Bus driver's ex-partner lied to court because she feared losing custody of children

A woman has told a magistrate that she had accepted to lie to the court in a case in which her former partner, who is a bus driver, was accused of running over a pedestrian because she feared that she would lose custody of her children.

Maria Louise Pearson testified before Magistrate Charmaine Galea this morning, in the case against 42-year-old former bus driver Massimo Bonello who is accused of complicity in perjury and with inciting his estranged partner to give false testimony in the criminal proceedings against him, before Magistrate Audrey Demicoli.

"Right before entering the courtroom to testify, he had approached me and told me to say that I had been a passenger who witnessed the accident even though I had not been present. I followed his instructions because I was scared that I would lose the custody of my children if I did not follow his orders," the witness said this morning.

In 2013 Bonello had been acquitted of responsibility for the incident, which had taken place in 2008 in St Paul's Bay.

Pedestrian Inna Said had sustained head injuries and was left suffering from epilepsy after being hit by a bus driven by Bonello in 2008 in St. Paul's Bay. Bonello had been found not guilty in 2013 after witnesses testified that she had not been keeping a proper lookout and that the driver had not been speeding.

The bus driver, 42 year-old Massimo Bonello was subsequently cleared of negligent and dangerous driving and of causing serious injury to the woman, instead being fined a paltry €150 for driving with an expired license.

But in 2015 Said’s husband Publius had handed police a 15-page document which he had compiled, detailing his suspicions that several witnesses may have misled the court in order to secure the driver's acquittal.

The man's suspicions were proven to be correct when one witness, Maria Louise Pearson, confessed in court to having given false testimony.

Bonello, however, is still denying the charges.

Pearson was summoned to testify against her estranged partner this morning.

The woman told the court that, far from being an “ordinary friend” of Bonello, as she had initially claimed, the two had been in a relationship and had a child together. She said that she had lied in court out of panic. Whenever Pearson would quarrel with the accused, she said, he would threaten to file a report to deprive her of custody of her children.

The woman claimed not to have been aware of why she had been summoned to testify in her former partner's trial in 2013. She had met him outside the courtroom, where he had explained the version he expected her to give.

This morning, the court also rejected an application filed by Inna Said and her husband, asking to be admitted as a party to the case, saying they lacked juridical interest in these particular proceedings.

Lawyer John Bonello is appearing for the accused. Inspector Kylie Borg is prosecuting.