Updated | Accused gave details of robbery to a friend

Kenneth Ellul is facing a trial by jury over assaulting former Labour MP Anthony Zammit, at his Zebbug residence, back in 2008.

Kenneth Ellul, also known as 'il-Lula', 39, of Marsaskala, will today face a trial by jury over the robbery and assault on former Labour member of Parliament Anthony Zammit in 2008.

The case goes back to the night of 11 August 2008, when the residence of Labour MP Professor Anthony Zammit in Misrah San Filep, Zebbug, was broken into. Three hooded men assaulted the professor, causing him grievous injuries. The victim is now 64 years old.

Ellul stands charged with holding Zammit against his will, aggravated theft, carrying an unlicensed weapon, assaulting the MP and causing him grievous injuries. He is also accused of stealing a Kia Avella.

At around 4:30am, patrons of a bar close to Zammit's residence saw two hooded men exiting the house, and attempt to drive away from the area but the car would not start. The two ran away on foot. Moments later, a third person left the house and fled the scene in the opposite direction of the other two.

Michelangelo Farrugia, owner of the St Phillip Bar, told jurors he had opened his shop as usual at around 4:30am. Moments later a patron who was having tea told him that two-hooded man had exited a residence two doors down from the bar. Professor Anthony Zammit lived there. Some time later a third man left the residence.

The witness stopped a police officer on foot patrol and told him what happened. The officer gave chase, to no avail.

The bar owner then called another patron whom he knew had the key of the residence. " I told him what happened and that the police needed to enter the house".

Gaining access to the house, the police saw that the residence had been ransacked. The victim was found tied inside his bedroom, lying face down on his bed.

Investigations revealed how Professor Zammit had returned to his residence at around 2:20am. He went straight to bed but was woken by three armed men who broke into his house.

The victim was tied and brutally assaulted with the butt of a sawn off shotgun. One of the culprits repeatedly pressed the barrel of the shotgun against the victim's face. Two of the men wore balaclavas while the other had a carnival mask on. However while inside the house, the men called each other using their names and nicknames.

One of the thieves ransacked the residence while the other two kept hitting the professor, demanding he hands over €10,000. The victim told his aggressors that he did not have that amount of cash at his residence. However after about two hours, the thieves did not find the amount of money they expected and left the house with around €1,200.

Due to his injuries, the victim feared he would suffer a heart attack and asked one of the thieves to get him pills and patches. The hooded man placed a pill under Zammit's tongue and also stuck the patches on the professor's chest as instructed. They also took jewelry and the victim's mobile.

The police had spoken to a certain Mark Anthony Ellul, who claimed that the accused had spoken to him about the robbery at Zammit's house. On the same day the accused denied his involvement with the theft, however days later, while going to the Detox Centre, the accused gave details to his friend about the thefts. The accused mentioned the fact that the victim had asked the thieves to give him his medication.

Investigators also spoke to Christopher Shepherd who claimed that in April 2008, he was approached to partake in the theft. The accused together with a certain Christian Ellul had called at his house at around 10pm. They two had shown him a luggage boot full of sawn off shotguns and revolvers and asked him to join forces with them, and another person, for a robbery on a professor at Zebbug.

The four would be the accused, Christian Ellul, Bruno Philip Gauci and Chris Shepherd. Shepherd refused to join, saying his mother had passed away and he was not in the right frame of mind.

Subsequently Shepherd was imprisoned over different charges. He heard about the case on TV and told a fellow inmate, "This was Lula's job". The police never arraigned the other three men mentioned by the accused as there was never hard evidence against them. "The build of the culprits shown on the CCTV footage did not match that of the other three suspects, apart from the accused", the Inspector said.

During the compilation of evidence against the accused, the professor had told the police he recognised Ellul as one of he aggressors from the lisp in his voice. During the robbery the victim had heard the thieves refer to each other as 'Gandhi' and 'Ronnie'.

Further investigations revealed how the Kia Avella, which broke down on the thieves, had been stolen from Marsascala a week earlier. On the backseat, officers found a sawn off shotgun. Ballistic tests showed the weapon could not be used as the barrel was blocked. It had been reported stolen eight years earlier.

At the beginning of the trial, the prosecution asked that it be held behind closed doors.  Dr Lara Lanfranco, on behalf of the Attorney General, said, "Given the position formerly held by the victim and the distasteful articles which had appeared in the media at the time of the incident, the case should be held behind closed doors".  Mr Justice Lawrence Quintano rejected the request.

The case was investigated by Inspector Joe Mercieca.

Lawyers Lara Lanfranco and Kevin Valletta are prosecuting. Dr Josette Sultana is appearing for the accused.

More information to follow.