Defence lawyers question validity of chemical analysis in Caruana Galizia murder case

The compilation of evidence continued on Thursday with phone data and the results of chemical analysis being presented

Defense lawyers for the three men charged with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia have attempted to cast doubt on the validity of chemical evidence presented against their client.
Defense lawyers for the three men charged with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia have attempted to cast doubt on the validity of chemical evidence presented against their client.

Defense lawyers for the three men charged with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia have attempted to cast doubt on the validity of chemical evidence presented against their client.

The compilation of evidence against the three men accused of murdering the journalist continued today with the testimony of a number of technical experts.

First to testify was Daniel Vella, a chemical expert who helped the police collect post-blast residues from the site of the murder. Vella had returned to the site the day after the attack to collect fragments of the vehicle.

It was at this point that the defense asked to know Vella’s qualifications, as well as the location the tests had been carried out. The defense questioned whether the results could be trusted, given that the tests were carried out in a lab at the University of Malta rather than an accredited lab.

Lawyer Martin Fenech requested that the court carry out an on site inspection to at the lab, a request which was accepted by the courts, which however pointed out that chemical tests such as the one in question were not as sensitive to environmental factors as DNA tests and other similar biological tests.

Meanwhile, two Vodafone employees presented a 22-page-long report detailing the the methodology used to analyse call data records.

Mobile signal information, which records times when devices were switched on and off, had been requested by the police, the witnesses said.

One of the engineers says that on the day of the murder one of the cell towers at Bidnija was switched off because it was being upgraded. The engineer said there was no activity from this toward after 3.05pm. The bomb that killed Caruana Galizia detonated at 2.58pm.

Reporters were at this point asked to leave the court room since it was decided that the data contained in the report was not to be made public.

Despite the defense questioning how the calls could be linked the Bidnija cell tower when it was undergoing upgrades, the engineer stressed that the tower might have been on at certain intervals, explaining that the upgrades were part of a continuous process.

The engineer pointed out that even when not in use, mobile devices exchange information with networks every hour or so.

After a discussion between police inspectors, the defense lawyers and the magistrate, the engineer was told to supply data linked to all numbers connected to each of the towers indicated by the prosecution in their original request to Vodafone.

The case was adjourned to 5 December.  

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