Driver who killed two men in Mosta was under the influence of cocaine, cannabis and alcohol

Karl Vella Petroni charged over the involuntary homicide of two men from Pakistan, as well as with driving while intoxicated

Karl Vella Petroni was charged with the involuntary homicide of two men from Pakistan, as well as with driving while intoxicated
Karl Vella Petroni was charged with the involuntary homicide of two men from Pakistan, as well as with driving while intoxicated

A man from Manikata has been remanded in custody after being charged with causing the death of two men when he crashed into the motorcycle they had been riding on, allegedly whilst under the influence of cocaine, cannabis and alcohol.

Inspector Godwin Scerri arraigned logistics manager Karl Vella Petroni, 41, before magistrate Abigail Critien on Monday afternoon, accusing him of the involuntary homicides of two men from Pakistan, as well as with driving while intoxicated.

Vella Petroni had been behind the wheel of a Smart Fortwo when it collided with a Yamaha Crypton motorcycle in Triq ta’ Żejfa, Mosta at around 6am on Saturday 6th May.

The two victims, 41-year-old Ali Abbas and 33-year-old Faizan Muhammad, both from Pakistan had been on their way to work at a Rabat factory. Muhammad was certified dead at the scene. Abbas succumbed to his injuries later in hospital.

A plea of not guilty was entered by Vella Petroni’s lawyer Charles Merceica during the arraignment.

Mercieca refused to say whether the defence was challenging the validity of the man’s arrest, arguing that he had insufficient information to form a decision.

He had requested disclosure of the evidence from the inspector, who had given him the evidence which he had in his possession at the time. The lawyer, however, insisted that he needed the acts of the inquiry, in order to decide whether to challenge the validity of the arrest or not.

Magistrate Critien pointed out that the inquiry had only been started on Saturday and was unlikely to have been completed so soon.

The defendant had been granted police bail yesterday at 7pm while in hospital for the slight injuries he had suffered as a result of the collision and was rearrested after his discharge, after going to the police station when his presence was requested.

The court said that it was taking the declaration as a contestation of the validity of the arrest, but Mercieca insisted that the defence was unable to contest it. “The court’s hands are tied, it is one way or the other, black or white. You cannot have your cake and eat it," remarked the magistrate, as Mercieca continued to insist.

Inspector Scerri explained that he had consulted with the inquiring magistrate and had handed everything which he was allowed to. “But if the lawyer asks me for, for example, photos taken by forensic teams, I don’t have them.”

“Dottore today, I don’t have access to the inquiry and it is not my role to have it,” remarked the magistrate, as the lawyer persisted with his unusual request.

The court noted that the prosecution had already declared that it had handed over all the documents that it could, telling Mercieca to dictate a note about this, which he did.

The case was about a traffic accident, suggested the lawyer, at which point the magistrate interjected to point out that the traffic accident in question had resulted in fatalities.

“The defendant was arrested after a police officer at the scene of the incident noticed that his breath smelled of alcohol,” said the inspector.” That reasonable suspicion on the part of the officers at the scene was sufficient for the defendant to be arrested and to begin investigating him.”

The inspector also informed the court that besides the list of evidence mentioned by the defence lawyer, the police had also verbally explained all the information it had about the dynamics of the incident and confirmed that the lawyer had made the same request made in court today, to the police. The police had disclosed all of the information it had in hand at the time to the defendant.

Mercieca repeated that the defence’s submissions were about its inability to answer the court’s question as to whether or not it was contesting the validity of the arrest.

A verbal disclosure did not satisfy the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights, and jurisprudence by the European Court of Human Rights which established that the information disclosed to a suspect must be precise, and so verbal disclosure was insufficient.

“We have transposed the words of European Law but not the practice,” remarked the lawyer.

After pointing out once again, that before it today the court had an arraignment and an inquiry by a different magistrate, which is not yet concluded, the magistrate ruled the arrest to have been valid.

Mercieca requested bail after a not-guilty plea was entered by the defence.

The prosecution objected to the request, due to the fact that there were civilian witnesses who were yet to testify.

Mercieca informed the court that the defendant’s father, who was present in the courtroom, was willing to offer himself as a third-party guarantor for the defendant’s compliance with any bail conditions.

"Nobody had any doubt as to Karl's trustworthiness,” said the lawyer. “He only has two previous convictions, the latest one being in 2018."

The magistrate, however, pointed out that this conviction was also for a similar offence.

The inspector added that during the investigation, it had emerged that the defendant had also tested positive for drugs at the time of his arrest. The fact that Vella Petroni worked in the music industry, exposed him to an increased risk of substance abuse, were he to be allowed to work during the night time.

It was not fair to remand the driver in custody on the basis of “one or two witnesses,” were the defence’s final submissions on bail.

The court, after hearing the submissions and having seen the defendant's criminal record, as well as the fact that civilian witnesses were yet to testify, together with the serious nature of the crime he is accused of, denied bail and ordered Vella Petroni to be remanded in custody until his case was assigned to a magistrate and the compilation of evidence against him could begin.