Updated | Minister's driver expected to be arraigned today

PN says case against minister's driver who shot at car is compromised because important evidence was lost

The police constable who shot at a car while on duty as home affairs minister Manuel Mallia’s chauffeur and security guard is expected to be arraigned later today, opposition deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami said.

Explaining that Sheehan will “probably be charged with attempted murder,” Fenech Adami said the incident could have had tragic consequences as at least one of the bullets was millimetres away from going through the windscreen.

On Wednesday, Manuel Mallia’s driver Paul Sheehan shot at the car of Stephen Morrison Smith, following a hit-and-run incident.

The incident was initially played down by the home affairs ministry which insisted that the shots Sheehan fired into the vehicle were “warning shots” fired in the air. However, it later transpired that the shots were actually fired in the rear of the car, with photos showing bullet holes in the vehicle.

MaltaToday is informed that Sheehan has not yet been arrested and the before arraigning him the police will be picking the minister's driver up from home.

“Sheehan is expected to be arraigned today, six days after the incident happened,” the PN deputy leader said, adding “it seems that the law is not equal for all.”

Reminding that a few weeks ago a man was arrested and arraigned for carrying a fake gun during a hunters protest in Valletta within 48 hours and was held under arrest for several days, he said “ this time we had a constable who had a real gun and did not shy away from showing it and using it in public. But he was only arrested after six days thanks to the media and opposition’s pressure.”

Insisting that Mallia's position is no longer tenable, Fenech Adami reiterated that the minister is politically responsible for the police’s actions and the subsequent “cover up.”

“A few minutes after the shoot out, a press release littered with lies was issued by ministry, including the blatant lie on the shots being fired in the air when it was evident the shots were fired in the direction of the car.”

Fenech Adami said this means the shots were intended to stop the car and if it weren’t for the timely arrival of photojournalists before the car was removed from the crime scene, the truth would have never come out.

Insisting Mallia should shoulder political responsibility, Fenech Adami explained that as home affairs minister Mallia is responsible for the police force, responsible for the statement and was at the police depot when the orders were given to remove the car.

He added that “it is clear that at the time if the incident the minister was together with the acting police commissioner Ray Zammit at the police headquarters and we also know that once the commissioner was informed of the incident the he ordered the removal of the car.”

He added that the removal of Smith’s car is “scandalous” and in breach of all criminal investigations procedures.

“This is a blatant attempt to cover up the truth and Mallia is politically responsible for the cover up while Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is acting as a defence consul to the minister,” he added.

Pointing out that the Prime Minister has the prerogative to appoint ministers and remove them, Fenech Adami said “he must act as a prime minister and remove the minister responsible for a cover up and who is not carrying out his duties in an appropriate manner.”

The press conference was also addressed by MP Jason Azzopardi who said that in the haste to cover up the crime, the evidence was compromised.

“The case is compromised because important evidence was lost and there is no plausible explanation other than a cover up to conceal truth and feed media a lie to deceive the people.”

 He said that the police officers on a crime scene are obliged to record all evidence that could be used for or against all parties involved.

“In this case the gun shot residue, an essential element in criminal investigations, cannot be retrieved because Sheehan’s clothes and the minister’s car weren’t confiscated.”

While pointing out that the minister’s car was back on the road a few hours later and probably all evidence was washed away, Azzopardi added that Sheehan was released in the evening and his statement was only taken 24 hours later.

“Why was the arrest interrupted? Suspects of attempted murder are never released before 48 hours,” the MP said, noting that there was no legal obstacle to arraign Sheehan.

He insisted that the crime scene should never be contaminated and the Criminal Code clearly states that it is a crime to “suppress, or in any other manner destroy or alter the traces of, or any circumstantial evidence relating to an offence.”

Azzopardi stressed that Smith’s vehicle should never have been removed from the scene of crime immediately after the incident because the cars were not blocking traffic and shed doubt on the unusual speed with which the low loader arrived on site.

Insisting that the crime scene was compromised, he explained that every time there is a shoot out, the homicide squad is always called on site but this wasn’t the case on Wednesday evening.