Police recount dramatic Marsa car chase: 'I saw a rider tumbling through the air'

The suspect’s vehicle drove on after colliding with a motorcycle, injuring an off-duty police in the process

Police fired multiple shots at the car of the accused (Photo: Police)
Police fired multiple shots at the car of the accused (Photo: Police)

Police officers have given a court their account of the arrest of a wanted man who led police on a dramatic car chase from Hamrun to Marsa last week, detailing how the suspect’s vehicle drove on after colliding with a motorcycle, stopping only after one of its tyres was shot out.

Inspector Lydon Zammit from the police CID took the witness stand, explaining how he had been informed of Cremona’s arrest by his subalterns, after he had led police on a car chase.

Keith Cremona, 34 from Valletta, who works as a labourer with a family-owned business, had been charged on Thursday after having been arrested, following a car chase. 

Zammit had been dispatched to the scene of the arrest, describing how he found the accused’s damaged Hyundai Lantra and the undercover police car at the scene.

Cremona was not at the scene when the inspector arrived, however, he was taken to the hospital for treatment, after his arrest. The inspector was told that the chase had started in Hamrun and that the duty magistrate had been informed.

There were bullet holes in the car and one of the tyres had been shot out, he said.

He had then gone to the scene of the impact between Cremona’s car and the motorcycle. A wing mirror identical to the one missing from Cremona’s vehicle was found nearby.

Other cars had also been hit and damaged by the accused’s vehicle during the car chase, added the inspector. He explained that the police had been on the lookout for Cremona after he had missed appointments for police bail, that he had been granted over separate charges, and had also breached bail conditions that had been set by the Criminal Court.

When the police located his car driving in Hamrun, they had turned on their sirens and beacon lights, the court was told. “When he saw this, Keith Cremona reversed up the road and performed a U-turn.”

The police followed Cremona’s car in Hamrun, where he drove the wrong way on several one-way roads. CCTV showed that Cremona had nearly run over an elderly pedestrian crossing the road at the Blata l-Bajda traffic lights, which were red for vehicles at the time.

Cremona managed to evade a police roadblock there, turning towards Marsa, where warning shots were fired by the police in view of the danger to pedestrians posed by Cremona’s driving.

The suspect vehicle hit a motorcycle but failed to stop, said the inspector, adding that the police car had radioed for an ambulance.

Cremona carried on driving, entering the tal-Verdala zone near the shipyard, where the police had fired shots at his tyres. The suspect carried on driving regardless, hitting other vehicles in the process. 

Cremona was finally arrested after his rear tyre burst, causing him to crash, said the inspector.

A search of his car returned two syringes containing a substance yet to be tested, the court was told. Cremona was found to also be carrying a knife with a blade approximately 15cm long, said the inspector. 

After his arrest, the accused had refused to consult with a lawyer and resisted being questioned, telling police that he was feeling tired and unwell. The next day, Cremona told the police that he needed to go to Detox. The police were therefore unable to obtain a statement from Cremona before he was charged in court, explained Zammit.

The man run over by Cremona’s vehicle was later certified as having been slightly injured, added the inspector.

A police sergeant took the stand next, testifying that before he and his fellow officers had started their search for Cremona, they had drawn weapons from the armoury, as Cremona was known to be aggressive towards the police.

He gave a detailed account of the high-speed chase and the subsequent arrest, telling the court that he had known the accused for years, dating back to when Cremona was 15, due to his multiple run-ins with the law.

The sergeant described how Cremona had reversed at speed, in a bid to escape the police, nearly hitting a pedestrian, before accelerating away.

“Cremona’s driving was very dangerous and I fired a shot at his tyres…but he drove on.” The shot hit their target, he confirmed in reply to a question by the court.

“I hit the car with three shots.” The officer told the court that he had later checked his service firearm and confirmed that he had fired a total of nine shots from his 15-round magazine.

Whenever the police car would come alongside the suspect vehicle, Cremona would use his car to ram the police vehicle, he said.

The chase nearly came to an end when Cremona spun out of control, said the sergeant, but Cremona had initially driven on, on at least one flat tyre, before crashing.

Cremona was finally taken into custody at that point and read his rights by the police

The motorcycle that was hit by Cremona’s vehicle was totalled, he said. “I saw a person [the rider] tumbling through the air.”

The officer said he had been forced to fire at the vehicle, explaining that had the driver not been stopped “He was going to kill someone. I still see the rider somersaulting in the air when I close my eyes.”  

Cross-examined by defence lawyer David Gatt, the sergeant said that after his release from hospital, Cremona had been released on police bail.

Gatt asked the officer to expand on how many of the shots that he fired had actually hit the car. “I saw three, one hit the tyre and the other two hit the mudguard near the tyre.”

A police constable took the stand next, giving details of the search for Cremona, which started after he was not found at his residence, and how he had spotted the man’s car on the road.

During the initial stop, Cremona suddenly reversed away when a police officer identified himself and said “Keith, police. Stop,” the witness said.

Gatt asked the officer whether any animals had been found in the accused’s car. “I know that a chihuahua which Cremona would carry around with him had been found,” said the witness, adding that the dog was later handed over into the care of animal welfare officials.

The court initially adjourned the case to 10 August, in view of the legal requirement to hold sittings every two weeks when the accused was not given bail. Gatt requested a later adjournment, exempting the court from having to hold a sitting in the next two weeks, adding that this was in view of the fact that no requests for bail would be made at this stage.

Gatt informed the court that he was willing to exempt the court from holding any sittings before mid-September and would not be requesting bail till then. 

The court, therefore, adjourned the case to 15 September at 10.30am.