‘We always knew this was a case of murder’: Zahra family speaks out

Erin Tanti admitted on Friday to the wilful homicide of Lisa Marie Zahra back in 2014

The Zahra family and their legal team outside court this morning
The Zahra family and their legal team outside court this morning

Lisa Maria Zahra’s death back in 2014 was always a murder case and not a suicide, the Zahra family said on Friday.

In a statement issued shortly after Erin Tanti was sentenced to 20 years and six months in prison for his role in the then 15-year-old girl’s death, the family said that she had been killed by the very person who had the duty of care to look after her.  

Tanti, the girl’s teacher at the time, had entered into a romantic relationship with the girl, who died in what was believed to have been a suicide pact when she fell from Dingli cliffs in March 2014.

Rather than a suicide, the family said her death was always a case of murder.

“Today we can finally speak out,” read the family’s statement. “By Erin Tanti’s own admission in court this morning, on the 19th of March 2014, Lisa Maria Zahra was murdered by the very person who had a duty of care to look after her.”

“Erin Tanti was an adult. He was Lisa Maria’s drama teacher. Lisa Maria was his 15-year-old student who would still be alive today were it not for this man. We have always known as a family that this was a case of murder and finally after a long drawn out five years Erin Tanti has admitted in court to the crime of murdering Lisa Maria.”

The family said that losing a child is one of the worst things that one can experience in life and is all the more difficult to comprehend when this happens “suddenly and as a result of the heartless actions of a third party”.

“The past five years since Lisa Maria’s tragic death have been extremely difficult for all the Zahra family who had to come to terms with Lisa Maria’s death. Apart from the trauma of what happened, the long drawn out legal process, and the fact that as a family we could not publicly discuss the case to correct the misconceptions reported by some of the media, despite having seen all the clear evidence that Lisa Maria was murdered, made matters more difficult.”

“Lisa Maria was a beautiful 15-year-old girl whose life was snatched away in the cruellest of ways.  As a family we have set up the Lisa Maria Foundation in order to honour her memory and try and derive something positive out of this tragedy.”

The family said the foundation would “continue to work hard in her name to do whatever possible to help safeguard our children and continue to ensure that there are the necessary checks and balances in place when people are employed and entrusted with the care of children. In this way we hope to keep Lisa Maria’s memory alive and work towards avoiding something like this ever happening again”.

The family thanked the police, including inspector Keith Arnaud for their work, as well Gianella De Marco Joe Gilgio, Stephen Tonna Lowell and Rueben Farrugia for their work on the case.

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