Key piece of evidence in Matthew Zahra murder goes missing

A gold chain allegedly worn by victim  and stolen by accused Ronald Urry has gone missing during police investigations  • Attorney General objects to bail, calls for more protection for Zahra's relatives

A gold chain allegedly belonging to murder victim Matthew Zahra has gone missing during police investigations.
A gold chain allegedly belonging to murder victim Matthew Zahra has gone missing during police investigations.

A crucial piece of evidence that could tie a bag of bones unearthed in a Birzebbugia field to murder victim Matthew Zahra has gone missing during police investigations.

The evidence – a gold chain – is said to have been worn by Zahra on the day he was murdered.

The revelation was made this morning during the compilation of evidence against murder suspects Jason Galea, 39, of Birzebbugia, and Ronald Urry, 49 of Paola. They are charged with murdering Valletta-born taxi driver Matthew Zahra in 2012.

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, purportedly Zahra's. However, court experts have so far failed to confirm that the bones actually belong to Zahra.

Field owner Alfredo Attard had told the court that as soon as Urry and Galea pulled the body of Zahra out of their car, Urry took the gold necklace from around the victim’s neck before placing the body inside the hole and covering it with soil.

The police had then found the necklace when they found Ronald Urry.

The victim’s partner Crystle Grixti had also told the court that prior to filing a missing person report with the police, she went through her partner’s clothes to see what he was wearing, but as soon as she opened the drawer, the gold chain was missing.

“He didn't wear it every day, which is why I always stressed with the investigators the chain was the best lead", Grixti had told the court.

Lawyer Stefano Filletti, representing Grixti and the victim’s father in parte civile, this morning requested that the court makes this €5,000 gold necklace available due to their financial constraints.

“During police investigations, a gold necklace belonging to Matthew Zahra was collected, which necklace was mentioned several times during the compilation of evidence against the accused. The parte civile, representing the heirs of Zahra, requests that the court makes this necklace available.”

However, Prosecuting Inspector Chris Pullicino told the court that the said necklace has gone “missing or misplaced” during police investigations.

On his part, defence lawyer Joe Giglio argued that sanctioning the release of the necklace would not be ideal at this time of the investigation. Taking this into account, presiding Magistrate Josette Demicoli told the court that a decision will be postponed until the next sitting.

Attorney General appeals bail

Earlier, the Attorney General filed an appeal against the Criminal Court’s decision to grant bail to Jason Galea and Ronald Urry. Presenting the application before Mr Justice Antonio Mizzi, the AG told the court that the court should revoke their bail.

On July 14, the two men were granted bail against a deposit of €30,000 and a personal guarantee of €30,000 each, but the bail has since been appealed.

In a sitting held this morning before Mr Justice Antonio Mizzi, the Attorney General insisted that bail should be revoked because the offence is of serious nature and due to fear of relapsing and absconding.

“If the court does not order the re-arrest, then a change in bail conditions is proposed. More protection should be granted to Matthew Zahra’s relatives, most notably his partner and father, and the time of release should be reduced.”

Lawyer Joe Giglio is representing George George Galea while lawyer Franco Debono is representing Ronald Urry.

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