Sergeant left station 20 minutes before deletion of Sheehan arrest report

Suspended police sergeant Leeroy Balzan Engerer granted bail, three police officers say images of a policeman leaving police station 20 minutes before deletion occurred matched accused's stature

Leeroy Balzan Engerer (centre). (Photo: Chris Mangion)
Leeroy Balzan Engerer (centre). (Photo: Chris Mangion)

A police sergeant charged with deleting parts of Stephen Smith’s arrest report after last month's shooting incident was captured by CCTV cameras leaving the police station 20 minutes before the deletion occurred, a court heard today.

The revelation was made this afternoon during the compilation of evidence against Leeroy Balzan Engerer, 31, of Sliema, a police sergeant who stands charged with deleting evidence of the shooting incident involving the former home affairs minister’s driver, PC Paul Sheehan.

MaltaToday revealed that details in the arrest report for Stephen Smith were deleted from the original version of the police computer system on 22 November.

The court heard how on 22 November, the sergeant was requested by the police’s media department to access the report. Court-appointed expert Martin Bajada explained that Balzan accessed the National Police System at 1:17:20pm and accessed the police report 18 seconds later.

Bajada explained that the police report was updated at 1:49:53pm and that the updated version contained four missing paragraphs.

Bajada said he could not ascertain when the deletion took place, but explained that the police system had an automatic logout after 20 minutes of inactivity and that consequently, 32 minutes after the account was logged in, someone must have been using the account.

Magistrate Doreen Clarke also heard that after analysing CCTV footage, still images revealed a uniformed police officer leaving the police station at 1:24pm – 20 minutes before the deletion occurred.

Three police officers, namely Superintendent Alexandra Mamo, Sergeant Major Alfred Abela and Police Constable Luke Busuttil, all testified that the stature of the person in the still images resembled that of the accused.

Moreover, at the time, Balzan Engerer was walking away from the station in the direction of his house, which is a stone’s throw away.

However, court expert Martin Bajada said the images were too blurry to correctly ascertain whether it was the accused and suggested that all the people who were working at the Sliema police station that day should be asked to pass in front of the CCTV cameras.

Prosecuting inspector Sandro Camilleri said that during questioning, the accused denied deleting parts of the report. He said that Balzan had been instructed by the police communications office to access the report to make sure that it had been updated with a list of detainees.

“He [Balzan Engerer] told investigators that he highlighted some parts of the report to be able to read it better, and then left, leaving his account logged in,” he said.

Balzan also insisted that it was “standard practice” for police officers to exchange their login passwords because it was more practical and common among recruits and their superiors.

PC Luke Busuttil, who happened to be inside the police station at the time of the deletion, told the court that at one point, Balzan Engerer left the police station and nobody else used the computer but him.

In the meantime, Magistrate Doreen Clarke granted the suspended police sergeant bail against a deposit of €2,000 and a personal guarantee of €6,000.

Police Inspector Sandro Camilleri led the prosecution, while Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri appeared for the accused.

The case continues.