Three charged over knifepoint phone shop robbery

Three men separately charged with stealing mobile phones from a Zebbug shop

File photo
File photo

Three men have been charged in connection with an armed robbery at a mobile phone shop that happened last month. 

Darren Zammit, 41, Oreste Camilleri, 35 and Aiden Fenech, 20, all from Luqa were arraigned before magistrate Gabriella Vella this morning, accused of conspiracy to commit a crime.

Zammit was separately charged with stealing mobile phones from a Zebbug shop, which theft was aggravated by violence, means and value, slightly injuring the shop owner and illegally detaining him against his will. Further charges of carrying a knife in public without a police permit, stealing a number plate from a parked car in Ta Qali and recidivism were also pressed in Zammit’s case.

Camilleri and Fenech are also facing additional charges, relating to handling stolen goods . Camilleri alone is also accused of being a recidivist. Camilleri in particular, seemed to be struggling to stay awake.

Inspector Lydon Zammit, prosecuting together with inspectors Roderick Agius and Stephen Gulia, told the court how the police had received a report about the robbery of an Epic outlet by a man wielding a knife, who made off with two mobile phones before escaping in a car.

The getaway car’s number plate was found to have earlier been reported stolen from a parked car in Ta Qali.

Investigations showed that Zammit had been the person who robbed the shop, while the car belonged to Camilleri. The inspector explained that it turned out that Zammit and Camilleri lived in the same apartment, together with Fenech.

Camilleri and Fenech had been arrested and denied knowledge of the robbery or what had happened to the stolen mobile phones.

Zammit was arrested the next day, as he had been in hospital. He admitted to the police that he had carried out the robbery, but also said that it had been planned 15 days before, together with the other two men, who he said had pulled out at the last minute.

The other two men were arrested on a separate warrant and had admitted to taking part in planning the heist.

“Darren and AIden gave us information, saying they had got the idea after Darren had shoplifted two other phones from the same shop a few days before. Oreste consistently denied any involvement,” said the inspector.

Police had also identified and spoken to the four people who bought the stolen phones, who subsequently identified the accused as the persons from whom they had bought the devices.
Zammit, who told the court he was unemployed, pleaded not guilty, while Camilleri, who said he was employed as a government ranger, also pleaded not guilty to the charges.
However Fenech, who also claimed to be unemployed, admitted guilt.

In view of Fenech’s guilty plea, the cases were separated. Bail was not requested for the two accused men who were denying the charges. They were remanded in custody.

In submissions on punishment after Fenech’s guilty plea, the defence argued that he had not wielded the knife, wasn’t driving the car and that the car wasn’t his. “Only the fact of his presence emerges from the evidence, and he cooperated with the police. There is no clear criminal intent and there may be an inability to form criminal intent…I believe there are alternatives to incarceration which are available to the court,” submitted lawyer Alex Scerri Herrera.

The prosecution confirmed this. “They had spent nearly two weeks planning this heist…Aiden was the first to try and pull out,” said the inspector, adding that this account had also been confirmed by Zammit.
The three men had different roles in the crime, despite facing the same charges, explained Inspector Zammit. “The plan was definitely not Aiden’s,” he said, adding that it clearly emerged that Fenech had no active role in the robbery, and had only been there to partake of the proceeds of the crime to buy drugs. It was not his first brush with the law, however, explained the inspector.
Scerri Herrera added that the man had limited financial means, which required time for him to pay any fines.
The court announced that it would not be sentencing Fenech today, as it needed to examine the case further.

In view of this, Scerri Herrera requested bail for his client, but it was pointed out that the only address available to Fenech was the one he shared with the other accused men.

Scerri Herrera was allowed to approach the bench together with the prosecution to discuss the man’s particular circumstances with the magistrate. A decision on bail will be delivered later today.

Zammit was assisted by lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, while lawyer Matthew Xuereb assisted  Camilleri. Lawyer Alex Scerri Herrera represented Fenech.