Tears in court as magistrate denies bail to man charged with snatching elderly woman's handbag

22-year-old Niko Zammit was accused of dislocating the shoulder of his 68-year-old victim when he snatched her bag in November last year

A 22-year-old Birzebbugia man remonstrated loudly with a prosecuting inspector when he appeared in court under arrest, charged with a snatch-and-grab theft that left an elderly woman with a dislocated shoulder.

Niko Zammit was arraigned under arrest before magistrate Charmaine Galea this morning, accused of dislocating the shoulder of his 68-year-old victim when he snatched her handbag in Valletta on the 14 November 2015. €80 in cash and the woman’s mobile phone were stolen.

The court was told how the mobile had then been traced to a third person who told police that he had bought it from the accused. 

Inspector Fabian Fleri charged Zammit with the theft that was aggravated by violence and the age of the victim. Zammit was also charged with causing grievous bodily harm, causing an elderly person to suffer unjustified physical or psychological suffering and relapsing.

Lawyer David Gatt, appearing for the accused, pointed out that Zammit had admitted immediately and cooperated with police. He had also been on police bail for the past two days, said the lawyer, suggesting that a pre-sentencing report be compiled if the accused pleaded guilty, as he had a drug problem.

He had previously been granted police bail because he has a history of claustrophobia and because he had cooperated with the police, the court was told.

There were tears from the dock during the submissions on punishment when magistrate Galea turned down the request for a pre-sentencing report. The magistrate pointed out that if he pleaded guilty, the absolute minimum punishment which the accused could expect was imprisonment for four years due to the aggravation related to the age of the victim.

Tears rolling down his cheeks, the accused clearly felt hard done by. “Mur, bellajtomli, bellajtomli. Mxejt ta' ragel mieghek,” (“You can go, you got what you wanted. I kept my word with you”) he shouted dejectedly at the inspector.

Gatt entered a plea of not guilty on Zammit’s behalf and requested bail. The court however denied bail at this stage, pointing out that the alleged victim is of a vulnerable age. It urged the prosecution to summon the woman to testify as quickly as possible.