Psychiatrists: Abner Aquilina wanted to have sex with dead body

Specialists describe Paulina Dembska killer Abner Aquilina as an ‘opportunistic necrophiliac’

Abner Aquilina (centre) is flanked by two police officers as he is driven to the law courts in Valletta to face charges of murder and rape (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Abner Aquilina (centre) is flanked by two police officers as he is driven to the law courts in Valletta to face charges of murder and rape (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

A team of three psychiatrists, appointed to assess whether Abner Aquilina was fit to stand trial have confirmed their assessment that Aquilina was “angry towards women” and had wanted to have sex with a dead body.

Psychiatrists Joseph Cassar, Christian Sant and Carmen Sammut had been appointed by the court to assess the mental state of the accused, with a view to establishing whether he can appear in court and understand the proceedings against him.

The final conclusion, reached in March, was that Aquilina did not appear to suffer from delusions. “He has an anti-social personality and is angry towards the world and women,” the court was told on Friday.

While cross-examining the psychiatrists today, parte civile lawyer Stefano Filletti, quoted from the report, which said that although Aquilina was observed to be reticent to answer questions at first, after “a lot of prodding” recalled the incident in “extraordinary detail.”

Leafing through the report in the courtroom, Filletti also pointed out that they had described Aquilina as an “opportunistic necrophiliac.” “Here you are confirming that what you concluded was that not only did he want to have sex with her, but took the opportunity to have sex with a dead body.”

READ ALSO: Dembska murder: Abner Aquilina threatened to use ‘demonic powers’ on doctors

They confirmed that Aquilina was not confused in what he had told them, adding that the accused had also tried to appear intimidating.

“You reached the conclusion that he was sufficiently lucid to want to engage a lawyer to assist him in court proceedings,” Filletti read. The witnesses confirmed.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Mario Mifsud, the doctors explained that they needed to ask him questions about the merits of the case, in order to reach their conclusions.

“I spoke to him about many other things. His answers were consistent,” Sant said.

It emerged that the accused had also assaulted a prominent psychiatrist during an examination on Thursday.

They confirmed that the court was correct in understanding that they had been tasked to establish whether Aquilina was fit to stand trial and not whether he was legally insane at the time of the offence.

A doctor from the Floriana Health Centre, who was on duty when the call for medical assistance came in, also testified today. She had been dispatched to Independence Gardens in Sliema, she said. “I found the woman, naked from the waist down, with her top pulled up and her breasts exposed.” The doctor had used a device to establish whether there was a heartbeat, but there was none, she said.

A police sergeant from the Homicide Squad testified next, telling the court that he had been ordered to take the accused into custody. He took Aquilina to the lock up and instructed his officers to keep their body cams on at all times, he said

Paper bags were taped over Aquilina’s hands to preserve forensic evidence, he said. The officer had also read the accused his rights. “He was calmer by then and he asked to consult with his lawyer.”

A court-appointed IT expert who had carried out digital forensics tasks related to the case, was next on the witness stand. He had examined CCTV, phones and laptops and information from data providers, he said, creating a timeline of the movements of both Aquilina and his victim.

More footage was collected from police body cams worn by the officers present for Aquilina’s arrest, questioning and transport to hospital.

The body cam footage shows, amongst other things, Aquilina putting his face up to the camera and making a demand for a “presidential pardon signed by the Prime Minister,” added the court expert, as he exhibited a 230-page report on his findings.

After the expert's testimony, a Sliema resident who had been walking on the Sliema front testified to having seen part of the assault.

“As I was walking towards St. Julian’s, I saw a person doing press ups. It was near Arcidiacono. He was wearing a maroon t-shirt," recalled the man. "I thought to myself, ‘wow how energetic this guy is.’ As I walked past, I looked back and I saw another pair of feet underneath him. I realised they weren’t press ups.” The witness was unable to say whether the second pair of legs belonged to a male or a female, but added that the knees had been bent. He didn’t see any movement from the second pair of legs, he said in reply to a question.

The witness added that he had been wearing headphones, listening to the rosary on the radio and so had not heard any external sounds, but distinctly recalled that the maroon top the accused was wearing at the time had reminded him of the West Ham Football club kit.

On the witness stand, the man had apparent difficulty in recalling the month in which he had observed the incident.

When he got home, the man said his wife had asked him whether he had heard that a woman had been murdered nearby. He said he instantly connected it to what he had seen and called the police to pass on the information.

The case was adjourned to October.

Inspector Wayne Camilleri is prosecuting, together with Attorney General lawyers Anthony Vella and Darlene Grima. Lawyer Stefano Filletti is representing Paulina Dembska's family.