Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case: Dutch expert describes gory scene at Bidnija

The compilation of evidence against three men accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continues on Wednesday morning in front of Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit

The accused are being escorted to court under heavy security
The accused are being escorted to court under heavy security

George Degiorgio, his brother Alfred Degiorgio and associate Vince Muscat are back in court as the compilation of evidence against them continues on Wednesday. The three men are accused with the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

A Dutch expert, a member of the Netherlands Forensic Institute, who flew to Malta the day after the car bombing, told the Court that the victim's body was found to be missing its right leg and foot.

15:02 The sitting is now over. Paul Cocks
14:41 The magistrate will give a decree on the bail request from chambers tomorrow or Friday. Paul Cocks
14:40 "A month ago, on a similar request, the court said that the accused didn't satisfy the legal requisites for bail. What has changed since then?" he asked. Paul Cocks
14:39 Philip Galea Farrugia, from the Attorney General's office, argues that the defence could file a habeas corpus if it felt the accused were being held under arrest illegally. Paul Cocks
14:37 Fenech: “My client has not been mentioned once following Inspector Arnaud’s opening comments. He happened to be there when there was a raid in Marsa. There is no evidence against my client, so why should he be held in custody, for eights months now?" Paul Cocks
14:34 Fenech tells Court: "We appear before you quite often." To which teh magistrate quips: "Too often." Paul Cocks
14:33 "The accused are still presumed innocent," he insists. Paul Cocks
14:33 The defence lawyer insists the fear of absconding is not valid as all the accused have ties to Malta. Paul Cocks
14:32 William Cuschieri is asking for bail once again: the gravity of the offence is not enough to deny bail, he tells the Court. The basis of an objection must not be fictitious. There were no civilian witnesses left to testify and the Court was only hearing experts, he argues. Paul Cocks
14:30 The prosecution informed the court that no sensitive information was provided to persons who had not been appointed as experts. However they opted to not let the men testify. Paul Cocks
14:28 Tefence objected to the testimony of two experts who were not appointed by the inquiring magistrate. Paul Cocks
13:53 Everything else, he tells the Court, was examined in Malta, except for a mobile phone which was also sent to the Netherlands Paul Cocks
13:53 The expert explains that samples and swabs from parts were sent to the Netherlands for examination. Paul Cocks
13:49 Cross-examining the expert, Fenech asks if items recovered from the scene were examined in Malta or in Holland. Paul Cocks
13:48 The Dutch forensic team's report concludes "the vehicle itself was bulging from the inside to the outside...the sheet metal was bent outwards from the inside. This forced the interpretation that the explosive device was placed inside the vehicle under the driver's seat." Paul Cocks
13:36 The blast crater was also sampled for explosive residue, he says. Paul Cocks
13:36 The expert tells the Court that a heavily burnt. mobile phone was found near the rear left wheel of the car Paul Cocks
13:35 This, he says, means that the explosion took place in the car under the driver's seat Paul Cocks
13:34 The expert says that the vehicle's metal was bent from the inside to the outside of the car. Paul Cocks
13:33 The driver's seat itself was found to have been turned 180 degrees by the force of the blast. Paul Cocks
13:32 He said that they found a hole in the bottom of the victim's car, under the driver's seat. Paul Cocks
13:31 The third NRI expert says that blue fibre was recovered at the lookout position and handed over to the police evidence officer. Paul Cocks
13:31 He tells the Court about recovering cigarette butts and finding faeces in a nearby garden. Paul Cocks
13:29 The second Dutch expert takes to the stand. Paul Cocks
13:29 The remains were place in a sterile blanket and put inside a body bag before being taken to the morgue. Paul Cocks
13:28 All human remains were recovered on the first day of the investigation, before moving on to examine the car, the expert tells the court. Paul Cocks
13:28 He says that the body of the victim was found on its side, missing its right leg and foot, and severely burnt. Paul Cocks
13:27 The expert says they were primarily looking for part of the explosive device. Paul Cocks
13:26 All large objects were flagged and photographed and given an exhibit number. They were then handed over to the police evidence officer. Paul Cocks
13:25 During their investigation, the experts divided the area around the explosion into a grid. Each sector was then searched by police and AFM and a member of the Dutch team. Paul Cocks
13:24 The expert says that the crime scene investigation took until 19 October. Paul Cocks
