Man shot in argument over prostitute says shooter was defending her

The police had been informed of a fight near a school on Testaferrata Street, and while on their way to the scene, officers saw a man on the ground and another man crouched over him

The weapon used during the argument was a semi-automatic Glock 42
The weapon used during the argument was a semi-automatic Glock 42

A man shot in an argument over a prostitute he claims is his girlfriend told the court his assailant was defending the woman.   

This emerged as Magistrate Rachel Montebello heard evidence against Raymond Gatt, 52 from Fgura. Gatt is accused of the attempted murder of Reuben Galea from Msida.

Prosecuting police inspector Jonathan Ransley took the stand first this morning, telling the court that on November 2, the police had been informed of a fight near a school on Testaferrata Street in Gzira and that urgent assistance was required. While on their way to the scene officers saw Galea, who is known to the police, on the ground and another man crouched over him.

“They shot me, they shot me, I feel the bullet inside me,” Galea had told the police. He explained that he had been shot by a man driving a white Toyota Corolla with tinted glass windows.

The car was spotted nearby and the police gave chase. It stopped in a parallel road to Testaferrata and Gatt emerged from the car. The owner of the car insisted that the police were going to frame him as officers searched for a gun inside it. “You’re not going to find anything in there,” he had said.

Police suspected that he had thrown away the pistol, said the inspector, later adding that it was not recovered.

He exhibited a penknife and other objects taken from the man’s possession when he was arrested.

Although rain thwarted their efforts to find the spent cartridge case, the police were informed that the shot had been fired in the vicinity of Sterling Car Hire. This helped them narrow the search and find CCTV footage of the entire incident. The footage showed two men fighting and a woman, whom the police recognized as Rosette Borg, next to the car.
Gatt was later arrested and charged with attempted murder, pleading not guilty and was remanded in custody.

Reuben Galea, who was injured in the shooting told the police that he was dating Borg. He knew she was in Testaferrata street and had seen her getting into Gatt’s car.  The two men had argued.  At a point Gatt pulled out a knife, later went to his car door and pulled out a gun. The victim was shot under his left arm, said Inspector Ransley.

The victim, who was suffering from drug withdrawal symptoms at the time, had told the police that he didn’t know the man who shot him, but anonymous witnesses had said that the shooter would often be seen in the area.

Whilst in hospital, someone had suggested the name Raymond Gatt to the victim, said the inspector.

Reuben Galea took the stand, delivering disjointed testimony which occasionally veered towards incoherence. Although it was hard to make out what he was saying at times, Galea helpfully acted out the whole scene in court.

Rosette Borg is his girlfriend, he said, adding that she had recently started to claim she was at her sister’s house when in fact, she would be working as a prostitute. “Her excuse was that I would be tempted to do bad things if I knew where she was.”

Galea had gone to the red-light district in Testaferrata street to look for Borg, spotting her getting into a white Toyota Corolla at 2:10am on Saturday morning. “I recognised the car from before, as it would follow me,” he said.

“I ran over to see what she was going to do…I don’t think she was going to smoke a cigarette.” After 4 minutes she got out of the vehicle and an argument ensued with Galea shouting “are you with me or with him?” gesticulating wildly all the while.

The accused, whom the victim said he recognised but whose name he didn’t know, got out of the car with a large knife “to defend her.” The woman had held the accused back, he said.

“I went around the car and told him ‘move out of the way so I can put you both through the glass’ of a nearby showroom.

“I put my hand in my back pocket,” said the witness. Asked why by the court, he replied “to scare him.”

The victim’s ruse backfired somewhat, however, as the accused then went back to his car and started rummaging for something in the dashboard near the steering wheel. “Then I saw him rest his hands on the roof of the car with a semi-automatic [Glock] 42 and take aim.”

When he saw Gatt about to pull the trigger Galea had turned away and covered his head with his elbows.

He was shot in the armpit. “It was like when you get stabbed with a pencil” he said. “Then I felt burning pain.”

“See what you did to me?” he cried out to the woman after getting shot, as Gatt drove away from the scene.

He tore off his jacket and top and ran, bare-chested, towards Testaferrata street, trying to flag down passing cars, without any luck. The police inspector was first on the scene. “I told him the bullet isn’t going to kill me, I can’t breathe.”

“I’m lucky I’m still alive,” he said. Lawyer Franco Debono asked the witness whether he had locked the woman in his house and whether she had ever escaped in the past. “Yes,” said Galea, later changing his answer to “no” when asked to confirm this by the court.
He also admitted to beating her, but “only on one occasion.”

“She’s my girlfriend, it’s true love,” added the man, before making a startling admission, unbidden.
“I stole all I could find for her.” She would go to Testaferrata street out of her own free will, despite his insistence that she doesn’t go, Galea said.

“She would go with her sister and disappear for two days,” he said. “She changed, she used to take drugs, so did I…” She would demand drugs from him, but he would refuse: “I don’t sell drugs,” he said.

Debono pointed out to the witness that at the time of his shooting, the woman had been shooing him away. “You have a man coming out for you. You have two people who aren’t appreciating your presence, why didn’t you leave?” asked the lawyer. “I couldn’t. How could I leave with him coming for me?”

But he also said that he had walked towards Borg, pointed out the lawyer. “I told her leave, go collect your clothes and go,” came back the reply.
“I wasn’t scared when he came at me with the knife and I told him that I’d put them both through the window behind them.”

It was as if, in the preceding days, Gatt had “taken over her life”, he said. “She was scared of him, said the witness, before adding, “she was scared of me and other people too.”

Debono suggested the man’s wild gesticulation and body language could have given the impression to a bystander that he was going to hurt the woman. The victim, naïvely, agreed: “He was defending her,” he said.

The Criminal Code states that “no offence is committed when a homicide or a bodily harm is ordered or permitted by law or by a lawful authority, or is imposed by actual necessity either in lawful self-defence or in the lawful defence of another person.”

Meanwhile, the police informed the court that they were still trying to track Borg down for questioning.

The court said it will decree on the man’s bail request in another sitting later this month.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are defence counsel.

Lawyers Alfred Abela and Rene Darmanin appeared parte civile for Reuben Galea.

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