Għaxaq double-murder: Court hears how man shot his relatives and smashed their head with a mallet

During the compilation of evidence against Joseph Bonnici, accused of murdering his mother and sister, the court hears how the man planned the killings

Joseph Bonnici stands accused of killing his mother, Marija Lourdes Bonnici (left), and sister Angele Bonnici
Joseph Bonnici stands accused of killing his mother, Marija Lourdes Bonnici (left), and sister Angele Bonnici

A man accused of murdering his mother and sister had built a shotgun with a silencer and prepared sack cloths in the garden as he planned the gruesome killings at the family home in Għaxaq.

The compilation of evidence against Joseph Bonnici, 38, from Ghaxaq, started on Monday morning in front of Magistrate Joe Mifsud. The man stands charged with the voluntary homicide of his mother, Marija Lourdes Bonnici and his sister, Angele Bonnici on 26 March.

The court heard how the man lured his sister to the garden after he purposely forced the circuit breaker to trip. Walking behind his sister, Bonnici shot her twice in the right side of her head, the moment she stepped into the garden doorway.

He then smashed her head with a heavy mallet when he realised she was still alive. Bonnici then did the same thing to his mother and went to sleep.

Police Inspector Keith Arnaud testified that Bonnici filed a missing persons report with the police but later admitted to murdering the women.

Bonnici had waited at his house, which is adjacent to that of his mother, until his girlfriend went to sleep before loading the lifeless bodies onto a cart that he had built. He then dumped the bodies in a field, covered them with lime to kill the smell and buried them.

Bonnici told police that the murders were a result of anger that had been building up. The court heard how Bonnici's sister had accused him of sexually abusing her and how his mother had not been pleased with an ex-girlfriend of his, who eventually committed suicide nine years ago.

In court, Bonnici's girlfriend of nine years, Amanda Camilleri, testified that he had saved her from an abusive relationship. She insisted that Bonnici was "an amazing person".

Camilleri said she was aware about the claims made by Angele that her brother had touched her when she was young.

Bonnici is accused of hiding the bodies of his victims, filing a false police report, attempting to conceal evidence of the crime, using a firearm against another person, discharging a firearm in a residential area, carrying a firearm without the necessary licence, manufacturing a silencer for the weapon and manufacturing a firearm and ammunition without the required licence.

He is pleading not guilty to the charges brought against him.

Inspectors Keith Arnaud, John Spiteri and Roderick Attard are prosecuting. Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are appearing as defence counsel for the accused.

