Cemetery workers cleared of discarding human bones in skip

Nine Addolorata Cemetery workers have been acquitted of improperly disposing of human remains in skips outside the cemetery in Paola back in 2011 

Addolorata Cemetery
Addolorata Cemetery

Nine Addolorata Cemetery workers have been acquitted of improperly disposing of human remains in skips outside the cemetery in Paola in 2011.

Ten men had been accused in all: Paul Briffa 53, from Żebbuġ, Saviour Zammit, 62, from Cospicua, John Micallef, 55, from Ħamrun, Francis Mansueto, 52, from Floriana, Joseph Muscat, 60, from Paola, Terence Agius, 49, from Floriana, Emanuel Farrugia, 67, from Valletta, Paul Genovese, 50, from Sta Lucia, Paul Muscat, 64, from Cospicua and Saviour Agius, from Floriana, who died before judgment could be delivered. 

They had also been accused of failing to transfer human remains within the cemetery.

Magistrate Nadine Lia noted that the police had been alerted by an administrator at the cemetery that a routine inspection had noticed some burning skips outside the cemetery. These were found to contain a pile of clothes, parts of a coffin and some large bones.

The bones were later certified as being human. Some of the clothing remains seemed to be part of a clerical habit, the court was told.

Investigations revealed that there were ten employees in charge of cleaning the graves. It also emerged that some days before the discovery, the workers had been ordered to clean a grave occupied by a member of a religious order.

All ten accused denied responsibility for the disposal of human bones, saying that they had only been authorised to dispose of coffin remains ornaments and clothes. They also said that as the skips were outside the cemetery, they could have been used by others, including other cemeteries which often used these particular skips.

Magistrate Lia said she “could not but agree” with the report of a court-appointed expert who had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove the case. There were serious doubts as to whether all the accused or some of them, had been involved in the incident in question. 

There had also been no conclusive evidence to confirm the identity of the human remains as appertaining to the only clerical grave that had been cleaned by the accused, which belonged to Mons. Frans Baldacchino. A member of his religious order had testified that he was present during the transfer of Mons. Baldacchinos remains into another grave in Mosta and had said that no bones had been thrown away in his presence.

The accused had indicated that if there had been any bones discarded, it would have been the responsibility of Saviour Agius, who died before the proceedings concluded, to separate them from other items for disposal.

Before his death, Agius had told the court that if he had thrown away any bones they would have been small ones that escaped his notice and not the long bones found in the skip.

The court declared the nine men not guilty and declared exhausted the proceedings against Agius, in view of his death.

Lawyer Lucio Sciriha was defence counsel.

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