Buġibba murder: Munchies owner 'kicked victim in head as he bent over to pick up phone', court told

Court hears how a man who died outside a bar in Buġibba fell down a flight of stairs after being kicked in the head whilst bending down to pick up his phone

A man who died outside a bar in Buġibba had fallen down a flight of stairs after being kicked in the head whilst bending to pick up his phone, a court has been told.

The compilation of evidence against David Busuttil, who is accused of the murder of Roger Dudley-Ward in Buġibba continued on Monday.

Busuttil, 59, who is the owner of Munchies Bar in Triq it-Turisti, stands charged with killing 60-year-old Dudley-Ward, who died last month not long after falling down the bar’s stairs following an argument with the accused. Busuttil is also charged with causing serious injury, attempting to erase evidence and breaching the public peace. He is currently on bail, having been released from arrest during the first sitting following his arraignment.

Magistrate Doreen Clarke heard the testimony of a police sergeant stationed at Qawra, who told the court that the police were informed after an ambulance had been dispatched to Triq it-Turisti in the locality, to assist a seriously injured man. 

He had visited the man in hospital and spoke to the duty nurse, who had told the sergeant that whilst they were assisting the victim, a man who had been with him had told her that they had been drinking at Munchies bar when an argument broke out. During that argument, Dudley-Ward had bent over to pick up something he had dropped, his attacker had hit him on the head and knocked him to the floor, the police were told.

Not long after questioning the nurse, the officer had been informed that the victim’s condition had deteriorated and that he was now in danger of dying. The sergeant went to Munchies bar straight from the hospital, he said. The bar was closed, but the officer noticed blood on the ground outside it.

The police officer said he had tried to contact Busuttil, but that the accused’s phone had been switched off. Contact was eventually made with the accused through social media. Busuttil was called in for questioning, initially as an informer, not a suspect, but was read his rights anyway, as a precaution, said the sergeant. 

Busuttil had opted to be assisted by a lawyer and legal aid lawyer Martin Fenech was asked to advise the accused.

Busuttil had told the police that the argument had started after the victim had insulted him about his partner, before proceeding to light up a joint at the bar. When the accused told Dudley-Ward to leave, the victim had thrown the contents of his glass on the accused, who reciprocated and then pushed the victim.

He told the police that “somehow” the victim had ended up falling down the stairs.

During his interrogation, officers noticed red stains on Busuttil’s shirt and, suspecting them to be bloodstains, took the shirt into evidence and later handed it to forensic experts for testing.

Shane Eagle, who had been accompanying the victim at the bar, had also been spoken to by the police. Eagle had told investigators that the victim had been kicked in the head when he bent over to pick up his mobile phone. When the ambulance arrived Dudley-Ward was already unconscious, the sergeant reported being told by Eagle.

Asked how Dudley-Ward had reacted when the drink was thrown at his face, the man had said “Roger is a pacifist and when it happened, he got confused and did nothing,” the sergeant told the court today.

A police sergeant, based at the Homicide Squad also testified. His unit had been informed of the incident when the victim was still in danger of dying, he explained. 

When he had arrived at the scene, he noted that the bar was closed and that blood could be seen on the ground outside it.  Several CCTV cameras were noted as covering the area, he said.

At the Qawra police station, the sergeant found Busuttil in police custody. “At one point, his mobile started ringing. When I checked who was calling him, I saw it was a contact saved as ‘Mark Genovese CCTV cameras’.”

Genovese had also been called in for questioning by the police, the sergeant went on. He told investigators that he had installed the CCTV cameras at Munchies and had later released a declaration to the police.

Acting on information given by the accused, the sergeant then contacted a cleaner who had the keys to Munchies. The police used it to open the establishment, where it was noted that security cameras covered the premises, both from the inside and out. Busuttil had insisted with the police that the argument hadn’t taken place in the bar, but on the terrace and had pointed out a beer can on the ground, which he said had been thrown by the victim. “He said the victim had also been coughing in his drink,” added the witness.

After closing the bar, the witness accompanied Busuttil to his house to collect prescription medication. A Floriana Health Centre doctor certified him as having an abrasion to his right index finger. Busuttil was later escorted to hospital for tests after complaining of chest pains.

Two statements were taken, one before and one after his release from hospital. He was assisted by a lawyer for both statements, added the witness.

Busuttil’s mobile phone had been seized and later exhibited in evidence and the white t-shirt worn by the accused at the time of his arrest was also passed on to police scene of crime officers, the sergeant said.

At the end of today’s sitting, the court sent the acts of the case to the Attorney General who will then decide whether to issue a bill of indictment or send the acts back to gather further evidence.

The case continues in September.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are defence counsel to the accused.

Prosecutor Abigail Caruana Vella appeared on behalf of the office of the Attorney General.

Inspector Shaun Pawnney is prosecuting.