14:10 This concludes today's sitting. The case continues on 15 April. Kurt Sansone
14:09 On 31 March, the sergeant says, after Bonnici confessed to the murder, he had gone with the accused to the civic amenity site to recover the mallet used in the crime. Kurt Sansone
14:08 He recalls that the first thing the accused said was ‘I think they ran away’ to escape large debts incurred as part of a civil lawsuit that had been lost by his father. Kurt Sansone
14:07 The sergeant says that he convinced the accused to file a missing persons report. Kurt Sansone
14:06 The officer tells the court that he had sent a request to Vodafone for call localisation and profiles of the two victims. He had also gone to speak to Paul Bonnici, the husband of Maria Lourdes and father of Angele, in prison. Kurt Sansone
14:05 The last witness for today is a police sergeant from the vice squad. Kurt Sansone
14:05 He explains how the accused's vehicle was loaded onto a police truck to be taken for further investigation. Kurt Sansone
14:03 Another police constable from the CID takes the stand. Kurt Sansone
14:01 She says that CCTV footage shows the women had been wearing their pyjamas and had not looked like they were planning on going out. The feed suddenly stopped at around 9pm, she says. Kurt Sansone
14:01 Another vice squad police officer takes the stand. Kurt Sansone
13:41 The officer says that CCTV footage from the man's house shows Maria Lourdes and Angele moving around the house before cutting out [ostensibly when the circuit breaker tripped]. Kurt Sansone
13:40 The police officer says that she had been taken aback and informed him that she will check. Bonnici had told her that he expected to be informed first as a family member. Kurt Sansone
13:39 The court hears how the accused had called the police some time later because an online news portal had said that the two women had been found. Kurt Sansone
13:39 The officer tells the court that the accused had said that his sister had not returned from work and that their father had told him to file a police report. Kurt Sansone
13:38 A police officer from the vice squad is now on the stand. She had searched the premises, noting CCTV cameras amongst other things. Kurt Sansone
13:38 The court hears how three weapons were seized: A Beretta shotgun, a Webley air rifle and a Browning shotgun. Kurt Sansone
13:22 A satellite photo of the area is exhibited in court. Kurt Sansone
13:21 He is indicating the place on a map. Kurt Sansone
13:21 A police constable who accompanied the inspector and the accused to the field is now on the stand. Kurt Sansone
13:18 Camilleri's testimony is over. Kurt Sansone
13:16 Inspector Arnaud, re-examining the woman, asks whether there were any incidents of violence she saw or that he told her about. Camilleri answers “no”. She adds that Joseph had never said anything against his mother and sister. Kurt Sansone
13:15 The accused is weeping silently in the dock. Kurt Sansone
13:14 Camilleri says: "Joseph is the most amazing person I know. He always pushes me to succeed. He saved me from an abusive relationship. I always saw respect and love from him. He was never violent, not even towards our animals." Kurt Sansone
13:11 Camilleri says that Lourdes [Bonnici’s mother] had told her that her father was murdered. The witness says she cannot recall any related stigma in the family. Kurt Sansone
13:09 Cross-examined by defence lawyer Franco Debono, Camilleri confirms that Joseph’s mother did not have a good relationship with his ex-girlfriend. Kurt Sansone
13:08 She had a coffee with her mother at the mother's house and then left. Camilleri assumed that Joseph had been asleep because the house was in darkness. She went up to her bedroom and went to sleep. Kurt Sansone
13:04 Camilleri recounts what happened on Tuesday, 26 March. She had been out with a friend and after withdrawing cash from an ATM in Zejtun and went to fill up her car with petrol. Kurt Sansone
12:57 Camilleri explains that there is a door between the two houses and this was kept locked. It could only be opened from the mother’s side. It had always been that way, she says. Kurt Sansone
12:56 Asked about a previous relationship, Camilleri says she is aware that the accused's previous girlfriend had committed suicide. Kurt Sansone
12:54 Asked whether Angele had ever told her of something personal involving Joseph, she answers yes. Camilleri says that Angele told her that when they were young, her brother Joseph had touched her and the mother was aware of this. Kurt Sansone
12:50 She says that the two families shared an electricity meter and would split the bill. When Joseph would be welding they would pay a bit more. Kurt Sansone
12:50 Camilleri explains that Joseph is a flower deliveryman. He would do maintenance at the house, which explains why he had the van and tools. Kurt Sansone