13:24 The Dutch experts arrived in Malta the following day, on 17 October, when they met Magistrate Vella and drew up an investigation plan with the police and the AFM explosives and ordinance experts. Paul Cocks
13:23 The experts immediately asked that the scene of the crime be cordoned off and that human remains not be touched. Paul Cocks
13:22 The Dutch were asked to assist on 16 October, the day Caruana Galizia was murdered. Paul Cocks
13:20 There are four Dutch experts in all, who all worked on the final report. Paul Cocks
13:20 It is not the turn of experts from the Netherlands Forensic Institute to take to the stand Paul Cocks
12:54 Fenech suggests that another organisation be found, but can offer no suggestions when prompted. Paul Cocks
12:53 The Magistrate is quick to cut to the chase. "You're testing my patience. What is your objection?" Paul Cocks
12:52 As they Europol experts finish testifying, Martin Fenech argues that Europol are part of the police - and thus not independent - and that the Court should therefore appoint a new expert Paul Cocks
11:56 At which point Dr Cuschieri, Degiorgio’s lawyer, says that his client was therefore not present when evidence was collected from his house. Paul Cocks
11:54 When the police collected the evidence from George Degiorgio's house, the accused’s wife was present, Arnaud says. Paul Cocks
11:54 Inspector Arnaud insists that all the exhibits were collected in the presence of the accused. He says all three accused were present when the evidence was collected in Marsa. Paul Cocks
11:52 The defence for all three accused told the Court that they had filed a Constitutional case since some items presented as evidence were collected while the accused were not present and without a search warrant having been presented. Paul Cocks
11:49 The sitting resumes after a short break. Paul Cocks
10:22 All the recovered data was saved, together with pictures, on a hard drive that was later handed to the Maltese authorities Paul Cocks
10:20 He explains how the integrity of the data was protected and converted into a format that could be handled by the analysts. Paul Cocks
10:19 Another expert takes the stand and tells the Court how he made a bit by bit copy of every computer Paul Cocks
10:13 The experts tell the court they performed data extraction from the exhibits. Kurt Sansone
10:12 The evidence was then returned to Malta by the officers themselves, in person in sealed pelican cases. Kurt Sansone
10:10 The experts say they had limited time in Malta and were not able to see all the exhibits at one go. Exhibits were divided into three categories: Exhibits examined here, exhibits of no forensic interest and exhibits they did not have time to see whilst in Malta and which would be delivered to Europol. Kurt Sansone
10:07 Their first job was to identify the hard drives of mobile phones at the scene of arrest. They started examining the evidence, a day later. The experts tell the court that they identified what could be evidence and the Maltese forensic officers bagged and tagged the material. Kurt Sansone
10:05 The three Europol experts are digital forensic specialists and arrived as a group in December 2017 to support the Maltese authorities on this case. They started work on 4 December, the day police and soldiers raided the potato shed in Marsa where the accused were arrested. Kurt Sansone
09:55 Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia says that in his 18 years of practice, every time the court appoints experts they release joint reports and these are examined together. Kurt Sansone
09:54 Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Eve Borg Costanzi and Therese Comodini Cachia for the Caruana Galizia family argue that as always happens, experts who work together testify together. Kurt Sansone
09:53 Cuschieri says that although the experts were appointed together, they are not authorised to testify jointly. Kurt Sansone
09:52 Defence lawyer William Cuschieri asks that before the court hears the testimony of the witnesses, they declare under oath whether they all worked together at all times. Kurt Sansone
09:51 The Court is resisting Fenech’s request. Kurt Sansone
09:51 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi, appearing for the Caruana Galizia family, accuses the defence of trying to reinvent the wheel. Kurt Sansone
09:51 Defence lawyer Martin Fenech is asking that foreign experts, who are presenting a report, to testify separately. He says the joint testimony of three Europol experts could be prejudicial to his client’s rights when cross examining the witnesses. Kurt Sansone
09:47 We are in court, following the continuation of the compilation of evidence against three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia. Kurt Sansone

The expert was one of four NRI experts who took to the stand today.

He said that the team was contacted by the Maltese authorities on the day of the bomb and that they had immediately given instructions for the scene of the crime to be cordoned off and the human remains to be safeguarded and not touched, until they arrived the following day.

All the human remains were recovered on the first day the Dutch teamn spent in Malta.

