[LIVE] Zahra teddy bear contained razor blade she used to self-harm

Continuation of compilation of evidence against Erin Tanti, accused of the murder and assisted suicide of 15-year-old Lisa Maria Zahra

Lisa Maria Zahra
Lisa Maria Zahra
Erin Tanti (Photo: Martin Agius/In-Nazzjon)
Erin Tanti (Photo: Martin Agius/In-Nazzjon)

Lisa Marie Zahra – a 15-year-old girl who in March was found dead after jumping off Dingli Cliffs – used to hit a razor blade in her teddy bear, while Erin Tanti did not ask about Zahra while being rescued, a court heard today.

The remarks were made this morning duringthe compilation of evidence against Erin Tanti, the 23-year-old supply teacher who is pleading not guilty to the murder and to assisting in the suicide of his 15-year-old pupil Lisa Marie Zahra.

On 18-19 March, Tanti is said to have picked Zahra from her house before driving to Dingli Cliffs. Allegedly, the two then drank half a bottle of whiskey, swallowed aspirin and jumped before being discovered in a ledge beneath Dingli Cliffs.

Zahra – identified as the daughter of businessman Anthony Zahra – died in the fall, while Tanti was injured.

Taking the witness stand, Mark Ciangura – a domestic worker with the Zahra family – told the court that a day before the incident, he went to the victim’s house and spotted a car parked in front of the main gate that had dew on it.

After spotting the car at about 6:30am, I went inside and asked whether anyone had their car outside. Subsequently, I received a phone call from the housekeeper, telling me that she had heard a noise coming from Lisa Marie’s room.”

As soon as I went outside the car was no longer there. After seeing CCTV footage, I realized that the car had been parked there for a while, and that a person had been in the house all night,” he said.

Ciangura also explained that CCTV footage revealed that Tanti had gone through a door from the garden leading into Zahra’s room.

Subsequently, Ciangura explained, he called the victim’s brother, Nicholas Zahra, and her father, Tony Zahra, who at the time was in London. Ciangura filed a police report, and as the day rolled on, is said to have received a phone call from Lisa Marie.

“Lisa phoned me because I had spoken to her brother and father. When I entered I found Lisa on the phone and sending text messages on her mobile phone. I then took her mobile,” Ciangura said while adding that he had followed her father’s instructions.

Ciangura also said that he had warned Lisa Marie that “it was not right to take people home while her father was abroad and that she was still underage.”

“Next morning, Nick [Lisa’s brother] phoned me and told me that he could not find Lisa anywhere. I filed a missing person report, and when we searched her room, all that was missing was her mobile phone. Her purse, ID card and passport were all there,” he said.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Michael Sciriha, Ciangura said he remember seeing scratches on Lisa Marie’s left arm and wrist.

“I had covered them with a towel, the blood looked fresh, but I did not call the ambulance because it was not an emergency. When I asked her for the razor blade, she got one out of her teddy bear soft toy and I then threw the blade away,” he said while insisting that it was the first time that he had seen scratches.

