Man charged over string of motorcycle thefts remanded in custody after violently resisting police

Accused violently resisted police officers who tried to arrest him at a mental health facility

File photo
File photo

A 20-year-old man has been remanded in custody after allegedly stealing several motorcycles in Marsascala, before eventually violently resisting police officers who tried to arrest him at a mental health facility.

Keane Gafa appeared in the dock before Magistrate Victor George Axiak on Friday, charged with the theft of five motorcycles, violently resisting arrest and breaching previous bail conditions.

Police inspector Jeffrey Scicluna, prosecuting, told the court that CCTV footage, which emerged during an investigation into a string of thefts of Kymco motorcycles from the Marsascala area, proved decisive in identifying the defendant.

Footage from a hotel showed the man, still dressed in the same outfit he had worn during the thefts, going inside the premises. Hotel employees subsequently helped the police to identify Gafa, who at the time was unknown to the authorities.

An arrest warrant was issued, leading the police to trace Gafa to Mount Carmel Hospital on Wednesday. The man violently resisted the police when officers tried to arrest him, Scicluna said, explaining that the man had bitten one officer and poked another officer in the eye during his arrest. The aggression persisted while he was being held for questioning at the police headquarters in Floriana, said the inspector. “[He was] spitting blood and threatening to kill our families,” he said.

The inspector said the police had used minimum force to restrain him, before calling the Rapid Intervention Unit in for backup. Gafa was transported to Mater Dei Hospital under police escort, eventually being transferred back to Mount Carmel.

Gafa pleaded not guilty to the charges. His lawyer George Anton Buttigieg requested bail, insisting that his client was presumed innocent at this stage. The bail request was objected to by the prosecution on the grounds of the credible risk that Gafa could attempt to suborn or intimidate civilian witnesses, as well as because of his violent behaviour, the serious nature of the crimes and the charge of having breached a previous bail condition.

Buttigieg insisted that there must be more to the story than what had been heard. “The only thing I'm going to say is that the inspector himself said that [Gafa] had been spitting blood while being arrested. If he was spitting blood, it didn’t get there by itself, if we’re going to get into the merits of the violence, we need to consider the certified injuries from both sides,” he argued.

Magistrate Axiak denied the bail request due to the nature of the accused’s behaviour, explaining that the court was not satisfied that the defendant could abide by his bail conditions. The court recommended that the prison authorities allow that the man be detained at the forensic unit at Mount Carmel.

Lawyer Shelby Aquilina from the Office of the Attorney General assisted the police. Lawyer Vincienne Vella also appeared for Gafa.