene. “I received a message from him.

I was screaming and shaking.”

Another phone call, also heard by the police, involved the accused telling her that ‘time’s up.’

The police then moved in, placing the woman and children in the back of a police car. They stopped at a polyclinic so one of the daughters could be examined, as she had told police she had been beaten. 

The witness said she had not witnessed the alleged beating as she was outside the house at the time.

Inspector Spiteri asked what the woman had noticed about the man’s behaviour. “He wasn’t in his senses. In my opinion, he was drunk.” Debono objected to the witness expressing an opinion.

The court asked the woman why she had said this. The witness explained that the accused only behaved that way when he was drunk. Recently, he started getting drunk more often, she added.

“He’s a quiet man, he adores the children, but when he’s drunk he’s different,” she told the magistrate.

Daughter's friend recorded everything on mobile phone

The court was told that one of the children’s friends, who was also a relative, had been present and had been recording everything on her mobile phone.

Parte civile lawyer, Jason Azzopardi asked the witness several questions in cross-examination. 

The defence objected to one of the questions, which dealt with the manner in which the daughter had told the witness that she had been beaten. 

The court reformed the question, asking the witness about the girl’s state at the time. “She was terrified. She was shaking, trembling, crying.” The witness said that the effects of the traumatic incident were only starting to emerge.

A court expert who had extracted recordings from a mobile phone belonging to one of the children, together with other communications between the accused and the alleged victims on the date of the incident, exhibited his report.

From the daughter’s phone, two audio clips were exhibited. From the wife’s phone a WhatsApp chat between her and the accused between 17 April and 18 April was also extracted. He stressed that this was a selective extraction of data indicated by the court in his appointment.

The accused’s mobile phone is also being analysed, he said.

Inspector Spiteri asked to have the audio recordings being played in court, which the defence had preemptively conceded, contain sounds indicating a weapon being made ready.

The 15-year-old girl who made the recordings took the witness stand first, giving a similar account as the previous witness. The girl said she didn’t know why the man had been angry. The mother went out of the room to see what was happening and the accused told her to get out of the house too. “But she didn’t want to. ‘You can’t throw me out in the dark,’ she told him, but he grabbed her hand and threw her out anyway.”. 

The daughter was terrified and in tears, she said. 

The girl also described how the accused had tried to chase his partner, before returning to yell at the elder daughter, telling her to get out of the house.
“Then he grabbed her by the hair and hit her head against the wardrobe. Her glasses fell to the floor and when she bent down to pick her up, he started kicking her.

“I was still on the bed, terrified, trying to understand what was going on. He turned to me and told me if I wanted to leave, I could leave.”

The accused then started shouting from the balcony telling his foster daughter to go call her father. 

The girls had started to run away when they heard the front door opening, but got tired after a while and stopped. The accused soon caught up with them and told them to go back to the house. “We were scared and started to walk slowly. He shouted at [daughter] telling her ‘now you don’t want to run?’ and kicked her leg.”

As the woman and girls hugged each other, the accused went into one of their flats, which the family used for storage, and came out with a firearm, she said. “Then he went back inside and came out carrying bullets.”

As the accused had started loading the weapon, he told the group to go back inside the flat.

“We went inside and sat down on the floor near the sofa,” said the girl.

The accused was storming around the flat, she said, at one point telling the daughter to choose between him and the mother’s partner. The girl had replied that she couldn’t and didn’t want to choose.

The accused was holding the gun, which was pointed at the ground, as he made a phone call to his ex-partner, telling her to come home.

In a subsequent call, the witness understood that he said he would kill the children. “I know he told her, I was there at the time. He told her ‘you have 30 seconds to come here or I will kill the children.’”

Then he went back to the daughter and once again told her to choose between him and the mother’s partner. 

He then phoned the woman again, telling her that he had had enough of waiting, giving her ten seconds to come or he would kill the children and himself, the girl said, before placing the gun on a bench.

The youngest daughter woke up at that point, unaware of what was going on, and hugged the accused. He told her “this is the last time you’re going to hug me.”

“Then he came near us and made the weapon ready…I heard the weapon click.”

The magistrate asked her why they hadn’t tried to escape. “We were afraid that he would do something to us. Then he sent us to our room. We locked the door.”  The youngest had fallen asleep and so had remained on the sofa, she said.

They spotted the police arriving and opened the door quietly. The police asked where the accused was and whether he was armed. She told them that he was.

Asked why they had waited for the police, she said that they had already tried to escape once and he had caught them, adding that he would do it again.

The witness said that she had been recording audio of the incident. “When we heard the banging at around 3am when he arrived, the idea popped into my head and I asked [the mother] whether I should record and she said yes. I recorded everything up till when the police arrived.”

The recordings, in which a man’s voice could be heard repeatedly telling someone to ‘get out’ (“Aqbez il-barra”) and a woman sobbing was played in the courtroom.

After hearing submissions from defence lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Franco Debono, in which they informed the accused that the accused would be living in a separate town from the alleged victims, the court released the man from arrest, against a deposit of €3000 and a personal guarantee of €30,000. He was also placed under a curfew.

A protection order was issued in favour of the victims.

The court also decreed that it had seen sufficient prima facie evidence for indictment.

Police Inspector John Spiteri is prosecuting. Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Franco Debono are defence counsel. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is appearing parte civile for the alleged victims.