[WATCH] Caruana Galizia murderer ruthless, experienced, trusted in criminal underworld, forensic scientist says

Criminologists on Xtra yesterday evening say that digital expertise will be vital for police in the future, and the Maltese police corps are slowly developing a strategy for the future which is currently lacking

Forensic scientist John Ellul and criminologist Saviour Formosa discussing Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder investigation and this week's arrests on Xtra
Forensic scientist John Ellul and criminologist Saviour Formosa discussing Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder investigation and this week's arrests on Xtra


The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia was one which carried the highest punishment - lifetime imprisonment - and this did not serve as a deterrent for whoever committed the act, something which gives experts an idea of the profile of the murderer, forensic scientist John Ellul said.

Speaking on yesterday evening's edition of Xtra, a few days after ten suspects were arrested in connection to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, three of which were arraigned in court, Ellul explained that the way in which Caruana Galizia was killed showed that the person behind the murder was ruthless, very experienced in crime, and enjoys a lot of trust in the criminal underworld.

“Not only was the punishment for the crime not a deterrent, but the effect which the murder of Caruana Galizia would have on the country also did not hold the person behind this back,” Ellul added.

The human aspects is important in determining if there is a connection between the aspects of the person who did the crime, and the crime itself. A crime requires certain skills and knowledge of ways of planning a crime and not being caught, Ellul maintained.

The physical evidence of the crime can be both visible, such as DNA, blood and fingerpints, and invisible. Invisible parameters, beyond the visible spectrum and having a technological aspects, are nowadays becoming very important, he said.

Asked whether Malta’s police are up to date with the times, Ellul said that the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder was a textbook case where the police were a step ahead of criminogenic society.

“In this case, the judicious use of technology started to bear its fruit,” he said.

Criminologist Saviour Formosa, also a guest on the programme, said that, in general, in the case of a crime, what he paid most attention to is the method the police used to investigate a case, and that Formosa said that it was all too easy for politicians to criticise the police.

Formosa, in a similar vein as Ellul, said that the return for whoever committed the crime must have been bigger than the risk that person was taking in killing Caruana Galizia.

Both Ellul and Formosa said that at this stage it was impossible to say if the persons arrested on Monday were the ultimate instigators behind the crime.

Asked for a reaction to the recent arrests, home affairs minister Michael Farrugia, on a telephone comment on the programme, said that close cooperation between the Maltese police and secret services, together with foreign police services, had produced very good results this year.

Such cooperation had been on a broad spectrum of crime, he emphasised, and the results spoke for themselves, in this case.

Regarding whether the police culture in regards to future car-bomb cases, especially since several car bombs in the past few years have not been solved, Farrugia said that it is not correct to think that the police had no suspects when it came to previous car bomb cases.

The problem was that it was not always possible, evidence-wise, for the police to go to court and present a solid case.

“The most important thing is that the police have enough information to prove what they say happened in a crime. The most important thing is for the police to have precise information and that it is able to prove it,” he said, adding that the police was still gathering information related to the previous car bomb cases.

He also said that the police is looking into procuring any additional tools and equipment which could help solve certain cases.

Ellul said that cases similar to the Caruana Galizia murder were not common,

Ellul said that there was certain equipment required for the analysis of invisible evidence in relatively rare cases such as Caruana Galizia’s assassination, which required so much financial investment to obtain that it did not make sense for the Maltese police to have it locally.

It was easier and just as effective for Maltese forensic investigators to go abroad and use the equipment of foreign police forces.

Formosa said there were three levels related to police equipment - physical equipment, digital technology and the knowledge required to maintain them.

“In certain types of crimes, including murders, which are relatively uncommon, you might have the expertise required to investigate them in Malta, but you might not find the required equipment except in one country in Europe,” Formosa said, “Therefore it is very important for local police to have very good relationships with foreign forces.”

“In certain cases, there might only be one expert in all of Europe regarding certain specific aspects of a crime,” he maintained, adding that the foreign agencies which helped in the Caruana Galizia help would have had specific knowledge and expertise, including those connected to the technological and data-related aspects of the case.

Jari Matti Liukku, head of Europol’s serious organised crime unit, said in a telephone comment on the programme that Maltese authorities had requested Europol’s support. Following meetings which identified what type of help was needed, Europol’s expert services and support were mobilised.

In terms of the character of the Caruana Galizia case, Liukku said that it was evident that organised crime had been involved in the murder.

“The case is at an early stage, and it is yet to be seen whether the end outcome will be positive or negative, but we will do our best to help the Maltese authorities in finding a quick solution to the case,” Liukku said, when asked whether he felt that arrests had been made relatively quickly when it came to this murder.

In reaction to Liukku’s comments, Formosa said that Europol and other foreign agencies had been used because certain particular knowledge and expertise was needed, and it was not reasonable to expect that our relatively small police force could have within it all the expertise needed for any crime case.

Formosa also explained that, unfortunately, after 25 years in the force, a police officer in Malta arrives at retirement age, and this at the height of their experience, with there not being any incentive for that officer to stay on.

Ellul added that Europol gave us its invaluable and specialised technical knowledge in this case.

“The highest level of investigation is terrorist investigation, which has to be proactive more than reactive,” Ellul said, “And in this case we applied such investigation to a domestic level, through the international coordination between the various international agencies and the Maltese police, leading to the quick results which we had.”

Regarding the seeking of a balance between informing the public, and giving out to much information which could hinder police investigations, Formosa said that any information which can cause unbalance in the case, should not be released to the public.

“In the next five to ten years, the nature of criminal acts will change. Education is now pushing criminal activity to become more intelligent. Therefore, the police have to equip themselves for the types of crimes which will take place in the future,” Ellul maintained, adding that it was important for the police to increase its digital expertise.

Mirroring Ellul , Formosa said that the virtual world would become ever more important, and it was necessary for the police to be ready to deal with digital crimes.

“The police corps still do not have a long term strategy for the future. It is a 150-year-old structure, but is being slowly changed. These things take time - five to ten years sometimes,” Formosa said.

Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami, also interview by telephone, said that the arrest of the suspects in the Caruana Galizia case was something positive.

However, he noted that the motive for the crime, and any possible person who might have committed it, had not yet been identified.

“I think I speak for the majority of the people when I say that there is still a lot to be done if there is to be justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia,” Fenech Adami said, as he maintained that the state had failed in its duty to defend the journalist, especially since somebody was able to put a bomb in her car in broad daylight, as the latest information revealed.

“We still have a situation related to the rule of law in this country,” he highlighted, “and I hope that we learn from this high price which we have paid to make the necessary institutional changes.”

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