13:30 No more witnesses, as case is adjourned for the 31 October at 9:30am. Daniel Mizzi
13:24 Ciangura also says that he had seen a teddy bear inside her room that contained a razor blade. He said he took the razor blade out of the teddy bear and took it away before putting the teddy bear back on a shelf in Lisa Marie's room. Daniel Mizzi
13:23 "The blood was fresh and she was wearing her school uniform." Daniel Mizzi
13:22 Ciangura says that Lisa Marie had cut herself on her left wrist. Daniel Mizzi
13:22 He said that Lisa had given him the razor blade and that he then threw it away. Daniel Mizzi
13:22 He said that on the day of this incident he ha dnot called the ambulance because it was not an emergency. Daniel Mizzi
13:22 Ciangura says he remembers seeing scratches on Lisa's arm and that he had covered them with a towel. Daniel Mizzi
13:17 Asked whether he thinks Lisa 'ever felt alone', Ciangura says he did not think so. Daniel Mizzi
13:17 Asked whether he was informed of other persons in her room, Ciangura says the only people he ever saw were friends from her dance classes. Daniel Mizzi
13:16 Cross-examined by the defence, Ciangura said he did not enter Lisa's bedroom too often because she was a girl. He adds that whenever she went out, she always took her purse and mobile phone. Daniel Mizzi
13:15 Ciangura says it was the first time Lisa Marie was home alone wit the housekeeper, because normally she wuld stay with her grandmother whenever her father was abroad. Daniel Mizzi
13:09 As the day rolled on, he received a call from Lisa Marie, who said she needed to speak to him because he had spoken to her brother and father. Daniel Mizzi
13:08 Ciangura says that after Nick spoke to his father, he was asked to file a police report. Daniel Mizzi
13:07 Tony Zahra has now been allowed into the Magistrate's chambers, ostensibly because he is feeling unwell. Daniel Mizzi
13:06 Ciangura says he called Lisa Marie's brother, Nick, and told him; Nick in turn called his father, Tony Zahra, who was abroad. Ciangura adds that he did not recognise Tanti at the time. Daniel Mizzi
13:05 Ciangura says Tanti entered her bedroom though a door leading onto the garden. Daniel Mizzi
12:54 Ciangura says that after seeing the CCTV footage, he realised that a person had been in the house all night. Daniel Mizzi
12:54 Ciangura works at the family home. He says that on 18 March he saw a car parked in front of the main gate of the Zahra residence at 6:30am. The car had dew on it. He went inside and asked whether anyone had left their car there, but continued with his work. Subsequently, he recieved a phone call from the housekeeper, telling him that she had heard a noise coming from Lisa Marie's room. Daniel Mizzi
12:52 Witness Mark Ciangura, an employee of Zahra family business Alpine Holdings, is next on the witness stand. Daniel Mizzi
12:40 Another witness, Darren Scerri, explains that he was having a BBQ at Dingli Cliffs, and that he spotted Tanti as they were walking. He says Tanti was "sleeping, and crawling onto a rock". He says Tanti did not call for help, and that he was crawling onto a nearby rock, but did not walk. Daniel Mizzi
12:39 He says Tanti was over 100 metres away from their spot, but said he could recognise him now because of the media exposure. Daniel Mizzi
12:37 Witness Luke Vella, who was with his friends at Dingli Cliffs, recalls the moment he heard cries from beneath the cliffs. Daniel Mizzi
12:33 Three other police officers, from the Drugs Squad, confirmed the findings in Tanti's car. Daniel Mizzi
12:32 Next on the witness stand is former CID official Darren Micallef, who says that police arrested Tanti at Mater Dei Hospital in April after he was released from A&E. Daniel Mizzi
12:23 The whisky was in the car console and two mobile phones were on the dashboard. Cross-examine, Zammit says he did not find any notes or letters. Daniel Mizzi
12:20 Zammit says that in Tanti's car were found three bottles of aspirin, one bottle of whisky, three cheques, and over €2,000 in cash. Daniel Mizzi
12:20 Next on the witness stand is Police Sergeant Anton Zammit, who upon arriving on the scene of the crime at Dingli Cliffs, saw the lifeless body of Zahra being hoisted up by a helicopter. Daniel Mizzi
12:17 Camilleri also insists with the court that Tanti "did not ask him anything about Lisa Marie". Daniel Mizzi
12:16 Camilleri: "Tanti was in a stable condition, lucid, and fully aware of what was going on. He knew the time, everything that was going on around him. We spent 30 minutes talking because it was not an emergency." Daniel Mizzi
12:16 Camilleri: "When I asked why they were intent on committing suicide, Tanti said: 'I had problems with her family' and that he was not accepted by her father and brother." Daniel Mizzi
12:15 Camilleri: "Tanti told me that they ingested some aspirin pills to commit suicide. When this did not succeed, she jumped first... She jumped first, I panicked and I jumped after her." Daniel Mizzi
12:13 Another witness, nurse Patrick Camilleri, who works at the MDH emergency unit, tells the court that when staff was called in to assist Erin Tanti, he had told them that he had been with his girlfriend. Daniel Mizzi
12:09 Spiteri says he only liaised with Dr Maria Galea and that he did not consult any other physician. Daniel Mizzi
12:08 Cross-examined by lawyer Michael Sciriha, Dr Spiteri says he was appointed by the duty magistrate to certify Tanti. The witness hesitantly tells the court he does not remember who the duty magistrate at the time was, who instructed him to issue the certificate. Daniel Mizzi
12:04 Another witness takes the stand. Dr Joseph Spiteri, a consultant pyschologist, tells the court that he had examined the accused, certifying him to be fit to stand trial. Daniel Mizzi
12:00 Galea says she carried out medical examinations on Erin Tanti on 19 March at 6:15pm. Presenting her report, Galea says Tanti suffered grievous injuries, and that when admitted into hospital, Tanti was in conscious state and that she could communicate with him. Daniel Mizzi
11:59 End of cross-examination. Next on witness stand is Dr Maria Galea, a psychologist who works at the Mater Dei emergency unit. Daniel Mizzi
11:58 Farrugia Sacco cross-examined by the defence; says he is not aware when the ask.fm account was last accessed. Daniel Mizzi
11:58 Farrugia Sacco says the ask.fm account could be suspended 'indirectly' if, say, someone creates 30 accounts and then reports an account as having breached online regulations or terms of reference. Daniel Mizzi
11:57 Asked by prosecuting inspector Keith Arnaud, the witness says that the account was suspended by ask.fm personnel. Daniel Mizzi
11:56 Farrugia Sacco says that Zahra's account was suspended and that he managed to gather little information, such as snapshots from the victim's Facebook account. Daniel Mizzi
11:56 Taking the witness stand, court-appointed expert Stephen Farrugia Sacco, an IT expert, said that he was tasked with analysing Lisa Maria Zahra's ask.fm account, an internet forum that is predominantly populated by teenagers. Daniel Mizzi
11:55 Lisa Maria Zahra's relatives are seated behind accused Erin Tanti, who is flanked by his father. Daniel Mizzi
11:45 Defence lawyers Michael and Lucio Sciriha have entered the courtroom, as well as lawyers Stephen Tonna Lowell, Joe Giglio and Gianella de Marco, appearing in parte civile for the Zahra family. Daniel Mizzi

