Update 3 | Stolen items were worth thousands of euro

Court turns down prosecution's request to have Zammit's testimony made behind closed doors.

Mr Justice Lawrence Quintano turned down a request by prosecutor Lara Lanfranco to have the evidence of victim Anthony Zammit, the former Labour MP, held behind closed doors.

The judge refused to entertain the request. “This case is about a robbery, nothing more. It is the norm that trials are public, and it is only in the exception that they are held behind closed doors. I appeal to all media to refrain from sensationalism. There is no threat to public security, and no moral issues. If in the past anyone used the case to attack the victim, they should have been sued for libel,” Judge Quintano declared.

Zammit was assaulted back in August 2008 and bound in his home. Kenneth Ellul is facing a trial by jury, accused of having assaulted the former MP.

An emotional Anthony Zammit recounted that on 10 August 2008, the Zurrieq mayor – Ignatius Farrugia, who runs a beauty salon that also hosts a medical clinic for Prof. Zammit – picked him up from Zebbug square at 10pm, to go to St Paul’s Bay.

The two men had dinner and returned home at around 2:10am.

Zammit said that upon walking in he switched on the lights in the yard. “After checking if the cat had food I went to bed. In summer I sleep in the nude, so I sleep on the side of the bed away from the light spilling in the from the street.”

Zammit then said he suddenly saw three men entering his bedroom. “One of them was thin, tall and had shoulder-length hair. The other was short and chubby, just like the Michelin Man. Two of them twisted my arm while the other straddle me. They demanded money. I told them all I had was the cash on the bedside table. In between blows, they demanded ’20,000’ in cash – I’m not sure whether it was in euros or in liri,” Zammit said.

Zammit said Ellul tied his legs with a strong knot, using the flexiwire from a bedside lamp. His arms were bound with a tie, and another necktie was inserted in his mouth.

“One of the aggressors knelt next to me and put the barrel of a shotgun against my head. At that point I saw his eyes, greyish-green. He also had a particular nose. I loosened one of my arms and moved the shotgun but the accused grasped my arm and retied my hand. This time the knot was harder.”

Zammit then said the his house was ransacked – he said two of them referred to each other as ‘Ronnie’ and ‘Gandhi’. “Both of them left the room while Ellul stayed behind.”

Finding himself alone with Ellul, Zammit asked him whether he knew that robbing an MP brought with it an aggravated punishment.

“He started swearing and I told him that if they kill me, I would go to heaven and pray that the Holy Mother forgives what he said. He came to me, and pointed a revolver at me – I could see no light going through the barrel, meaning it was loaded. Up close I noted that his eyes were blue and he had a pronounced nose. He also had a particular gait, and a fidgety walk.”

Zammit asked Ellul whether he knew who he was, to which Ellul replied: “You are the professor”.

Zammit said he then realised that his aggressor had a lisp.

Ellul then placed a pillow between the gun and the victim, and noticing a beer bottle by the bed, picked it up “and touched [him] with it”.

“At one point he commented that I had a nice rear and I panicked. I had heard stories of people who had been assaulted and violated and was scared to death,” Zammit said.

Zammit said that Ellul also threatened to cut off his fingers and toes with a nail clipper. “He started pressing the clipper on my thumb. The pain was atrocious so I told him I was about to have a heart attack and needed pills. Hoping he would take his gloves off and leave fingerprints I instructed him to get me pills from my bedside cabinet. When that failed I asked him to get me a chest patch, however he never took off his gloves.”

Questioned by the prosecution, he explained the injuries he sustained in the assault, and the treatment he had to follow. Then gave a detailed description of the layout of his house and listed the items that were stolen.
Amongst the items missing from his residence, the victim mentioned a piece of silver, valued at over €8,000. Other items included a €13,000 diamond ring, €1,066 in cash from the dressing table, €250 in cash from the wallet, four watches valued at €35,000 and a sheet of copper which, apart from its sentimental value, cost €3,000.

