Alleged stalker of mafioso-style gang whistle-blower out on bail

Romeo Bone, the prisoner who stands charged with stalking PC Mario Portelli - whistleblower on a local mafioso-style crime ring case - was granted bail against a personal guarantee of €15,000 on Friday morning.

Mercieca also testified that on January 12, police were tipped off by someone that Bone was planning to eliminate Portelliand that the plan was imminent. Mercieca then recounted how he informed his superiors, who instructed him to obtain an arrest warrant and investigate the case.

The warrant was issued on the following day and Bone was to be held when he went to sign (as he was obliged to do) at the Valletta police station, Mercieca said.

However, Mercieca testified, he heard through the police radio at 6pm that Bone and another person were in the vicinity of Qrendi, where Portelli lived. It transpired that police officers had followed his car and he was stopped at Luqa, after which he was taken to the depot.

Inspector Mercieca recounted how he had asked Bone about a vehicle registration number written on a piece of paper which was found in his car.

The paper read: “Isuzu JBB 785”. Upon verifying the number, Mercieca said that it emerged that the vehicle belonged to Joseph Baldacchino, who had been shot at in December.

During cross examination, Inspector Mercieca said that nothing illegal was found in Bone’s car. When asked by defence counsel Giannella Caruana Curran, Mercieca added that PC Portelli had been found guilty of being involved in a fight at St Julians and that he also had an ongoing maintenance case with his wife.

On 13 January at around 5:45pm, Portelli testified that he was smoking on his parapet, and from the corner of the road he saw Bone's car which came up to his house, driving at a mere 5km/h while looking in the direction of his residence.

Bone was driving, and with him was another person whom Portelli later recognised as a certain Jeffrey Busuttil, whom the witness knew as one who had been convicted of a series of hold-ups.

Portelli stated that as soon as he saw the car turning the corner, he knelt down so they would not see him. As soon as they passed his house, the car drove off at a normal speed once more, in the direction of his father's farmhouse, where it transpires that Bone had once been invited for a barbecue which allegedly David Gatt had asked him to organise.

There, Portelli said that he and Bone had had a couple of beers together and Bone asked him if David Gatt had ever told him what he had done. Portelli denied knowing anything, and Bone said that if he were to find out that Gatt had said anything, he would take matters into his own hands.

Magistrate Meli warned the witness a number of times to stick to the matters of the case without referring to incidents involving former Police Inspector David Gatt.

Portelli then recounted how he took his own car and drove after them in the direction of the farmhouse where he saw them coming back. He continued following them from a distance and saw them slow down in front of his house as before.

Portelli also stated that when they arrived at the Kirkop tunnel, he realised that Bone might have probably noticed his presence. When they exited the tunnel the accused parked to the side and Busuttil went out. From there on Bone entered Luqa where a mobile squad car stopped him and he was then arrested.

When Portelli went to speak to him and asked him why he had been lurking near his home, Bone allegedly said: “If I were to do something to you, would I do it with my own car?” At that point in time, Bone also denied having anyone with him.

Under cross-examination, Dr Gianella Caruana Curran appearing for the accused verified that the Police Commissioner had in fact not instructed Portelli to follow Bone's car and neither did Portelli inform him that he would do so.

Dr Caruana Curran queried why it hadn't Portelli opted to stay out of the matter, given that the accused was being investigated in his regard. She also repeatedly questioned the position of the photographers while Portelli was holding the accused and speaking to him.

Portelli, whom Gatt had nicknamed him 'Pino Marchese' stated that he met Gatt and Psaila on his own initiative since he had his own personal suspicions that they were involved in a crime in Birkirkara. He also claimed that, through Gatt, he learned much of the crime.

Magistrate Meli however enquired whether he found it strange that, as a police officer, he opted to hang out with someone possessing a tainted record. Portelli claimed that the ‘investigation’ required him to act the part, and that all the current investigations were fruit of the information he uncovered at the time. 

It seems that the Maltese courts are determined to release this entire criminal gang on bail so that they can continue their criminal activities and no doubt intimidate witnesses. It says above that Joseph Baldacchino was 'shot at' in December. That sounds a bit like a hunting accident! Joseph Baldacchino was murdered and this man had the murdered man's car make and registration number in his possession. Malta has to be the only country in the world who would treat suspects in such serious offences in such a way. And people wonder why the Maltese system is so high in the corruption ratings.