Murder victim’s family loses defamation case on gangland shooting

Il-Mument had run a five-page story on its Sunday 16 June 2013 edition, listing several similar murders that had taken place in the preceding months. 

The late Paul Degabriele and his wife, Anna Marie. Photo: Facebook
The late Paul Degabriele and his wife, Anna Marie. Photo: Facebook

A court has dismissed a claim for defamatory libel filed by the wife and children of murder victim Paul Degabriele, known as is-Suldat, against PN organ il-Mument. Degabriele was murdered in one of a series of drive-by shootings in 2013.

Il-Mument had run a five-page story on its Sunday 16 June 2013 edition, listing several similar murders that had taken place in the preceding months.

The cases include that of Joseph Grech “il-Yo-Yo” and Joseph Cutajar “il-Lion”, Kevin Gatt and Steve Zammit, Raymond Agius, Patricia Attard, Joseph Baldacchino, Joseph and Anna Briffa and PC Mark Farrugia.

The article had described Paul Degabriele as a dangerous criminal who had been questioned by police during their investigations into these murders.

Degabriele’s wife had testified that Paul “never murdered anyone” and that he had only been in trouble with the law once, when he was fined €400.

The police had exhibited Degabriele’s extensive criminal record, which lists a string of convictions dating back to 1983 for vehicle theft, theft of jewellery and public order offences.

In 1982, aged just 17, Degabriele had committed a series of robberies from jewellery shops in Birkirkara, Sliema and Valletta, taking LM51,000 (€87,000) worth of loot. That year he was also convicted of stealing three cars and several stereos from parked vehicles.

In addition to all this, at the time of his murder, police were preparing to charge him for the theft of a refrigerated van.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale noted that his criminal record, the court found it “slightly incredible that the plaintiffs would attempt this libel action on the premise that they felt the description of Paul Degabriele as a dangerous criminal to be defamatory”.

He also noted that  that the statements of Degabriele’s wife and his son were “untrue, if not misleading” to the court, such was the difference between the way they described Degabriele and the interminable list of convictions in his regard.

Far from being libellous, the magistrate lauded the offending article as the result of “meticulous research, which had considerably shaken public opinion”.

The murders were cruel and macabre and remained unsolved, said the magistrate, not due to any shortcoming on the part of the police, but because of the culture of omerta that reigns in the criminal circles Degabriele used to frequent.

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