Man charged after nearly killing friend with sword during six-day cocaine bender

The court also heard that when police went to arrest the defendant, he told them that he had mistaken the victim for the devil

A man has been accused of grievous bodily harm after nearly killing his friend with a sword, while on a six-day cocaine bender, telling the police that he “thought the victim was the devil.”

Josef Grech, 33 from Bormla was charged with grievously injuring another man in Triq il-Madonna tal-Grazzja in Bormla at around 9:15 am on Saturday, 11 November. Grech was also charged with attacking and threatening the man, and also with recidivism.

Grech, who told the court that he was unemployed, declared that he did not know his own address. A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf by his lawyers.

Inspector Paul Camilleri said on Saturday a man went to the Bormla police station with a bleeding arm, visibly in shock. He told the police that he had been taking cocaine with the defendant who at one point became paranoid and attacked him with a sword.

The victim was taken to hospital where he was certified as being in danger of dying. Police officers also went to arrest Grech, finding him sitting on the doorstep of his house. He told the police that he had mistaken the victim for the devil. “Hsibtu x-xitan, hsibtu x-xitan.” Grech, who appeared to be highly intoxicated, was taken to hospital for observation. When he was released for interrogation, he opted not to reply to questions.

Asked by defence lawyer Franco Debono whether toxicology reports had been carried out, the inspector replied that they hadn’t because the defendant was unable to give consent due to his mental state. Police searching his house found a number of items used for drug consumption in his house. He had been consuming drugs for six straight days, added the lawyer.

Debono argued that this was a case of intoxication, but told the court that he would deal with this issue at a later stage. The defence asked that toxicology tests be carried out if they had not already happened in hospital, declaring that the defendant was giving his consent for this to happen, retroactively if necessary.

Inspector Camilleri informed the court that a magisterial inquiry into the incident was also underway, as the victim had been certified as being in danger of losing his life. He has not been questioned yet, the court was told.

Grech’s lawyers requested bail for their client, which was objected to by the prosecution for reasons relating to the preservation of witness evidence and the fact that he already had a conviction. 

His defence replied to the objections, pointing out that the man’s only other conviction was for a non-violent traffic offence. The victim was being treated in hospital, the lawyers said, arguing that one could not simply walk in and talk to people there. 

“This is a case where our client had been consuming a substance for a rather long period of time and what happened happened,” Debono submitted. He asked that the defendant be assisted to overcome his drug problems, suggesting bail supervision or electronic tagging, which he said was “finally close to being introduced,” 18 years after he had first proposed it.

Prosecutor Cynthia Tomasuolo pointed out that the victim had not yet been spoken to by the police or in court and that there was a risk that the defendant could consume drugs again while on bail.

The inspector added that there was fear of him reoffending because the police receive many drug crime reports from the area where the defendant lives. “We want him to be taken out of that environment. He wants to go straight, but appears too weak.”

The court denied bail at this stage, after taking into account the nature of the crime and the fact that the victim had not yet testified, together with the defendant’s drug dependency issues. The magistrate also placed him under a temporary supervision order,

At the prosecution’s request, a protection order was also issued as the defendant and victim were well acquainted with each other and each other's families knew each other well.

Inspector Paul Camilleri was assisted by prosecutor Cynthia Tomasuolo from the Office of the Attorney General.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri assisted Grech.