‘She told us he was going to kill her. And he did’ – murder victim Bernice Cassar’s aunt

In testimony lasting nearly two and a half hours, her aunt said that before her murder Bernice had confided in her, saying that the accused had started to accuse her of being unfaithful

Roderick Cassar, who stands charged with murder after shooting his wife, Bernice, dead last November, had started to accuse her of being unfaithful in the weeks before, in the midst of a series of violent incidents, a court has heard.

The victim’s aunt Sylvana Darmanin testified as the compilation of evidence continued before Magistrate Joe Mifsud on Tuesday. "Besides being her aunt, I was like a mother to her. She was like the daughter I never had, she used to respect me so much,” the woman said.

In testimony lasting nearly two and a half hours, Darmanin said that before her murder Bernice had confided in her, saying that the accused had started to accuse her of being unfaithful. On one occasion, she had herself heard the accused telling Bernice this. On that occasion, the witness had intervened, vouching for Bernice.

The first time she noticed that Cassar had been violent towards his wife was on New Year’s Day 2022, said the witness. Darmanin had made a video call to Bernice, Roderick and the children, that day. "The daughter, four years old, answered crying her eyes out. I couldn't make out what she was saying. Bernice entered the frame and told me that she would explain what happened later." The witness had immediately called her husband and told him to go to their house because something was not right. Upon arriving there, he had found Bernice cleaning up pieces of plates that the accused had allegedly smashed after an argument.

The domestic situation had deteriorated after that day, Darmanin said.

“They were afraid of the accused, who wanted to go out with his friends. She didn't want him to do this, she was a family woman... the children were her priority."

Darmanin gave an account of other violent incidents that Bernice had told her about. On Mother's Day 2022, Roderick Cassar had left the house in the morning and returned the next morning. “It was a Sunday. He returned at around 6am, waking up the children, telling them that they were going to Gozo.” When Bernice had replied that she wasn't going to go, the accused had reacted with exaggerated violence, punching her in the face and threatening her with a knife. “He was pulling her hair and punching her in front of his brother,” said the witness. He had then left for Gozo with one of the children.

The witness also told the court about another violent domestic incident that had happened later that year, on Maundy Thursday. That night Darmanin had waited together with Bernice for the accused to return, adding that she had eventually gone home at 1 am because she had work the next day. The next morning, Bernice had called her aunt to tell her that Roderick had returned home at 4am, slapping Bernice in the face when she had rebuked him for staying out so late.

On another occasion, the accused had flown into a rage, promising to “get his revenge” on his wife, after she had failed to take the couple’s children to her parent’s house to visit his parents. She had explained to him that this was because his father had COVID-19 at the time.

On 13 November, the accused had tried to stop his wife and aunt from taking the children out for a trip, reaching into her car and angrily demanding that she hand him her mobile phone. He had told his son that he (Roderick) would be in prison the following week.

A police officer turned up and offered to escort them to the police headquarters, but Bernice did not want to go there with her children present. Whilst she had been driving to Żebbuġ to drop off the children, Bernice told her aunt that “the next thing he is going to do is kill me.” 

“She told us that he was going to kill her and he did,” said the witness.