Taking the witness stand, Patrick Camilleri – a nurse at Mater Dei’s emergency unit – told the court that when he rescued Erin Tanti, the 23-year-old was “lucid, in a stable condition, and fully aware of what was going on.”

“As soon as he [Erin Tanti] was hoisted up by a helicopter, he knew what was going on. He told me that they had ingested some aspiring pills to commit suicide, and after they failed, they jumped.”

“He told me: ‘She jumped first, I panicked and I jumped after her’,” he said while adding that Tanti was in a stable condition and that they spent half an hour talking before he was taken to Mater Dei Hospital.

Asked by Prosecuting inspector Keith Arnaud whether Tanti had mentioned Lisa Maria, the Mater Dei nurse said that at first “he did not mention her,” and that he only mentioned her after asking him about it. 

Moreover, the witness said that when he asked Tanti why he had tried to commit suicide, the accused told him that “he was not accepted by her [Lisa’s] family, especially her father and brother.”

Today’s sitting also saw several police officials and court-appointed experts testify. One of the police officials, Sergeant Antoine Zammit told the court that inside Tanti’s car, they discovered a bottle of whiskey in the car console, two mobile phones on the dashboard, three bottles of aspirin, three cheques, and over €2,000 in cash.

Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Sylvana Briffa are leading the proseuction while Lawyers Michael and Lucio Sciriha were defence counsel. Lawyers Stephen Tonna Lowell, Joe Giglio, and Gianella de Marco appeared in parte civile for the Zahra family.

The case has been adjourned until 31 October.