Update 2 | Zammit robbery • Prosecution’s case mired in contradictions – defence

Prosecutor picks on accused’s lisp after victim described one of the aggressor as having a lisp.

Former Labour MP Anthony Zammit
Former Labour MP Anthony Zammit

39-year-old Kenneth Ellul called on the court in a trail by jury to believe that he had nothing to do with the robbery at the residence of former Labour MP Anthony Zammit, back in 2008.

The trial by jury entered its fourth day, with Ellul insisting he was being wrongly charged.

Ellul stands charged with holding Zammit against his will, aggravated theft, carrying an unlicensed weapon, assaulting the former MP and causing him grievous injuries.

He is also accused of stealing a Kia Avella.

“Do you know what it feels like to be in the dock for nothing, Dr Valletta?” the Ellul told prosecuting officer Kevin Valletta. “I’m not saying the robbery did not happen – I’m saying I was not part of it.”

Three men are known to have assaulted Zammit at his house in the dead of the night. But according to a witness to whom Ellul confessed the crime in prison, the police failed to arraign the other two men.

Zammit claimed one of the aggressors had a lisp, something prosecuting officer Kevin Valletta today picked upon in cross-examining Ellul.

Ellul was also pressed on his criminal record, having already been convicted of a number of thefts in the past. But Ellul kept insisting that he was not part of the trio that stole from Zammit’s residence. “I had nothing to do with this robbery,” Ellul said, at which point his lisp was noticed.

Ellul said he had kicked a drug habit. “My life was wrecked but now I am clean. I was going to turn to drugs again when they told me when the jury would be held, but I managed to stay away.”

Ellul was first arrested in connection with the Zammit case in November 2009.

“I spent every weekend out on police bail until they decided to arraign me. There was a whole mess-up,” Ellul told the court.

At one point, one of the jurors asked why should they believe he was innocent, to which Ellul promptly replied that he did not trust the jurors. “I would have chosen a trial without jury, if I had it my way. I don’t trust nine people who know nothing about the case… but my lawyer believed otherwise.”

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

Amongst the items missing stolen from his residence were silver valued at over €8,000, dating from the era of Grand Master Pinto; a €13,000 diamond ring; €1,066 in cash from the dressing table; €250 in cash from the wallet; four watches – a Rolex, a Breil, a Seiko and a Citizen – valued at €35,000; and a sheet of copper valued at €3,000. 

Prof Anthony Zammit said the trauma of the burglary left him scared each time he heard noises in the house. “I fear being robbed or assaulted,” he said.

Defence concludes

In the defence’s conclusions today, defence counsel Josette Sultana said jurors needed little input from the defence, arguing that the prosecution “had failed to prove the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”

Sultana said the prosecution had failed to link the weapon, a shotgun, exhibited in court with the accused; that a witness had already declared the weapon had belonged to him for 30 years – although other witnesses claimed he bought from two men who needed cash for drugs.

“By no stretch of the imagination did the prosecution manage to link either the revolver or the sawn-off shotgun to the accused. No fingerprints or DNA samples taken from the scene of the crime matched with the accused. I don’t want to solve the case – it’s not my job. I just want you to show that Kenneth Ellul is not linked with the exhibited evidence,” the defence told jurors.

She said that the police followed leads by third parties, and that witnesses presented by the prosecution had contradicted each other.

“The police officer, the handyman and the victim gave different accounts of how the rescuers entered Zammit’s bedroom. While the first two claimed the officer had kicked the door open, Prof. Zammit said he had seen them open it after a glass plane was broken.”

Sultana said the victim himself even attempted to discredit court experts whose conclusions had not matched his account, while on the witness stand. “After telling you how attentive to detail he was, Prof. Anthony Zammit did not give any details about the lisp his alleged aggressor had, but he tried to attack the conclusions of the three speech therapists, who all agreed that the accused Kenneth Ellul has no speech impediment.”

Sultana said star witness Christopher Shepherd “appeared paranoid” on the witness stand, and that he had given contradictory accounts.

“First he said Ellul was guilty, then he went as far as to say that Ellul was innocent but knew who the culprits were: but he was scared to say who. Another important witness, Mark Anthony Ellul, seemed disoriented and subdued. At the start of his testimony the witness had to be guided by the judge, after admitting that he was confused because of what he had read in the media about the case.”

Sultana also said Prof. Zammit had tried to discredit court experts Veronique Dalli and Mario Scerri.

“He also claimed his aggressor had applied pressure on his fingers using a clipper, but no injuries were found compatible by doctors.”

She said that Zammit’s confidants had relayed versions of the incident that were “less escalated” than that given by Zammit.

“The maintenance man claimed that a few things had gone missing, while close friend Ignatius Farrugia [Zurrieq mayor] forgot what the victim had told him the next day. Yet the victim went on to list various stolen items and for the first time claimed that the light of the bedroom was turned on.”

Sultana said that in contrast, Ellul had insisted on his innocence since questioning by the police. “Ellul thought it was some bad joke, which ultimately got worse when he was arraigned. The choice is whether you believe someone who was consistent for eight years, or whether you give weight to the prosecution’s claim which does not even give moral certainty of the accused’s guilt,” Sultana told jurors.

Prosuection concludes

In its submissions, the prosecution called on jurors to consider the traumatic effect of the robbery on Zammit’s life. “His tears are no mere theatrics… he will carry the scars of that night for the rest of his life,” prosecuting lawyer Lara Lanfranco said.

The prosecuting lawyer said Zammit had stuck to his version events, saying that Ellul was aggressive and that he carried a revolver. “He didn’t change his version to say that Ellul struck him with a sawn-off shotgun… he did not place in the accused any burden that was not his.”

She said Zammit had not identified the accused during the identification parade held on 29 September 2008, but said that “this was to be expected, as the accused was first spoken to by the police two months later.”

She also said that star witness Christopher Shepherd had confirmed items that had been stolen from Zammit, such as the diamond-encrusted square signet ring. “However the accused had already sold the ring as at the time because he needed money for drugs. Not only did Shepherd not change his version of events, but confirmed the statements he had given to the police and the inquiring magistrate.”

But Shepherd also changed his version of events during the compilation of evidence, and during the trial by jury first confirmed the statements then told the court that he had been scared during the compilation of evidence. “He had met the accused in the court’s lift. The accused denied his involvement and confused him. Moreover his wife had been threatened. That is why he changed view.”

Lanfranco also insisted that Kenneth Ellul suffered form a lisp, contrary to the court experts’ claims. “Unless I’m going mad, from the witness stand he repeatedly lisped, now it’s up to you jurors to draw conclusions,” she said.

She also pointed out that the speech therapists had only analysed the letters P, K and N and not S – “the tests were done in a calm and quiet environment and the appointments were pre-set. But neither during the theft nor while giving evidence was Ellul calm or considerate, and the lisped S came out repeatedly.”