Bernice murder: Roderick Cassar showed no remorse in police interrogations over wife’s murder, court hears

The court is hearing the compilation of evidence against Roderick Cassar, accused of murdering his wife, in the first case since femicide was introduced in the Criminal Code

Roderick Cassar showed no remorse during interrogations over his wife’s murder, police testified in court on Tuesday.

The compilation of evidence against Roderick Cassar started on Tuesday with Inspector Wayne Camilleri testifying on the day of the crime and Cassar’s arrest.

Cassar is accused of murdering his wife Bernice in the first case since femicide was introduced in the Criminal Code.

“We had no doubt on the cause of death, but what was interesting is that the fatal shot was the shot to the face, not the first shot on her chest,” Camilleri explained.

He said that the biggest issue during the police operation to arrest Roderick Cassar was his children. At the time, police weren’t sure if the children were at school or with their father inside the apartment.

Eventually, police confirmed that his children were at school ,meaning Cassar was probably alone at home.

Cassar was arrested in his Qrendi apartment after a 17-hour stand-off with police. The Special Intervention Unit (SIU) made a forced entry into his apartment at around 2am.

“I want to explain why the operation took so long,” he said in court. Camilleri explained that police were communicating with Cassar, who was still in possession of the firearm he is alleged to have murdered his wife with.

“Roderick Cassar started to say that he was suicidal and wanted to kill himself but was too scared to do so. He wanted police to do it for him,” Camilleri said.

During interrogation, Camilleri said “in my opinion, he showed no emotion”. The defence immediately objected to his use of opinion, and presiding magistrate Joseph Mifsud agreed.

However, the magistrate clarified his point. “You can say that he didn’t show emotion, but not as an opinion.”

The case was presided over by Magistrate Joseph Mifsud. Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri appeared as defence counsel for Cassar. Lawyers Angele Vella and Anthony Vella appeared on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General. Inspector Wayne Camilleri was present on behalf of the Commissioner for Police.

Cassar, 42, from Qrendi, stands charged of murdering Bernice Cassar, when he shot her at the Corradino industrial estate last week while she was heading to work. Bernice was hit in the face and chest and died on the spot.
Roderick Cassar pleaded not guilty.

The couple had two young children, who were at school when the murder happened.

Bernice Cassar had filed several reports of domestic violence against her husband and even moved out of the family home with her children in May. On the eve of her murder, she had filed another police report, claiming her husband had breached a protection order issued by the court in July.

Roderick Cassar was arrested after a 17-hour standoff with police after he locked himself up inside his house. Police eventually raided the house and Cassar was arrested and the weapon allegedly used in the murder, a shotgun, was seized.

Roderick Cassar was charged with wilful femicide, holding his victim against her will, using violence, including moral and psychological violence, using a firearm while committing a crime and possession of a firearm without permit. Other charges include stealing the victim's mobile phone and car key, and the wilful damage to her property and threatening a bystander.

This is the first time that femicide is being used as an aggravating offence in a court of law after it was introduced in the Criminal Code earlier this year, following the New Year's Day murder of Paulina Dembska.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are defence counsel. Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Marita Pace Dimech are appearing parte civile for the victim's family.

