Suspects in Alphonse Ferrigi murder denied bail for third time

Defence says prosecution has not provided any evidence tying the accused to the murder.

A police vehicle transporting the accused to prison
A police vehicle transporting the accused to prison

Two men charged with the 2000 murder of BOV bank messenger Alphonse Ferriggi were today remanded in custody after a court rejected the defence’s bail plea for the third time.

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.

The men were first denied bail in their arraignment on July 11, while 20 days later, the court, presided by Magistrate Josette Demicoli again refused to grant them bail. However, in its third request to date, the defence, claimed that bail should now be granted because the main witnesses have testified.

In submissions, defence lawyer Franco Debono, noted that on Wednesday, the prosecution said that it would do its utmost in summoning the remaining witnesses. Despite this, the police only summoned one witness, Dr Debono held.

“Even though they [the accused] have been in prison for two months, the police still failed to summon the relevant witnesses. The only one witness who can say something is yet to be summoned,” he said, presumably referring to Richard Grech ‘Iz-Zinanna’ who in 2011 was sentenced to life in prison after a trial by jury found him guilty of the charges.

“Whenever a tourist has to testify, he or she is brought to court to testify during an accused’s arraignment, yet in this case, two people were jailed for two months waiting for the prosecution to produce witnesses,” he said.

Moreover, Dr Debono argued that the witnesses had all testified before other courts, while two juries and other magisterial inquiries were held.

He also said that during the compilation of evidence so far, “none of the witnesses provided any new evidence tying the accused to the murder.”

On his part, Inspector Chris Pullicino told the court that the police did not drag its feet, and that bail should be withheld because this is a murder case and the maximum sentence is life in prison.

“The prosecution has not dragged its feet because several witnesses were summoned. We are talking about the freedom of the accused, yet we seem to be forgetting that the accused are being charged with taking the victim’s life away,” he said.

Taking this into account, Magistrate Josette Demicoli denied bail and remanded the men in custody “due to the serious nature of the case, and because witnesses have yet to testify.”

Inspector Chris Pullicino prosecuted while Lawyer Franco Debono represented the accused.