More details to follow.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The accused 

  • George Degiorgio 55, unemployed, lives in St Paul's Bay, known as Ic-Ciniz
  • Alfred Degiorgio, 53, unemployed lives in St Paul's Bay, known as il-Fulu
  • Vincent Muscat, 55, unemployed lives in Msida, known as il-Kohhu

The courtroom players 

  • Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is presiding
  • Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are prosecuting
  • Deputy attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia is assiting the prosecution
  • Martin Fenech is appearing for Vince Muscat
  • William Cuschieri and Martha Mifsud are appearing for Alfred Degiorgio
  • Josette Sultana is appearing for George Degiorgio
  • Therese Comodini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi are appearing parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family

 

What we know so far

Caruana Galizia’s car

  • The Peugeot car Daphne Caruana Galizia was driving at the time had been leased four months before
  • Her son Matthew Caruana Galizia had occasionally used the car in the period
  • Matthew was the last person to have parked the car outside the gate of the family’s Bidnija home
  • Investigators dismantled a similar model of the car to determine whether any debris collected from the crime scene was extraneous
  • This led the police to discover the presence of an electronic board, which was part of the SIM card dock on the explosive device

The ‘small white car’

  • A person who spoke to the police had noticed a “small white car” frequenting a particular area at Tat-Targa Battery, part of the Victoria Lines
  • On the day of the murder the white car was there but unlike previous occasions the driver was not inside
  • Police noticed that next to where the car used to be parked part of a wall had collapsed and led to a place with a birds-eye view of Bidnija
  • Forensic experts combed the area for any clues, including cigarette butts
  • After the murder, the car was never seen again
  • Given Caruana Galizia did not have a fixed pattern of movement, police believe someone was shadowing her movements

The detonator

  • Location data from the Bidnija area led the police to home in on a number that received an SMS at 2.58pm and stopped broadcasting thereafter
  • The number was linked to an electronic device normally found in appliances that can be activated remotely
  • This device acted as the detonator of the car bomb
  • The device was switched on in the Bidnija area at around 2am on 16 October
  • It remained in a static location for the day until it received an SMS and disappeared

The killer SMS

  • The SMS that triggered the bomb was sent from a Nokia 105 mobile phone connected to the cell tower near the YMCA in Valletta
  • This phone was switched on, on the day of the explosion and started broadcasting from a cell ID near the Curia
  • The signal moved to Paceville, Senglea, Rinella, Zabbar and Xghajra as it bounced from cell towers north and south of the country every hour
  • The cell towers all faced seawards that led police to suspect the mobile phone was on a boat circling the island
  • The number linked to the detonator and the number that sent the SMS had been set up in November 2016 and had only corresponded with each other on three occasions

The pleasure boats

  • The Degiorgio brothers both own pleasure boats
  • CCTV footage showed that one of them – the Maya – was spotted leaving the Grand Harbour at around 8am before turning north
  • At the time the killer SMS was sent, the Maya was spotted under the Great Siege Bell area, where it stopped for a few minutes before heading towards Marsa

The top up call

  • The Secret Service had intercepted a call from George Degiorgio’s phone, asking the recipient to top him up with €5
  • The person was unable to and Degiorgio called another person, asking the same question “Don’t take long, if you can,” Degiorgio told the person
  • The person complied and minutes later topped up the number identified by George Degiorgio
  • Police obtained call profiles relating to George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat
  • All mobile numbers involved were activated within 20 minutes of each other – two were activated in Senglea and the third in Hamrun

Other facts

  • Alfred Degiorgio's DNA matched that found on a cigarette butt, which was picked up from the Victoria Lines
  • Police say Alfred Degiorgio was the spotter monitoring the Caruana Galizia household and is believed to have remained all night at the vantage point
  • Alfred called his brother George Degiorgio to inform him Caruana Galizia had left the house
  • The call lasted 107 seconds, which is the time it takes to drive from the house to where the bomb exploded
  • After detonating the bomb by SMS, George Degiorgio messaged his wife with the words: "Buy me wine, my love."
  • George Degiorgio had been telling people the day before the murder that he was going fishing
  • After the incident George was heard boasting "I've caught two big fish today"
  • Though unemployed, the Degiorgio brothers each owned a boat and luxury cars
  • Europol experts accompanied Malta police investigations and searches when the three men were arrested

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