Sitting cut short after man accused of Paceville restaurant attack suffers chest pains in court

The owner of a restaurant has described how he and an employee had intervened to disarm a man who attacked his patrons with a knife and a broken bottle in Paceville last week

Photo: Malta Police Force
Photo: Malta Police Force

The owner of a restaurant has described how he and an employee had intervened to disarm a man who attacked his patrons with a knife and a broken bottle in Paceville last week.

Magistrate Ian Farrugia continued to hear witnesses as the compilation of evidence against 38-year-old Gonzalo Noel Sanchez Fernandez from Spain continued on Friday.

The sitting had to be cut short after the accused complained of chest and arm pain, for which he was subsequently taken to hospital.

Restaurant owner Edoardo De Liso testified in Italian, assisted by an interpreter: “I was at work. Taking care of some clients on the terrace. Suddenly this person arrived …he started disturbing the clients. When I approached to ask him to stop, I noticed that something was wrong. We called the police.

After taking a bottle from the table, this person took off his shirt and sat down in the street. Suddenly he ran towards one of our clients on the terrace and struck him on the head with the bottle.”

Staff had tried to assist the victim, said the witness. The accused was still holding on to the bottle as he damaged two cars. “Then he returned to the restaurant and grabbed a knife from a table, so he had a bottle and a knife in his hands. And started  going around the tables, threatening our clients.”

The witness and a colleague managed to disarm the attacker and hold him down while waiting for the police. The witness suffered a knife wound to his arm in the process; he told the court.

“The police arrived, and I was taken to hospital. I had three stitches put in.”

Answering a question from the magistrate, he explained that the bottle strike took place when the witness was still inside the restaurant, other people were hit by the accused, besides the diner, he added.

Passer-by Lucretia Hili took the witness stand next. “She had been walking her dog towards her car on Tuesday 31 May, when she noticed a scuffle. “I saw a bit of hassle outside a  restaurant. I saw a shirtless man moving near parked cars. He approached a man sitting on a bench and took something from a seated man’s hand. Then he went to another bench and started fighting with the man sitting there.”

“He looked at me and walked towards me, I ran to my car and locked myself inside.” The man proceeded to strike her Audi A1 several times, causing minor damage to it.”It was a huge fright,” she said.

Restaurateur Charles Spiteri also testified today.

He owns La Maltija, a restaurant in the vicinity of where the incident occurred. He explained how at around 10pm he would usually sit outside on the terrace to have something to eat. “While I was eating, I looked up and I see a man punching another man who fell to the ground. A  woman who the victim was with ran away.”

Seeing things heating up, he called the emergency services before attempting, together with an employee from a nearby restaurant. To stop passing tourists from approaching the scene to prevent them from getting hurt, 

Spiteri was unable to recall what the man was wearing but said he remembered some words in Spanish tattooed on the man’s side. “He started beating the police, even while handcuffed. Officers were telling him,’ please calm down, please calm down’, and he carried on beating them up till the end. He even jumped off the stretcher he was placed on.”

The accused missed some of the witness’s testimony, having been granted permission to go outside and smoke under guard. When he returned, he complained of chest pain and pain in his arm, asking to be taken to Mater Dei Hospital. Arrangements were made for him to receive the appropriate medical treatment.

The court decreed that it had seen sufficient prima facie evidence for him to be placed under indictment.

The case continues in July.

Inspector Jean Paul Attard is prosecuting. 

Lawyer David Bonello is defence counsel.

Lawyer Natalino Caruana De Brincat appeared parte civile for the restaurant owner.