Bail decision to be given on Friday for suspects in 2000 BOV bank messenger murder

Court orders prosecution to summon remaining witnesses; expected to give bail decision on Friday

A police vehicle transporting the accused to prison (Photo: Chris Mangion)
A police vehicle transporting the accused to prison (Photo: Chris Mangion)

The defence counsel of two men who will stand trial after pleading not guilty to the 2000 murder of BOV bank messenger Alphonse Ferrigi has today made an appeal for bail, arguing that “every hour their clients are being held in prison.”

The request was made this afternoon during the compilation of evidence against James Vella, 33, of Qormi, known as ‘il-Frejzer’, and 35-year-old Chris Scerri, known as ‘Gazzetti’ or ‘Buttuni’. On 31 July, the two men were placed under a bill of indictment after the court ruled that there was enough prima facie evidence for Vella and Scerri to stand trial.

The two men are pleading not guilty to the murder, which in 2011 saw the court sentence Richard Grech ‘Iz-Zinanna’ to life in prison and getaway driver Joseph Zammit, known as ‘Zeppi r-Redghu’, to 30 years behind bars.

In submissions for bail, defence lawyer Franco Debono insisted that the main witnesses have testified, and claimed that therefore, “it is the perfect moment for his clients to be granted bail.”

On his part, prosecuting inspector Keith Arnaud told the court that only two eyewitnesses have yet to testify, while two other police officials – including Inspector Chris Pullicino from the Homicide Squad – are expected to testify.

The court heard that these four witnesses, whom the prosecution described as being “vital,” were summoned today, but failed to attend for the court sitting. Moreover, Inspector Arnaud insisted that notwithstanding the witnesses’ testimony, the prosecution would object to bail due to the “serious nature of the offence.”

Defence lawyer Franco Debono told the court that it is of paramount importance that these witnesses are “summoned immediately,” insisting that in such cases “the interest of justice – mainly the release of his clients – overrides such issues.”

Taking this into account, presiding Magistrate Josette Demicoli ordered that the remaining witnesses be summoned next Friday, and told the court that bail would be decided then.

The accused were denied bail on July 31 after the court had ruled that there is the possibility that the accused would tamper with evidence or approach the witnesses of the case.

The case dates back to September 18 2000, when bank messenger Alphonse Ferriggi, 42, was delivering seven bags of internal bank mail when a black Volkswagen Golf drove up and a shot him in the head as he stood outside the Bank of Valletta branch.

Ferriggi was shot at almost point blank range and died on the spot. His assailants thought he was carrying money.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri were defence counsel, while Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Chris Pullicino are leading the prosecution.

The case had been adjourned until Friday 12 September.