Police insist on proof of taxi driver's death... despite charging two men with his murder

Whilst agreeing to compensate the murdered taxi driver’s family over the theft of the victim’s gold necklace, the police want the family to produce a death certificate – which has not yet been released

Matthew Zahra's body was never found
Matthew Zahra's body was never found

The Assistant Commissioner of Police has bizarrely insisted that the heirs of a murder victim, whose body was never found, produce a death certificate in order to receive compensation for the disappearance of the victim's €10,000 gold chain from police custody.

In a sitting earlier this week, lawyer Stefano Filletti, appearing for the heirs of murdered taxi driver Matthew Zahra, accused the police of attempting to stultify payment after Assistant Commissioner Carmelo Magri had accepted to compensate the family for the missing chain – as long as a death certificate is issued, something which the authorities have so far refused to do, arguing that it was technically possible that Zahra could still be alive.

The case relates to the murder of taxi driver Matthew Zahra, who went missing in 2012. A year later his remains were found mixed with pig bones in a shallow grave dug in a field in Birzebbuga.

The remains of Mario Camilleri, known as l-imnieħru and his son had also been recovered from the same field.

Zahra’s DNA had been conclusively identified in some of the bones recovered – a hand, leg and one rib.  

Jason Galea, 39, of Marsa and Ronald Urry, 49, of Paola are pleading not guilty to murdering 27-year-old Zahra in August 2012.

In previous sittings, Zahra’s family had asked the police to release the man's gold chain, but the item appeared to have gone missing whilst in the care of the police in 2014. The chain was valued at €10,000.

Now, the Assistant Commissioner of Police has accepted to pay for the lost chain, but only once a death certificate is issued.

As far back as a sitting in November 2015, Filletti, appearing for the Zahra family, had informed the court that

“Tests revealed that the remains are Zahra’s, so we have a situation where the state has started proceedings against two people for his murder although a death certificate has not yet been issued,” Filletti had told the court.

In that sitting, the Director of the Public Registry had memorably told Magistrate Josette Demicoli that the department was refusing to issue the certificate because it was technically possible that Zahra could still be alive, albeit with missing limbs.

The death certificate would also need to state the cause and exact date of death, the court was told.

In the most recent sitting, Filletti asked Assistant Commissioner Magri whether the police were aware of the death certificate debacle and the fact that nobody wanted to issue it. Magri replied that he was aware. When asked why the police were still insisting on the certificate to stultify payment, he replied that the police “needed confirmation of death” - despite the fact that in separate proceedings, the police are also prosecuting two men for Zahra's homicide.

The case continues.

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