12:49 She says that Joseph told her his dad was calling about his mother and sister and so he had dislodged some bricks dividing the two houses. Kurt Sansone
12:48 Camilleri tells the court that she arrives home from work around 6.30pm. Kurt Sansone
12:41 She explains that Joseph would go upstairs to their house and would walk around, waiting for them. Kurt Sansone
12:40 "I had a total breakdown... my mind was thinking about where they [the victims] could have been," Camilleri tells the court. Kurt Sansone
12:39 Camilleri says that Joseph was saying ‘sorry… I'm so sorry" but didn't explain why. Kurt Sansone
12:39 Camilleri tells the court that she had gone to the police station twice on Friday night. The second time, Joseph had called her when she was asleep. Kurt Sansone
12:37 Amanda Camilleri takes the witness stand. She is Joseph Bonnici’s partner of nine years. Kurt Sansone
12:35 Reminder: This is the first sitting in the compilation of evidence against Joseph Bonnici, who is accused of murdering his mother and sister. The women were initially believed to be missing but were found buried in a field in the outskirts of Gudja. Kurt Sansone
12:34 Spiteri's testimony is over. Kurt Sansone
12:33 Inspector Spiteri says that when he asked the accused the reason for his actions, Bonnici explained that in 2009 his girlfriend had committed suicide in the same residence and in her suicide note she had written that now his mother could rest because she never liked the fact that the two were dating. Kurt Sansone
12:30 They slept in separate bedrooms and once he was sure his girlfriend was asleep, he went back down to the murder scene and loaded the bodies onto the cart he had made and buried them in the manner described earlier. Kurt Sansone
12:29 Spiteri tells the court that after the women were killed, Bonnici cleaned up and went to sleep as his girlfriend was coming home soon. Kurt Sansone
12:28 Bonnici shot his mother once and immediately used the mallet on her. Kurt Sansone
12:27 Bonnici told the police that after shooting his sister twice, he saw that she was still breathing and smashed her head with the mallet. Kurt Sansone
12:26 He wrapped the mallet in stretch and seal and gathered the materials he needed for his plan and on the night of the murder he shorted a plug to trip the circuit breaker. Kurt Sansone
12:26 The inspector tells the court that in his statement on 26 March, Bonnici said that he had waved to his mother in the balcony on his way to work. Kurt Sansone
12:24 Bonnici then explained everything to the police and showed them where the bodies were buried. Kurt Sansone
12:23 Spiteri says that after his arrest, Bonnici told him: “I did a mess (Herba ghamilt).” Kurt Sansone
12:19 The court hears how the accused called his sister several times the day after her murder, which police believe was an effort to try and cover his tracks. Kurt Sansone
12:19 Spiteri says that he confronted the accused with this information and was told that this was a story Angele had made up to blackmail him into buying her a BMW. Kurt Sansone
12:17 The inspector tells the court that he was confidentially informed by a friend of Angele that the accused would sexually abuse her. Kurt Sansone
12:14 Angele's employer had told police it was unusual for her not to turn up for work and felt suspicious when the accused had gone to ask whether she had gone to work and left as soon as he was told she hadn't. Kurt Sansone
12:12 The police had then issued a missing persons alert. Kurt Sansone
12:12 Spiteri says that the police contacted mobile phone providers for data on the two women. The victims did not have any passports issued in their name and so could not have fled the country either. Kurt Sansone
12:10 Joseph Bonnici had also explained to the police that a strong smell of petroleum in the farmhouse was a method of controlling flea infestations on his livestock. Kurt Sansone
12:09 Spiteri says that paycheques and electronic equipment found in the younger victim's bedroom and the mother's mobile phone and purse found in her bedroom led the police to disbelieve this theory. Kurt Sansone
12:08 The accused had initially said that the sister and mother had probably fled Malta to avoid having to pay the €80,000 and leave the problem in his lap. Kurt Sansone
12:08 Spiteri says that a number of neighbours, brothers and sisters of Paul Bonnici, were also spoken to by the police. Kurt Sansone
12:06 The father had sold the family home to his son before going to prison and thought that this had caused discord between him and his sister. Kurt Sansone
12:06 The inspector informs the court of an ongoing civil case in which the father and his wife are to pay €80,000 in damages to the heirs of the victims of Paul’s murder. Paul Bonnici is serving a prison term after murdering two neighbours some 30 years ago, following a dispute. Kurt Sansone
