Matthew Zahra murder suspects released on bail

Jason Galea and Ronald Urry - the two men accused of murdering taxi driver Matthew Zahra - were granted bail this morning, almost a year after criminal proceedings started.

Taxi driver Matthew Zahra's remains have not been conclusively identified yet
Taxi driver Matthew Zahra's remains have not been conclusively identified yet

Jason Galea and Ronald Urry, the two men charged with the murder of Valletta taxi driver Matthew Zahra in 2012, were this morning granted bail against a deposit of €30,000 and a personal guarantee of €30,000 each. 

Galea, 39, of Birzebbugia, was granted bail earlier this month for his part in the double murder of 51-year-old Mario Camilleri 'l-Imniehru' and his 21-year-old son, Mario Jnr. In a sitting this afternoon, Galea was again released on bail, this time for his alleged part in the muder of Matthew Zahra. 

Zahra was reported missing in August 2012. Initial investigations had yielded no results, but while digging for the remains of Mario Camilleri and his 21-year-old son in a field in Qajjenza, limits of Birzebbugia, in August 2013, investigators unearthed a bag of bones purpotedly of Zahra's. 

To date, neither the prosecution nor court experts, have confirmed that the bones actually belonging to Zahra. Taking this account, the court this morning granted bail arguing that proceedings have been ongoing for a year - during which the prosecution has failed to identify the remains of the body. 

So far, DNA court expert Marisa Cassar has told the court that the bones match the victim’s mother, Veronica Zahra, but the findings are considered inconclusive as Zahra's siblings or cousins could show the same shared genetic markers.

Consequently, the prosecution as well as the parte civile have requested that the court carries out a genealogical test to distinguish between the relatives who are alive and those who are unaccounted for or dead – which test would in turn “logically conclude that the bones belong to Matthew Zahra.”

However, the Court decided that Cassar should continue examining the bones in order to extract a full DNA strand. Rather than carrying out an elimination test among the victim and his siblings, the DNA strand would instead determine whether the bones belong to Matthew Zahra.

During court evidence, the court had heard that Matthew Zahra had demanded €500,000 in blackmail money from Galea not to publish the photo that “would have destroyed his marriage.”

Ronald Urry, an alleged accomplice of Jason Galea, then allegedly shot Matthew Zahra twice in the head before dumping the body in the same field where Mario Camilleri and his son Mario Jnr were murdered and then buried in a shallow grave. Galea is said to have admitted to the police that he met Zahra at Marsaxlokk, luring him to the field under the pretense of unearthing a stash of drugs and money buried there.

The two drove there in a white Skoda Felicia and arrived to the field in Triq l-Ghannejja, where earlier that day Urry and Galea had placed a stone beneath a prickly pear tree. As Galea got out of the car to open the gate to the field, Urry came from behind a nearby tree and shot Zahra twice in the head.

They then drove into the field to carry Zahra to the burial site, which had already been dug out.