Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspects’ DNA swabs taken without lawyer present, court told

Defence lawyer William Cuschieri argued that when DNA swabs were requested by then inquiring magistrate Anthony Vella, the implications of this had not been explained to the accused 

The men accused of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia were not assisted by a lawyer when DNA samples were taken from them, a court was told this morning.

Assistant Police Commissioner Dennis Theuma took the witness stand as the compilation of evidence against Alfred Degiorgio, his brother George and their associate Vincent Muscat continued before magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit today.

The men are accused of planting and detonating the bomb which killed Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017, as she drove her rental car from her home in Bidnija to the bank.

Theuma told the magistrate that he had been present at the police’s Criminal Investigation Department when the accused were spoken to by then Magistrate Anthony Vella about giving DNA samples through buccal swabs. Only Vince Muscat had refused to submit a sample, he said.

The DNA swabs were used to match the accused with a cigarette butt found at the vantage point from where a spotter was thought to be observing Caruana Galizia's movements.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer William Cuschieri, who suggested that the purpose and implications of this had not been explained to the defendants by the magistrate, the Assistant Commissioner said he could not recall whether or not this had happened. “I wasn’t there the whole time and can’t say whether or not they were informed.”

He could not recall whether they were informed when he had been present, he added.

Tajjeb, tajjeb, ma tiftakarx,” ("Great, great, you don't remember") mocked Alfred Degiorgio, who seemed amused by this.

“Did you give them the right to legal assistance at that moment?” asked the lawyer. “I don’t think so, no,” Theuma replied.

Also testifying today was a representative from Europol who had to be brought back to Malta in order to correct a report that he had submitted, which had contained a missing digit on one of the identification numbers relating to the bomb.

Another, albeit relatively minor, issue faced by the court is that the technology used by the AFM to film the accused’s arrests was old and that footage could not be safely recovered from a damaged SD card without the possibility of erasing everything. UK experts had said that they would not be able to assist and the device is now in the hands of Polish experts, said the prosecution.

The court said it was drawing the AFM's attention to the shortcoming.

Lawyers William Cuschieri and Martha Muscat are appearing for Alfred Degiorgio, 53, known as il-Fulu.

Lawyer Martin Fenech is appearing for Vince Muscat, 55, known as il-Koħħu. 

Lawyer Josette Sultana is appearing for George Degiorgio, 55, known as iċ-Ċiniz.

Lawyer Philip Galea Farrugia from the Attorney General's Office and Police Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are appearing for the prosecution.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Eve Borg Costanzi are appearing parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family.

The case continues on 3 May.

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