13:17 The sitting has ended. The court is appointing Katya Vassallo to conduct transcripts of the DVDs exhibited. The next sitting will take place on 19 December. Thank you for following with us. Nicole Meilak
13:15 Debono cross-examines the witness. He reads from a report that she exhibited moments earlier. He notices that the report refers to a traffic accident and an argument. Lia confirms the information in the report and Debono ends his cross-examination. Nicole Meilak
13:13 Inspectors and a medical team came on site and certified her to be dead. After noticing that Bernice had filed domestic violence reports, it was established that the aggressor was Roderick Cassar. Some family members and colleagues of Bernice came to the site. Nicole Meilak
13:11 Police sergeant Miriam Lia is next to testify. She was stationed in Raħal Ġdid on the day of the murder. After the report of the crime came in, she went to the site and found the body of Bernice Cassar with a large injury to her face, as blood was streaming down the street. The car was found with some of the doors open. Nicole Meilak
13:10 Debono asks if there were any witnesses who saw the shooting happen. Camilleri says that there were witnesses. The cross-examination will continue at a later stage. Nicole Meilak
13:06 Camilleri confirms that there were moments during the operation in Qrendi when Roderick Cassar was threatening to kill himself. But during other moments, he said that he was too scared to kill himself because he might not succeed, so he wanted police to shoot him instead. Nicole Meilak
13:06 Camilleri elaborates on the moment of the crime. A witness aid that the suspect got out of the car without a firearm and started shouting at her. As the situation escalated, he brought out the firearm. Nicole Meilak
13:02 “Who was the person who said that there were three shots fired?” Debono asks. Camilleri emphasises that it wasn’t him who spoke to this witness. “You saw three shots, one of which didn’t hit the victim,” Debono states. “How far was the victim from the aggressor?” Camilleri says that he’s not sure about the precise distance, but knows that it was a close one. Nicole Meilak
12:57 Debono asks about the car doors that were found open. Inspector Camilleri clarifies what he says earlier, that the doors on the driver’s side of the car were found open. Bernice Cassar’s body was found on the ground near the back tyre on the driver’s side of the car. Debono asks whether police investigated how the window was broken. Camilleri says that the accused broke the window, possibly with his weapon but not by shooting at it. Nicole Meilak
12:51 Debono asks about the CCTV footage. Camilleri says some of the footage was requested from a company nearby, while another person filmed it on their mobile. “From the little I saw, the footage shows the episode as it happened. It shows the argument, commotion between them, the argument between the accused and the victim.” He says Inspector Shawn Pawney would have more information as the lead investigator. Nicole Meilak
12:49 Franco Debono begins cross-examining the witness on the scene of the crime. He says the ordeal in Kordin lasted seven minutes. Debono asks who arrived to the scene of the crime first on the police’s part, to which Camilleri says a team from the RIU and two police constables were first to arrive. Nicole Meilak
12:47 Several domestic violence reports filed by Bernice are being exhibited in court. The magistrate asks whether the reports deal with why the accused was not arrested after these reports. He says he doesn’t know as he wasn’t involved in those reports. Nicole Meilak
12:45 One colleague filed a report with police over Roderick Cassar, a day before the homicide, explaining that Roderick was paranoid that he was in a relationship with Bernice. This report is being exhibited in court. Nicole Meilak
12:45 On 24 November, Roderick Cassar was charged in court. Inspector Camilleri is presenting DVDs of the interrogations. Nicole Meilak
12:42 He didn’t want to answer questions on what he did to her. When asked about his children, he started crying. When presented with photos of Bernice, Roderick avoided eye contact. He showed no emotion to any of this. Nicole Meilak
12:41 We started asking Roderick if he had enough time to sleep, and felt better than he did the day before. They asked him simple questions on Bernice Cassar, but he did not want to answer to any of the questions, neither to questions concerning the relationship they had. “She would say that she would work from home as well,” the inspector quotes Roderick, indicating that he spoke of her with a sense of scepticism. Nicole Meilak
12:40 He kept saying that he was tired and wanted to go to sleep. The interrogation was kept short so that he could be given enough time to rest. The second interrogation happened the day after, within the 48-hour arrest period. It took place at 11am. The inspector was present with Inspector Paul Camilleri. Nicole Meilak
12:39 The first interrogation happened on 23 November, after the identity parade. Roderick Cassar did not answer any questions. When asked about Bernice, he would just say that he was sorry for “what happened to her”, showing no emotion. Nicole Meilak
12:38 Before every interrogation with Roderick Cassar, he was reminded of his legal rights. His lawyer Marion Camilleri was present for each interrogation, and before each session, he was given enough time to consult with his lawyer. “I must add that before the first interrogation we gave the full disclosure we had to Dr Marion Camilleri.” He clarifies that Franco Debono was also there for the disclosure. Nicole Meilak
12:36 Every witness had a chance to identify the aggressor. “From five witnesses, four of them recognised the accused in the two choices they have. The fifth witness didn’t recognise anyone as he wasn’t sure.” Nicole Meilak
12:36 An identity parade was carried out on this day. The suspect was taken into a room with eight other people who resemble him but have nothing to do with the case. They were all made to wear the same clothes and shoes. Five witnesses attended the identity parade. Nicole Meilak
