Updated | Police Commissioner under fire over disastrous press conference

in a pathetic crime conference that left everyone none the wiser, Lawrence Cutajar’s only volunteered message was that the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation was being headed by the Maltese police

Caught in the headlamps: Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar
Caught in the headlamps: Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar

It took almost three days for Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar to hold a crime conference on the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. And when he did it, it turned into a public relations disaster.

The press conference yesterday evening left many people bewildered and angered.

The only information Cutajar could volunteer was a reference to the Dutch and American investigators helping the police and how they were involved. He made it a point to stress that the Maltese police were heading the investigation.

And then, like a sitting duck, Cutajar, flanked by Assistant Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta, just stood there waiting for questions to be asked. He answered none.

But he did confirm that the car wreckage had been removed, that the autopsy was to be held this morning and that the police had spoken to Caruana Galizia’s family. Three pieces of information Cutajar could have easily volunteered, without being asked.

But he went at lengths to defend his police career when asked whether he should resign, a demand made by the Opposition and which has been picked up by many in an online petition seeking Cutajar’s removal.

At one point Cutajar and Valletta ended up speaking over each other in the face of the expected media bombardment on a case that has captured headlines internationally. The conference was also covered by international media networks.

The police crime conference was covered by the international press as well
The police crime conference was covered by the international press as well

Cutajar’s cringeworthy performance led to an outpouring of ridicule on social media and anger at what was an amateur press conference broadcast to the world. In 2017, Malta's police force does not even have a recognisable press relations officer, for years a lamentable situation for the Maltese press. 

In Opposition leader Adrian Delia’s words, the crime conference did little to instil confidence in the police’s ability to get to the bottom of the brutal murder.

On social media many called for Cutajar’s head, 24 hours after Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia defended the police chief and rebutted suggestions he should be replaced. Farrugia gave his comments to MaltaToday before the crime conference.

Kristina Chetcuti, the partner of former PN leader Simon Busuttil, called the conference a scene “straight out of a Don Camillo movie”.

Others were shocked by the performance.

In Parliament this morning, the criticism from the Opposition benches over the Police Commissioner's performance continued as members of the government side insisted this talk was undermining confidence in the police at such a delicate moment.

Minister reiterates trust in Police Commissioner

Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia has reiterated his trust in Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar in Parliament on Friday evening after being asked a point blank question by the Opposition leader.

Farrugia avoided making a personal observation on the crime conference held on Thursday, insisting Cutajar could continue, along with other police officers, leading the Caruana Galizia murder investigation.

"At this delicate moment we don't want to play into the hands of criminals and sow distrust in the police force by asking for resignations," Farrugia said, appealing for a united front.

However, Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield hinting at what was apparent to everyone who witnessed the conference asked the minister whether it was time for the police to have a spokesperson. "Those who know how to investigate may not know how to address a conference," he said.

Farrugia responded by saying part of the police reform would allow the force to recruit civilians with expertise in particular areas and this included people, who were specialised in communications.


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