Murder trial | 'I only wanted to scare them away' accused tells jury

'I asked them to leave...I went to their room, banging on the door with the crowbar. I said I have a knife and told them to leave. I did this several times'

A man on trial for murdering one of his flatmate’s noisy guests has told a jury this morning that he had only wanted to scare them away when he knocked on the door, brandishing a crowbar and a knife.

“I had no option, I had no other place to go and the next day I had to go to work. I felt this was the only path I could take. I had no intention to fight or attack the victim, they were much bigger than me."

All I wanted was to get them to leave the apartment,” the accused protested, his voice changing to a strangled cry.

Emil Atanasov, a Bulgarian national, is pleading not guilty to the willful homicide of Dragoljub Krstic, inflicting grievous bodily harm on Zoran Jocic and carrying a knife during the commission of a crime.

Atanasov claims to have been attacked and beaten by the victim, before he had tried to evict them from the building.

“When Dragoljub was asking for the toilet, he stepped out of the room... He started going towards my room. I tapped him on the shoulder and told him that it's not his room.”

That was when he received the first punch in the abdomen, he said.

The first attack was interrupted when the victim's flatmate Goran Manojlovski. came into the room, dropped the cigarettes on the table and left.

“I don't know if he called Dani, but Dani came into the room a few moments later and stopped the attack.”

Then he heard the voice of Dani Krstski, the second guest, say “dosta dosta”, meaning stop. Atanasov said he then walked out of the room, doubled over in pain.

The prosecution argued that this sequence of events differed from that he had given previously, but judge Mizzi intervened.

“Instead of getting him to confirm the sequence of events, which is frankly irrelevant, let us go to the heart of the matter. You had rowdy angry people in your apartment who attacked you. Can you tell us why you did not go to lock yourself in your room as you said you normally would, or go charge your phone downstairs?”

Atanasaov replied that the time between the attacks was less than 10 minutes and that he had needed to sleep.

“I knew that it would not be possible for me to sleep with that noise, so I had to ask them to leave my apartment.”

Atanasov had gone back to his room. He had resorted to the crowbar and the knife after hearing the noise continue to scare them away from the building.  

Prosecuting lawyer Elaine Mercieca pointed out that the electricity had already been cut off at the time, so no music could be played.

“Although there was no electricity they were singing loudly and then started hitting the wall with a hard object, so the noise was even worse than before.” The accused hypothesised they had been trying to communicate with neighbours for an electrical extension.

“I asked them to leave...I went to their room, banging on the door with the crowbar. I said I have a knife and told them to leave. I did this several times.” Asked why he had felt the need to bring a knife and a crowbar simply to ask someone to leave an apartment, he replied that it was obviously not normally the case.

“But in the circumstances, these people had already beaten me up, I felt I needed to scare them.”

He had banged on the aluminum door with the crowbar several times, telling them to leave the apartment, but insisted that his only intention was to scare them.

“I cannot give different versions, whenever I close my eyes I see the events as they unfolded on the day,” the accused explained. “I was in shock when the police told me that the victim had died."

Atanasov had held the knife in his left hand. The crowbar was knocked out of his right by Dani who was talking to his compatriot in a language he didn't understand.

In the same movement, he was pushed against the wall in a chokehold. Atanasov said he had tried, unsuccessfully, to kick his assailant with his left foot.

He could not breathe, he said. All of a sudden, the victim released his grip and walked out of the apartment. “I wouldn't call it stabbing, the victim rested on the knife.”

Krstic stopped strangling him only after the injury was inflicted, said the accused. He had not felt the knife move, only that it was stuck in something.

“There were a lot of photos of me taken when I had been stripped, and these documented the bruises. But when I was taken to Floriana health centre, my body was not examined in full, only my face and neck were seen by the doctor there.”

He had noticed the bruises later, he said.

Whether bruises were visible in the photographs taken during his examination was debated by the defence and prosecution.

He could not say how Zoran's nose fracture had been inflicted. He had been the most violent of the two during the first incident, punching him “from a distance” but he had been held by the other assailant.

During the second assault, Zoran had kicked the accused, who was on his knees. “I could never had reached him.”

Judge Antonio Mizzi is presiding over the trial. Assistant Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia and lawyer Elaine Mercieca are prosecuting. Lawyer Malcolm Mifsud is defence counsel to Atanasov.