Man charged over arson attack on social media personality's car

Adrian Zammit, il-Bebbuxu’s car was set on fire in the early hours of 30 October

Adrian Zammit
Adrian Zammit

A man from Santa Venera has been remanded in custody after he was arraigned in court this morning, accused of an arson attack in Marsa which destroyed a car belonging to local social media personality Adrian Zammit, known as il-Bebbuxu.

Charles Mangion, 51, appeared in the dock before magistrate Elaine Merceica, charged with committing the arson attack which destroyed Zammit’s mini SUV and damaged a scooter parked nearby.

Inspector Jeffrey Scicluna, prosecuting together with Inspector Mario Xiberras and lawyers Andreas Vella and Daniel Tabone from the Attorney General's Office, told the court how the Hamrun police station had received a report of a car on fire in Marsa at 1am on October 30.

During the subsequent joint investigation by the police Arsons Unit and Major Crimes Unit it emerged that the perpetrator had arrived in a Toyota Starlet, driving around the area several times, before first throwing a blue bag under the car, then spreading a liquid over it and finally setting it alight.

Investigators had immediately recognised Mangion, who was already known to the police due to the fact that no less than five cars belonging to him had been destroyed by fires. Until the most recent incident, the police had insufficient evidence to charge him with insurance fraud.

CCTV footage at a Qawra garage complex showed Mangion loading items into the Toyota shortly before the incident, and unloading items afterwards.

A police search of Mangion’s garage had recovered number plates which had been reported stolen in early October.

Mangion was taken into custody and questioned but had denied any involvement in the arson attack, even when confronted by the fact that the police had recovered the same clothes seen on the CCTV from his home.

In court this morning, Mangion confirmed that he lived in Qawra, initially telling the court that he was unemployed, before admitting that he does “a little work.”

Defence lawyer Mario Mifsud entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client.

The prosecution exhibited a number of documents, including a timeline put together from stills gathered from various CCTV cameras and the accused’s audiovisual statement.

Mifsud requested bail for the accused, with the prosecution objecting on the grounds that he was the subject of ongoing investigations, both into this and other crimes, as well as the fact that two victims had yet to testify. One of them is a friend of the accused, who had recently gone out to eat with him, said the inspector. “He knows where the witness lives, so we are objecting to bail.”

Mifsud argued that caselaw had established that ongoing investigations cannot be used to justify bail refusals and that the evidence seemed to have already been gathered. “I don’t believe that he should be remanded in custody because he went out to eat. Fitting restrictions can be imposed by the court,” argued the lawyer.

There were also social and family aspects which militated for the man’s release from arrest.

He has a fixed residence and a job, Mifsud added.

The court, however, ordered that the man be remanded in custody, citing the risk of him approaching witnesses in an effort to suborn them.