12:34 “We had no doubt on the cause of death, but what was interesting is that the fatal shot was in the face, not the first shot on the chest.” Nicole Meilak
12:33 Beppe Micallef-Trigona examined Roderick Cassar twice, in the morning and early afternoon. In both cases, Roderick was certified to be fit for interrogation. The autopsy on Bernice Cassar was also conducted on this day. Nicole Meilak
12:32 Roderick Cassar was asked to remove his clothes and was given a spare change of clothes, so that everything can be seized for forensic analysis, including DNA tests and gunshot residue testing. An ambulance was on stand-by on the site of the scene. Roderick Cassar was escorted to Mater Dei Hospital. When he was released from hospital, he was taken to Police Headquarters. Nicole Meilak
12:29 As Roderick was arrested and taken in for questioning, the inspector and his colleague went back upstairs, they found the gun near the door of the main bedroom. No one had touched it since Roderick was arrested. They noticed a green shotgun shell nearby, which resembled that found at the site of the murder. Nicole Meilak
12:26 As they went to the second floor, they noticed the door was locked. Police struggled to get it open, eventually shooting at the door. They gave orders to Roderick to cooperate and surrender himself to police. Police noticed that he was in the main bedroom. As Roderick approached the door, with the gun in his hand, police ordered him to drop his weapon. He eventually left the apartment and was arrested. Nicole Meilak
12:26 Roderick kept insisting that he didn’t want to go to prison, telling police to go away. Police eventually decided to take action. Officials from the SIU went in. “We knew his residence was on the second floor of the apartment block. Someone gave a key to the common area to us.” At this point, there was only the accused in the apartment block. Nicole Meilak
12:22 “I want to explain why the operation took so long,” he says. There were lots of phone calls between police officials and Roderick Cassar. He confirmed that the weapon was still on him, and the fact that there were no hostages meant that police could take their time. “Without going into the detail of these phone calls, Roderick Cassar started to say that he was suicidal and wanted to kill himself, but was too scared to do so. He wanted police to do it for him.” Nicole Meilak
12:21 He says the biggest issue at the time was their children. Police didn’t know where the children were at the time, meaning they could have been with the father. They eventually received confirmation that the kids were at school, meaning the suspect was probably alone at home. Nicole Meilak
12:20 Several units from the RIU were there, including a stand-by team from the Special Intervention Unit. They carried out a risk assessment and closed off the whole street to limit access. “At this stage, we had a big suspicion that Roderick Cassar was inside.” Nicole Meilak
12:19 The Inspector says he only spent half an hour on the scene of the crime. Eventually, he received a report from the Police Headquarters that a team from the Rapid Intervention Unit was conducting an operation in Qrendi, where the suspect lives. His car was found outside his home. He coordinated with Inspector Shawn Pawney and went to Qrendi to help in the operation at 9am. Nicole Meilak
12:16 One of the witnesses said they were certain there were three gunshots. Further investigations led to police finding a third bullet on the ground that did not hit Bernice. Nicole Meilak
12:15 First suggestions were that this was a traffic accident, as there was another car nearby. The impression from witnesses was that it was a traffic accident that escalated into an argument. The aggressor got out of the car, started swearing at Bernice Cassar, hurting her physically, grabbing a shotgun and shooting her three times. “He hit her twice for sure.” Nicole Meilak
12:13 He says that a group of people were saying that they were colleagues of the victims. The body was identified to be that of Bernice Cassar. Her colleagues recognised her car, they were certain the body was hers. They kept saying that there’s a chance that her husband was involved, as Bernice was open about her situation with her colleagues. They had begun separation proceedings and there were lots of arguments between them. They said Roderick Cassar was making her life difficult, and the two weren’t living together. Nicole Meilak
12:11 The two doors on the passenger side of the car were open. The window of the driver’s seat was completely broken. “I could notice on the dead body, which was facing upwards, that there was a gunshot on her chest and a gunshot in her face.” He says the weapon was likely a shotgun. “It was evident that the shots were taken at a close distance.” Nicole Meilak
12:11 He immediately went on site, arriving at around 8:15am. “The road was completely closed off with police tape to maintain control on all access to the site. I could notice a white car in the middle of the road,” he explains, which was Bernice’s car. He noticed the dead body on the road and a lot of blood trailing down the road. Nicole Meilak
12:09 Inspector Wayne Camilleri is the first witness on the case. He explains that, on Monday 22 November at 8am, he received a telephone call at the police control room telling him several calls were being made about a woman who suffered some gun shots and was dead in the area of Kordin Industrial Estate. Nicole Meilak
12:03 Roderick Cassar is accused of murdering his wife, in the first case since femicide was introduced in the Criminal Code. Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are in the courtroom as defence counsel for Cassar. Lawyers Angele Vella and Anthony Vella are appearing for the Attorney General’s office. Inspector Wayne Camilleri is present on behalf of the Commissioner for Police. Nicole Meilak
11:56 Good afternoon. We’re reporting live from court as the compilation of evidence against Roderick Cassar begins in front of Magistrate Joseph Mifsud. Nicole Meilak