[WATCH] A mother’s pursuit for justice: Isabelle Bonnici interviewed

Isabelle Bonnici lost her son Jean Paul Sofia in tragic circumstances last December. She fought for a public inquiry to seek answers for the many questions that still linger

(Photo: James Bianchi)
(Photo: James Bianchi)

Isabelle Bonnici's world came crashing down on 3 December 2022. At the Corradino industrial estate, Jean Paul, her son, was taken from her in a devastating construction site accident. 

Speaking in a recorded interview that will be aired on Monday night on TVM’s Xtra, Isabelle shared her memories of Jean Paul, a young man full of life and dreams, whose infectious laughter could brighten even the darkest days. 

"He was my life," Isabelle began with a soft smile, her eyes filled with love and sorrow.  

"Jean Paul filled my life; my life revolved around him. He was sweet, kind-hearted, and he loved life itself." 

Jean Paul's passions were various, but they reflected a young man with a zest for everything life had to offer.  

"He loved animals, music, going out with his friends, and spending time with his girlfriend," Isabelle recalled. "He had a great love for everything and everyone around him." 

Her voice quivering, she continued: "He loved me immensely. He always told me that he loved me, even if he loved teasing me. He loved joking around and making people laugh." 

Like any young person, Jean Paul had dreams and aspirations. He wanted to become a pilot, but he was also eager to enter the working world. 

He found himself drawn to the construction industry through some friends who worked in the field. Isabelle remembered being concerned about the dangers of such work, but Jean Paul reassured her with his enthusiasm. 

"He knew I was worried,” she recalled. Three months before his death, Jean Paul approached his mum with a wish of changing his job. “He told me that he will be working with an air condition company.” 

Isabelle was so happy with this work switch, that she urged him to consider taking an MCAST course and starting his own business. 

“I never wanted him to be on a construction site... we offered to buy him a van so he can pursue his own business." 

Isabelle spoke of Jean Paul's strong sense of justice. He would not hesitate to speak up against any wrongdoing he witnessed.  

"If he saw something at work that bothered him, he wouldn't stay silent," Isabelle recalled proudly. “He would tell me; 'Mummy today they did not treat a colleague well, and I spoke up’.” 

Jean Paul's warmth and sincerity touched everyone he encountered. "Everyone loved him, and he loved his friends dearly," Isabelle said, her voice carrying a mix of pride and heartache. 

On that fateful day, Isabelle called Jean Paul at around 7:30am. Little did she know that this call would be their last conversation.  

"We said our usual words to each other: 'God bless you,' 'I love you,'" she whispered, tears welling up. “I love you too,” he answered. 

Later that day, she received a call that changed her life forever. 

"A building collapsed, and there was Jean Paul," a friend of her son told her. Panicking, she kept asking where her son is. 

The agony of not knowing his fate during the hours spent waiting for updates was indescribable. Deep inside, she knew he died, but she clung on to hope. 

“I knew. I felt it.” 

The tragedy that befell Jean Paul left Isabelle shattered, but she found the strength to fight for justice.  

"The first two months were the hardest," she admitted. "I had to cut myself off from Malta temporarily, following my doctor's orders. But I realised that I needed to do something, to find some semblance of purpose." 

Determined to seek answers and accountability, Isabelle embarked on a courageous journey to demand a public inquiry into the construction site accident that claimed her son's life.  

She decided that she needed to approach the highest authorities, including the Prime Minister himself.  

"The Prime Minister refused immediately," Isabelle said, recounting the hurdles she faced.  

"He feared it would become a ‘political show' but I couldn't understand... I told him that if everything went well, it would not be a show, and if mistakes were made, they could be rectified." 

Despite the obstacles, Isabelle remained steadfast in her pursuit of truth.  

Her quest for a public inquiry was not just about her son, she explained, but also about ensuring that such tragedies never befall another family.  

"I had many questions, most of them remain unanswered," she said. "But I will continue to seek justice for Jean Paul and for all those who have lost their lives in similar incidents." 

Amid the pain and sorrow, Isabelle found the resilience to carry on, driven by the love of a mother and memories of her dear Jean Paul.  

In the face of unimaginable grief, she ended up emerging as a modern-day lady of sorrows, advocating for a safer Malta and a future where no mother would have to endure her heart-wrenching loss. 

Saviour Balzan’s interview with Isabelle Bonnici will be aired on Monday 24 July on TVM’s Xtra at 9pm.