Munchies murder: CCTV installer who phoned accused after arrest was 'just returning a call'

A CCTV technician says he was only returning a call when he phoned murder suspect David Busuttil while the latter was in police custody

The court has continued to hear testimony in the case against Munchies Bar owner David Busuttil
The court has continued to hear testimony in the case against Munchies Bar owner David Busuttil

A technician who installed a CCTV system at Munchies Bar has testified that he called bar owner David Busuttil in response to a message the latter had left him.

The call to Busuttil was made while the latter was under arrest and being interrogated in connection with the death of an elderly man.

The technician told the court that Busuttil would frequently call him for assistance and he was simply returning the call.

Busuttil, 59, the owner of Munchies Bar in Buġibba, stands charged with the murder of 60-year-old Roger Dudley-Ward, who died 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.

During the last sitting, a police sergeant had told the court how Busuttil’s phone had started to ring whilst he was in custody at the Qawra police station.

“When I checked, who was calling him, I saw it was a contact saved as ‘Mark Genovese CCTV cameras,’” the sergeant had said. Genovese had then been called in for questioning by the police and had later released a statement.

When the case was called before Magistrate Doreen Clarke on Tuesday, the prosecution summoned Genovese, who installs CCTV and alarm systems for a living, to the witness stand.

Genovese said he had been in the CCTV business for over 10 years and recognised the accused in court, explaining that he had also worked on his alarm systems earlier this year.

Asked whether Busuttil had communicated with him since March, he said he wasn’t sure. “I don’t know, he calls me to turn off the fire alarm, or because he didn’t know how to switch on the alarm. Last time, I received a message which read ‘when I wake up I will call him’.”

The witness was shown a print out of a chat between him and the accused that had been photographed on his mobile phone by a police officer. He confirmed that the chat had taken place on 11 June.

He said he was replying to a message received from the accused. “I called him as soon as I woke up. No one replied. It was switched on, but no one picked up. Five minutes later I got a call from the police headquarters, telling me that they’re calling me because I called the number and asking me to go to HQ.” 

Genovese continued: “I was asked how I know him, why he messaged me. I didn’t know why he messaged me. I saw the message and returned the call. I was instructed not to speak to him [by the police] and I haven’t spoken to him since.”

Cross-examined by lawyer Franco Debono, the witness confirmed that Busuttil would frequently call him up for assistance. “He was still green when it came to these things. He didn't even know how to switch on the alarm, every week he’d call me up about something,” the witness said.

The court pointed out that the calls appeared to have mainly been made during the night.

This was because the fire alarm would go off and Busuttil would not know how to switch it off, explained the witness.

Later on, in the sitting, the court upheld a request by the defence to release the restaurant from the custody of the court, in view of the fact that the prosecution had not objected.

The magistrate authorised the court-appointed expert to hand over the keys.

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 Ryan Vella appeared for the prosecution.