While ransacking the house, the thieves broke an antique silver decanter and damaged old furniture. “The damage runs into thousands of euro”, said Zammit.
During cross-examination, the emotional victim said he is still traumatised by what happened. “I get scared when I’m alone and hear noises. I fear being robbed or assaulted”, he said.
Dr Josette Sultana confronted the victim with what he had said moments after the incident and his evidence. He replied that the report of court expert and lawyer Veronique Dalli was peppered with mistakes.
He also said that before he sleeps he takes off his contact lenses, however he can still see although not in detail. “If someone comes close enough I can easily recognise him. I’m a doctor, I’ve studied the human body – it’s my job to look for detail. As for people who start forgetting things the older they get – this does not apply to me because I have a photographic memory”, Zammit concluded.

He had been at the witness stand for over four hours.

Other witnesses

Kenneth Ellul has denied involvement in the assault.

A witness, Mark Anthony Ellul, said the accused – whom he knew at the detox centre – had confessed the theft to him. “He admitted his involvement, and told me that they had got a copy of the residence key from one of the men Zammit frequented. The culprits were inside the house before the victim returned home. It was only after the culprits denied Zammit his medication that he told them where the money was. Kenneth Ellul told me that they had made away with 21,000 in cash – I’m not sure if it was Euro or Maltese liri.”

Witness Christian Shepherd, who told the police of the accused’s involvement in the assault, told the court that he had given information on the three men yet only one was arraigned.

“It’s not fair that I gave police information about three men, but only one has been arraigned. The mastermind is still free. The most dangerous of the three, the one who deals in firearms, is not the accused – Kenneth Ellul doesn’t even have enough money to buy himself a coffee.”

Shepherd, formerly prison convict, said Ellul was scared to say who they other men were.

Shepherd said that in 2009 he gave Zammit a copy of his police statement to Inspector Keith Arnaud, describing how a certain Christian Ellul asked him to participate in the robbery. “At the time my mother was dying and I could not focus. He showed me a luggage boot in which there was a shotgun and dark coloured clothing. But I refused to help.”

Together with Christian Ellul was another person, Bruno Farrugia. “They insisted that everything was ready and the victim was Prof. Zammit from Zebbug. Kenneth Ellul was also to be part of the job. However I kept refusing.”

Ellul said he knew the accused from the time they had lived in the St Patrick’s school. The two were neighbours at a later stage. Shepherd knew Christian Ellul because he used to hang around with the accused. He also knew who Mark Anthony Ellul was, but was never part of his clique.

Shepherd said that shortly after given his witness during the compilation of evidence on 21 October 2010, his wife told him the family was under threat. “My wife burst into tears, saying that she was outside feeding cats when Christian Ellul stopped her and threatened her.”

Under cross-examination, Shepherd had also he had had a heart-to-heart in prison with Kenneth Ellul, who told him that he was not involved in the Zebbug theft.

“After Ellul spoke to me I tried to tell the inspector it was not him. But when you are arrested or taken to the police headquarters your mind plays tricks on you, and you get easily confused. In prison everyone keeps telling me it was not Kenneth Ellul who robbed the professor. It’s not fair that one bears the guilt of three.”

Shepherd denied having asked for a pardon for his testimony. “I paid all my dues to the law, served all my time and never expected anything in return for the information.”

Court experts testify

Zammit suffered cuts, bruises and fractures in the assault. Defence lawyer exhibited a 38-page report collating evidence, CCTV footage and statements taken from a number of suspects.

Speech therapists Patrick Vella, Paul Schembri and Kenneth Delia explained how speech samples of the accused were used for testing, and how the physiognomy of the accused was used to determine Zammit’s claims that Ellul had a lisp. But tests with the accusing wearing his dentures, and without, all resulted in the negative.

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

One of the other burglars returned to the bedroom and asked Zammit how to open an old safe he had under the stairs. But Zammit told him that it was an old empty safe which could not be opened. “The accused blocked my nose and tried to stuff my mouth with a shirt. One of the others started jumping on my throat. I fainted. When I came back to my senses I acted as if I was about to die. Seeing this, one of them started hitting me with the butt of the shotgun on my thighs, trying to fracture my femurs – they knew that a femoral fracture is possibly fatal due to loss of blood. The accused threw all the clothes in the cupboard over me – they also knew that the clothes would absorb the body fluids and the smell of a dead body would take longer to dissipate.”

Zammit said that minutes later, he heard his aggressors going up the stairs, and about ten minutes later was rescued by his handyman and a police officer.