12:04 The man had said that he was concerned by the fact that he would speak to his wife every day at the same time and she would never miss an appointment without prior notice. Kurt Sansone
12:03 Spiteri says that on 28 March he had been called up by the prison authorities saying that a certain Paul Bonnici, husband and father of the victims, had wanted to speak to him. Kurt Sansone
12:02 Spiteri tells the court that he received a phone call from the Zejtun police station about the missing persons report. Kurt Sansone
12:01 Inspector John Spiteri from the Vice Squad now takes the stand. Kurt Sansone
12:00 Arnaud has ended his testimony. Kurt Sansone
12:00 Arnaud says that when pressed, the accused insisted that he had heard the women planning something. Kurt Sansone
12:00 Bonnici claimed his mother was instigating things. Arnaud says no police report about the alleged abuse had been filed and neither were any social workers been contacted by the victims. Kurt Sansone
11:58 Arnaud tells the court that Bonnici claimed that his sister was "trying to report him for abuse and throw him in prison". Kurt Sansone
11:58 The accused was asked what had led him to commit the murders and told police that it was “long-term anger”. Kurt Sansone
11:57 The police discovered a partially burned two-handed mallet in a skip. It weighed 6.2kg. Kurt Sansone
11:57 Arnaud says that before his arraignment, Bonnici had shown the police where he had disposed of the mallet, at a Wasteserv facility. Kurt Sansone
11:53 Bonnici has a number of hunting shotguns registered in his name. The accused had told the police that he had not used these in the murder because they were too noisy. Kurt Sansone
11:52 The police inspector tells the court that the women's feet were bound. Kurt Sansone
11:51 Arnaud says the daughter had been shot twice in the head, in her right temple and eye. The face was considerably damaged by the mallet blow. The mother was also shot in the right side of the head. Kurt Sansone
11:49 The inspector explains how the custom-built silenced shotgun operates. He is also exhibiting a number of photographs of the scene and related items. Kurt Sansone
11:49 Bonnici eventually led the police to where the weapon was found, a few metres away from the place where the bodies were buried. Kurt Sansone
11:48 Arnaud explains to the court that Bonnici buried his mother first, putting his sister's body on top and then covered the bodies with a large amount of lime (gir) to reduce the smell. Kurt Sansone
11:47 On 27 March Bonnici bought a power washer to clean the garden area, burned the sacks he had used and the cart he had built to carry the bodies. He also disposed of the firearm and mallet. Kurt Sansone
11:46 After burying the bodies, Bonnici went home to sleep. Kurt Sansone
11:45 Bonnici then covered the women’s heads with plastic bags and tied them with tie clips. He rolled the bodies onto a cart and proceeded to dispose of the bodies. Kurt Sansone
11:43 His mother was next. She was shot as she approached the same area and also finished off with the mallet. Kurt Sansone
11:43 He then gave his sister a death blow to the head with a mallet. Kurt Sansone
11:42 When Bonnici’s sister came to see what happened, the accused took her to the prepared killing area in the garden. He walked behind the woman and when she got to the door of the garden he shot her in the back of the head. Kurt Sansone
11:42 Arnaud recounts how Bonnici told police that he had triggered the circuit breaker at the family home. Kurt Sansone
11:41 Bonnici manufactured the firearm himself and on the day looked at the weather and saw it was going to rain, which he wanted to. The accused lined the ground with sackcloth. Kurt Sansone
11:40 Arnaud gives the court details of how the murders were carried out: Bonnici had dug holes in the ground and was very angry at the women. Kurt Sansone
11:38 The slightly built accused listens intently as the inspector tells the court how his statements were taken. In his three statements, he had explained in detail how he had murdered the two women as well as shedding light on his motivation. Kurt Sansone
11:38 Bonnici later told the police that he had killed the women and directed them to the spot where the bodies were found, in a field in the outskirts of Gudja. Kurt Sansone
11:37 Joseph Bonnici had previously filed a missing persons report and was spoken to by the police about the disappearance of his mother and sister. Kurt Sansone
11:37 Arnaud tells the court how he had been told by Inspector John Spiteri that the accused admitted murdering his mother and sister. Kurt Sansone
11:34 Inspector Keith Arnaud from the police Criminal Investigation Department is the first to take the witness stand this morning. Kurt Sansone

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