Men acquitted of seriously injuring neighbour in 2009 Zebbug scuffle

Court declared there was not enough evidence to prove how events had transpired in fight, which came after long -standing feud between neighbours

The scuffle took place in Pawlu Debono Street in Haz Zebbug
The scuffle took place in Pawlu Debono Street in Haz Zebbug

Two men have been found not guilty of having seriously injured one of their neighbours in a 2009 street fight in Zebbug, after the court found there wasn’t enough evidence to prove exactly what had transpired during the scuffle.

George Saliba, 32, and and Saviour Camilleri, 51 were accused of having caused serious injuries to George Farrugia, and of having slightly injured Philip Farrugia, in a free-for-all fight.

The case revolves about a longstanding feud between neighbours regarding a garage in their street, which culminated in a fight between a number of people on 1 July 2009, which left some of those involved with serious injuries.

In 2015, George Farrugia, who had been charged with the attempted murder of George Saliba in relation to the same case, had been found not guilty after the court decided Saliba’s actions had been in legitimate self-defence.

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Court holds that Zebbug stabbing was self-defence

Inspector Daniel Zammit, a court witness, had told the court how the fight involved two factions: George Farrugia, his wife Carmen Farrugia and their son Philip Farrugia on one side; and Saviour Camilleri, his wife Mary Camilleri, George Saliba, his mother and father Grace and Michael Saliba, his sister Doreen Saliba, his uncle Philip Saliba and another George Saliba, who is Saviour Camilleri’s brother-in-law and George Saliba’s cousin, on the other side. Saviour Camilleri was the owner of the garage in questions.

The argument that day had initially only involved Grace and Doreen Saliba and George Farrugia, but George Saliba and Saviour Camilleri had later become involved. As the fight developed, George and Philip Farrugia and George Saliba ended up being taken to Mater Dei Hospital to receive care for injuries they had sustained, with Saviour Camilleri and the other George Saliba later also being admitted to hospital for treatment.

Mario Scerri, a doctor appointed as an expert in the inquiry on the case, had concluded in his report that George Saliba had been seriously injured, having suffered a penetration to his rib cage, which appeared to have been caused by a pointed bladed object. George Farrugia had been seriously injured, having fractured his collar bone and suffered other fractures. Philip’s Farrugia injuries were slight in nature.

In a statement given to the police the following day, while in hospital, George Saliba said that, the day of the incident, he had overheard George Farrugia insulting Saliba’s mother Grace and sister Doreen Saliba. He had then proceeded to go out to face George Farrugia, and in turn threw at him an insult connected to his (Farrugia’s) recently departed grandmother.

Not to be outdone, George Saliba responded with another insult directed at George Farrugia, and it was this which seemed to have sparked the fire, as George Farrugia responded by producing a knife from his back pocket and striking George Saliba in the right side of his chest.

Right after being struck by the knife, George Saliba grabbed hold of a metal rod which was on a nearby roundabout, and hit George Farrugia in the head with it. George Saliba told the police that Philip Farrugia was also on the scene at that point, and had thrown a stone from a rubble wall at him, but missed.

According to George Saliba’s statement, George Farrugia also attacked Camilleri - who was there too - and that Farrugia had threatened to stab both of them to death, but that the knife in question had then ended up in Camilleri’s hands in the scuffle.

The court heard how two conflicting versions of the story were given to the police, with George Saliba saying he had only hit George Farrugia with the metal rod after Farrugia stabbed him, while Farrugia said the incident had happened the other way round, with Saliba saying he had first been hit with the rod before retaliating on Farrugia. When questioned by the police, Camilleri backed George Saliba’s version of events, but George Farrugia insisted that is injuries had been caused by Saliba and Camilleri who had beat him with the rod.

On his part, Camilleri repeatedly denied having having beaten George and Philip Farrugia up. A few days later, George Saliba admitted to the police that he had hit George Farrugia with the rod, as Camilleri tried to hold him back.

Police Sergeant Joseph Borg told the court how, on the day of the fight, Camilleri had passed on to him a knife which had been broken from the handle, and which had allegedly been used by George Farrugia to stab George Saliba. Camilleri had told Borg that it was Philip Farrugia who had come out of his home with the rod in his hands.

While being spoken to by police on the scene, George Farrugia had passed on to them a metal rod and a pushchair chassis, which he said he had been attacked with.

Another witness, Philip Saliba - George Saliba’s uncle and Savour Camilleri’s father-in-law - had told the court that he had seen Philip Farrugia waving a metal rod in front of his father’s home, and had also seen George Farrugia with blood on his chest. 

Carmen Farrugia also testified, saying she had seen Camilleri beating her husband, George Farrugia, but she couldn’t discern if he had been using a metal rod or his bare fists. George Saliba, she said, had been hitting George Farrugia with a rod.

The court, however, saw how Carmen Farrugia had left the scene of the ongoing fight twice - once to call the police from her home, and a second time to go to the Zebbug police station - and could therefore not give a reliable version of the events as they had unfolded.

Camilleri - who has an amputated leg and wears an artificial limb - also took the witness stand during the proceedings, and testified that he had seen George Farrugia stabbing George Saliba in the back, with Saliba having confirmed this chain of events.

Mary Camilleri had told the court that the arguments between George Farrugia and Saviour Camilleri had been ongoing for a long time, with numerous police reports having been filed.

The court saw how the injuries sustained by the two accused - George Saliba and Camilleri - were in corroboration with the chain of events as described by them, and with the medical report by the medical expert Scerri.

It also saw how, due to the fact that the parte civile witnesses had not testified, there was not enough evidence to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused, George Saliba and Saviour Camilleri, were guilty of having seriously injured George Farrugia and slightly injured his son Philip.

There wasn’t a clear picture of who had started the fight and how it had progressed, the court said. All there was a clear picture of is the injuries sustained by the accused, confirmed by the medical expert, which corroborate their chain of events.

The case had taken nine years to be decided, the court noted, and the people involved were now no longer neighbours.

In light of this, the court freed the accused of all charges.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri were defence counsel to George Saliba.

Lawyer Kathleen Grima was defence counsel to Saviour Camilleri.

Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo presided.

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