Zabbar man cleared of burning down brother's bird trapping room

Magistrate Doreen Clarke dismisses case against trapper's brother, saying the only corroborated assertions were those of the accused 

A man accused of trying to burn down his brother’s bird trapping room, killing a number of birds in the process has been cleared on the grounds that the evidence against him was not corroborated.

Thomas Spagnol, 42, from Żabbar, had consistently denied charges of having attempted the arson attack on his brother's trapping room in a field they both own in Xgħajra in November 2014. Spagnol also denied charges of animal cruelty, damaging the structure and relapsing.

The accused's brother, Sandro, had claimed that the two brothers had argued on September 7. He had told the police he suspected his sibling to be behind the arson attack on the trapping room, because he “could not think of anybody else who would want to do it.”

A number of birds, which were kept in an adjacent room, had died of smoke inhalation as a result of the fire.

In her judgement Magistrate Doreen Clarke noted that there was no direct evidence tying the accused to the crimes in question. The prosecution's case rested on an inference drawn from Sandro Spagnol's allegation that his brother had threatened to burn the room down.

However, magistrate Clarke noted that the only person who had testified to this threat had been Sandro Spagnol. In spite of the threat having supposedly been made in the presence of others, the prosecution had not summoned any witnesses to corroborate the brother's statement said the court. “In fact, not even Sandro's son Gavin had mentioned that the accused had said those words.”

This left the court with the only corroborated assertions being those of the accused.

Magistrate Clarke dismissed the case, holding that with such a dearth of evidence, any conviction would be unsafe and unsatisfactory, because “the court would always have a lurking doubt as to the guilt of the accused.”

Lawyers Michael Sciriha and Marie Elise Agius were defence counsel to Spagnol.

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