Eight fatal seconds: Jury shown CCTV footage of Hugo Chetcuti stabbing

Bojan Cmelik was seen hugging Chetcuti and making a number of sudden movements, after which Chetcuti fell to the ground

The fatal stabbing incident which claimed the life of entrepreneur Hugo Chetcuti lasted just eight seconds, a jury has been told.

Jurors in the trial of Bojan Cmelik were shown a compilation of CCTV footage collected from various entertainment outlets in the St. Rita’s Steps area of Paceville.

IT forensic expert Dr. Martin Bajada walked the jury through the footage of Cmelik walking into the toilets at Hugo’s Pub and leaving for St. Rita’s Steps. Cmelik is seen hugging Chetcuti and making a number of sudden movements, after which Chetcuti falls to the ground.

After the stabbing, Cmelik is seen heading towards the Burger King area of Paceville, chased by a number of people.

Bajada told the jury that the time taken from Cmelik entering the pub and bathroom to his exit was 7 minutes. The footage showed that the stabbing incident took 8 seconds, he said.

Earlier this afternoon, Caroline Barbara, the general manager of Hugo's Boutique Hotel gave her evidence.

“The world cup was on at the time.  At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the lobby was empty. The man with the hat walked into the lobby and sat down instead of going to the desk. As manager I went up to say hello.”He looked at her coldly, she said. “I thought maybe he had a bad day. I went on with my day.”

“There were three other managers and members of the Chetcuti family eating, discussing, Chetcuti telling us jokes. At around 10:30 pm he went to have a cigarette. I was outside too. I went inside the restaurant to get some water. I see this tall man in a sun hat at 10:30pm at night… I thought he was hugging Mr. Chetcuti,” Barbara said, her voice trembling.

“The man ran off and Hugo shouted ‘run after him!’.”

“Hugo went up to me, he lifted up his shirt and blood started coming out. He said ‘he stabbed me, he stabbed me.’ We used paper towels to staunch the bleeding. Paceville was packed, there was no way of an ambulance getting in there so we decided to use a taxi,” Barbara recalled. “There was a security guard who used to work with us, James, and he hailed the taxi.”

Fighting back tears, the witness recognised the hat, shirt and Bermudas worn by Cmelik amongst the exhibits. She recognised the accused as the man that stabbed Hugo Chetcuti.

“I thought he was hugging him,” she said again.

“This was the most horrific shocking traumatic time of my life. Someone stabbed during a joyous family affair,” said the witness.

Family give emotional testimony

Earlier this morning the frayed nerves and raw emotion of murdered entrepreneur Hugo Chetcuti’s extended family was clearly evident as his brother in law took the stand to tell the jury about Cmelik’s employment with the victim’s business empire.

Noel Falzon, Chetcuti’s brother in law and a manager at Bacco,  gave an emotional account of the psychological trauma he had suffered as a result of the murder, but also of how he had engaged Cmelik to work there twice, after having fired him first for not speaking English at work and on a second occasion over his attitude.

“I know his brother Adam Mitic. He was one of my best bartenders at Bacco. He asked to bring his brother on board and to teach him to be a bartender. Adam told me to help him out because he’d just been stopped from (Hugo’s) Terrace. 

“My brother used to teach us to forgive. Someone does something wrong you give him another chance. Stupidly. Fool me! I was an idiot!” Falzon said as he broke down sobbing on the stand.

“I brought him up there to teach him how to be a bartender,” he said after recovering. “I had my best bartender, his brother but he couldn’t talk English. I got this one (indicating the accused) to kill two birds with one stone.”

Mitic had been dismissed first “I gave him a lot of chances. Hugo told us to be kind. This is what this one took away from us,” he said bitterly.

A visibly emotional and highly agitated Falzon informed the judge and the jury that the last time he had testified, before the compilation of evidence against Cmelik, the accused had laughed at him from the dock. “Last time I came here he was laughing at me. Because this is something to laugh about…”

Asked why Cmelik had been fired, Falzon replied that he had 19 employees at Bacco. “He knows full well that I had Serbians, Italians, French , Japanese and Thai workers who all talk English. I need to have a team… so I made a rule that everybody speaks English.”

“He took him away from me! Why! Why! Why! Why did this man, after all the things I did with him... He knows how I treated him. I will go to Serbia to see Adam and his mother.” 

Falzon said that he had been told that Bojan was acting funny. “I was a fool, an idiot. I want to explain myself so you are not fooled like I was,” he told the jurors.

“There was an incident where he said ‘boss I’m not happy’ because I changed around the lockers. I said take the one you had if it makes you happy. This is the only issue I had with Bojan."

He had stopped his brother from working with the company because of his excessive drinking. “I was close to the brothers because they were good workers,” said Falzon. “He,” referring to Cmelik,”he …not bad.” 

“But I stopped him not because he was speaking Serbian. He fully knows that I didn’t fire him because he was speaking Serbian. I stopped him from working because…he told me, ‘if I want to speak Serbian, I fucking will.’ I didn’t like the attitude… Mr. Nobody!” shouted the witness.

Isaac Chetcuti, Hugo’s youngest brother also took the stand, recalling the moment his brother was stabbed.

“We heard somebody shout Hugo’s name and both of us looked over at the bar to see who was shouting. The voice was coming from the Bar Native side.

“This person came with his hand raised, as if he was going to hug my brother. I saw him holding my brother’s neck and a movement, two strikes towards his abdomen.”

The witness demonstrated the movement on a court messenger provided by the court. “They were short movements towards his stomach.” 

His voice breaking, he said he noticed his brother bending over and, realising that something bad was happening, he went to separate them. 

“Right before the stabbing Hugo’s expression was that he didn’t recognise this person, but people would come to speak to him all the time and he was a very friendly person.”

“I spoke to Hugo the next morning, Saturday 7th as the ITU doctors informed me that he was been brought out of his induced coma.”

“The first thing he told me was ‘I don’t know why, I don’t even know this person,’” said the witness, his voice breaking.

“Obviously he was in pain, and I told him to be strong and that he would overcome this.”

The witness didn’t leave his brother’s side. “On Sunday I went to speak to him and he told me he was very much in pain. I tried to encourage him and said he would overcome this as well.”

Asked by the prosecution how the murder had affected him, he said, “my brother was like a father figure. He was always present for me. His loss is a great one,” he said, his voice breaking once again.

A juror asked whether Hugo was conscious and speaking on Sunday morning. “He was conscious and he spoke to me but obviously he was in pain.” 

The trial continues.

Cmelik is being represented by legal aid lawyer Simon Micallef Stafrace.

Lawyers Joe Giglio and Mario Spiteri are appearing on behalf of the Chetcuti family.

Lawyers Kevin Valletta and Maria Francesca Spiteri from the Office of the Attorney General are prosecuting.

Mr. Justice Aaron Bugeja is presiding the trial.