Court orders police investigate two eyewitnesses to Gżira shooting

Court observes that testimony given by witnesses on Monday was contradictory, ordering the Commissioner of Police to investigate them for possible perjury

Malta law courts (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Malta law courts (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

A court has ordered the police to investigate two eyewitnesses to a shooting at the Black Gold Saloon in Gżira, last November.

Aaron Cassar 43, who had shared a hotel room with the alleged shooter on the night of the incident, took the witness stand as the compilation of evidence against Christopher Philip Agius continued before magistrate Kevan Azzopardi on Monday.

Agius, 32, from Paola, is pleading not guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm on the victim, threatening him with a firearm, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime against a person, carrying a firearm in public without a licence, failing to inform the police that he had come into possession of an unregistered firearm and breaching the peace, during his arraignment last November.

Cassar, who was also arrested at the bar, had previously been jailed for three months for violating a court-imposed curfew - part of bail conditions relating to other proceedings.

“We had decided to go to Black Gold that night,” he said. A man whom he didn’t recognise had barged into him while he was leaving the toilets. At the same time, he saw the defendant being shoulder-charged near the bar and punched in the mouth. “There is CCTV footage that shows that when we had gone to buy drinks, he [the victim] had barged into Chris with his shoulder while he was drinking.”

He described the man who had barged into the defendant as an “Arab man.” “He had made gestures towards as if he was pushing Chris away.” A fight had then broken out, he said.

“They started fighting and ended up on the floor. Chris was on top of him. The Arab guy reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife.”

At that point security staff had ejected brawling men out of the club, he said, adding that he hadn’t seen what had happened after that. “Then we heard a gunshot and I just left,” he said, “for home.” The time was approximately 1:30am, he added later.

Prosecutor Darlene Grima asked the witness whether any communication had taken place with the people in the bar after he had gone home. There had, he said, with Agius, adding that he had met the defendant many times after the incident, before they were arrested.

Grima asked about a third person who had been with the men, a woman. “Yes. A friend of my daughter’s,” replied the witness.

Cassar, however, started to prevaricate when asked about what he and Agius had said to each other about the incident, after that day, leading the magistrate to reprimand the witness, warning him that he faced serious consequences should he lie under oath.

Agius wasn’t trusting him much at that point, Cassar continued, adding that he didn’t know where the firearm had come from.

The court warned the witness a second time, telling him that he had already contradicted himself twice. Cassar insisted that he was not close friends with Agius. “We were never even arrested together, for example,” he said.

“I don’t remember exactly what was said. We had tried to figure out why the incident happened. We didn’t know who he was. He told me that he had a knife, and had showed it to me when he pulled this nickel-plated butterfly knife out of his pocket. Then the bouncers threw him out and closed the bar to avoid further trouble.”

“Seconds after hearing the gunshot outside, I left the bar and ran away.”

Woman accompanying witness testifies

Next to take the stand was the woman who had been accompanying the witness and the defendant, Chanel Debono.

It was with difficulty that she recalled the fact that the incident had taken place late last year.

Asked when she had first been approached by the police, she said she had been arrested while in a car with the defendant and another individual.

Before leaving for Black Gold, the trio had been at a hotel, she said. “Then what happened, happened.”

Grima asked about the third person she had mentioned. “Aaron,” said the woman. She confirmed that he had been in the hotel room with the defendant and her, and had also been in the car at the time of their arrest, but said that she had never spoken to him.

Debono told the court that she had forgotten most of the details since then.

This led the court to also remind the woman that she was under oath and “could not choose what to say and what not to.” “You are saying you don’t remember many things. If I find that this is not true, I will instruct the police to arrest you and charge you with perjury.”

He asked what had been said during the time that Aaron was inside their hotel room. “I was inside the room, they were outside,” the woman replied.

She had only known Agius for “two or three months” at the time, she said when asked about her relationship with the defendant. “We were just fooling around.” 

Police having trouble serving bouncer with summons

After the woman stepped off the stand, Police Inspector Wayne Camilleri told the court that the police were having trouble serving the bouncer with his summons. The court authorised the police to serve the summons after working hours and to publish a notice and photo of the bouncer through the police’s media and social media channels.

The court then dictated a note, observing that the testimony given by todays’ witnesses was contradictory and ordering the Commissioner of Police to investigate them for possible perjury.

A prosecution request for the appointment of a medico-legal expert to examine the victim and determine whether the grievous injuries he suffered were permanent in nature or not.

The case continues.

Prosecutors Darlene Grima and Etienne Savona from the Office of the Attorney General are assisting police inspectors Wayne Camilleri and Michael Vella.

Lawyers David Gatt and Arthur Azzopardi are assisting Agius..