PN’s cover-up accusations reinforced by deletion of arrest report - Busuttil

Opposition leader claims arrest report of Smith gave conflicting version of events ‘to what Joseph Muscat wanted the people to hear’

The scene of the incident as it terminated at the Tal-Qroqq tunnels on Wednesday, 19 November
The scene of the incident as it terminated at the Tal-Qroqq tunnels on Wednesday, 19 November

A police report of details into the arrest of Scotsman Stephen Smith was deleted because it gave “a conflicting version of events to what Prime Minister Joseph Muscat wanted the people to hear”, PN leader Simon Busuttil said yesterday.

MaltaToday yesterday revealed that an internal police investigation had been launched into the deletion from a police report, of details of the arrest of Scotsman Stephen Smith and the result of a breathalyser test he took.

The deletions were made from the original computer record.

The serious shortcoming introduces a new twist into the saga which has enveloped the serious incident in which the Scotsman was involved when his vehicle was shot at and hit twice by home affairs minister Manuel Mallia’s security driver on the evening of Wednesday, 19 November.

 “Muscat has introduced a culture that everybody can do whatever they like without any repercussions,” Busuttil told the PN general council yesterday. “Will somebody please take some political responsibility?”

Separately, the Times of Malta yesterday reported that bullet casings were removed from the crime scene before forensic officers could arrive, while PN media organ Il-Mument reported that the Prime Minister’s spokesman Kurt Farrugia had approved the original press release.

The PN has presented a motion of no-confidence against Mallia. “We are aware that the Labour Party has a very strong majority in the House, but we will still make Parliament debate this incident to try and find out what happened,” Busuttil said.

Deletion of police report

MaltaToday is reliably informed that an internal investigation is underway into the deletion of the details from the report.

The internal investigation could explain why Smith has not yet been arraigned for driving under the influence, though he was arrested on 19 November shortly after being stopped in the Tal-Qroqq tunnels by Rapid Intervention Unit officers.

Reliable sources have told MaltaToday that after his arrest, Smith’s breathalyser test findings and details of the incident were logged by a police sergeant into the Police Incident Reporting System II (PIRS) – a database of police reports.

The original report stated that the police had held Smith and took him to the Sliema police station. He was then transferred to the St Julian’s police station where he refused to undergo a breathalyser test. Smith was subsequently taken to the Msida police station where, in the presence of the inquiring magistrate and a court expert, he agreed to take the test.

The test revealed that Smith had three times the level of alcohol in the blood than allowed by law. The content registered was of 109mg/dl, compared to the 32mg/dl legal limit. The sources explained that this was undeniable proof that Smith was driving under the influence.

However, police officers who returned to the PIRS database to update the original police report were shocked to find that the entire account of the arrest and details of the breathalyser test, had been deleted from the report.

Sources said that a third party’s password had been used to log into the PIRS database, to delete the part in the Smith arrest report detailing how the Scotsman was found with high blood-alcohol levels.

MaltaToday understands that an original printout of the initial report exists and is in the hands of the force’s highest officials.

Top brass have however ordered an internal investigation into the serious matter. Investigators from the Police’s IT section have been asked to establish which computer was used and who manipulated the original report.

This latest investigation follows a separate incident related to the case where a mother and a daughter were approached by an unidentified man who asked them to hand over footage of the argument between Sheehan and Smith.

A police inspector whose sister is the partner of Sheehan – who now stands accused of the attempted murder of Smith after shooting at his car in a car chase – could have been included in a line-up of police officers suspected of tampering with the evidence relating to the incident.

The witnesses were unable to positively identify the man who approached them, and picked two individuals from the line-up.

Separately, on Friday morning, an independent inquiry tasked with establishing the facts surrounding allegations of a cover-up on the shooting incident heard a number of witnesses.

The witnesses summoned were MediaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan, Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia, chief of staff Silvio Scerri, Acting Police Commissioner Ray Zammit and Sheehan.

Last week, MaltaToday reported that Scerri called MaltaToday on the night of the incident to ‘correct’ the newspaper’s initial online report and insist that the shots Sheehan fired into a vehicle were “warning shots” fired in the air.

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