Maria Lourdes Agius was strangled to death, court hears

Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo has started hearing evidence in compilation proceedings against a man accused of murdering his partner

Maria Lourdes Agius's murder sparked a national outcry that culminated in a protest march against femicide
Maria Lourdes Agius's murder sparked a national outcry that culminated in a protest march against femicide

A man accused with killing his partner had smashed a chair on her back and kicked her, two days before the murder, the court heard this morning.

Michael Emmanuel, 28, stands accused of murdering his partner, Maria Lourdes Agius, at the family home in Paola. Agius was a mother to seven children, three of who were fathered by Emanuel.

Autopsy results revealed that Agius was strangled.

An argument between the couple, two days before the murder had Emmanuel acting violently towards Agius and her mother. Agius had suffered slight injuries and Emmanuel was kicked out of the house by the victim and her brother.

Emmanuel ended up sleeping rough before returning to the family home.

Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo this morning started hearing evidence in compilation proceedings against Emmanuel, who is from the Ivory Coast. He is denying the charges.

Agius, 35, was found strangled to death in her bedroom by her mother on 15 September. Her murder, the fourth involving a woman this year, prompted women's rights activists to hold a protest against femicide.

Inspector James Grech testified how the accused had gone to report to the Paola police station that his partner was not waking up.

When the police arrived on the scene they found the victim’s mother, Maria, who told them that her daughter was still asleep, but that she thought it was because a couple of days before, she had been beaten up by the accused in a domestic row.

Agius was found lying on her bed, facing the wall. The first impression was that she was asleep, but the police sergeant had been aware of the domestic violence report and had suspected that she might be dead.

At this point a commotion erupted between the mother of the victim and the accused and the two had to be separated by the police.

Emmanuel told the police that the night before he had sex with the victim and they had gone to bed at 10pm. When he woke up he found her unresponsive.

Inspector Grech said that forensic expert Mario Scerri, a medical doctor, had seen bruising on her neck and suspected that she had been strangled.

This conclusion was confirmed by the autopsy. The victim was bruised all over and had been struck hard twice in the head. 

The mother of the deceased told the police that she had heard a disturbance and later silence.

There were no more arguments during the night but the accused was pacing up and down on the roof.

At 7am she met him coming down from the roof and asked him where her daughter was. He replied that she was not at home and that he did not know where she had gone. The woman had then gone to the bedroom to make the grim discovery.

The court heard how Emmanuel lied to the police about his country of origin. He had arrived illegally on a boat in 2011 and met the victim two years later.

He had paid her for sex and they ended up dating for three months. She fell pregnant with another man’s child but the accused said he was happy to raise the daughter. 

A psychiatrist testified behind closed doors due to the sensitivity of the case.

Lawyer Lucio Sciriha was defence counsel.

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