Evidence against two soldiers charged with the racially-motivated murder of a man is being presented in court on Tuesday.
Francesco Fenech, 21, and Lorin Scicluna, 22, stand accused of having killed Lassana Cisse Souleymane, 42, in a drive-by shooting in Birżebbuġa last April. They deny the charges of what is believed to be Malta’s first racially-motivated murder.
Highlights from Insp. Keith Arnaud’s testimony:
- Francesco Fenech admits to taunting migrants but denies shooting
- Lorin Scicluna feared migrants were taking over
- Shots appear to have been fired from driver’s side of white Toyota
- Soldiers wanted to burst pistol’s barrel
Here’s a minute-by-minute account of Tuesday’s court case:
12:07pm: And that’s it for today. The case has been adjourned until Monday July 3, when the prosecution will present more witnesses for the compilation of evidence.
Family and others who flooded the court room are slowly shuffling out and the accused will shortly be escorted back into custody.
12:05pm: Magistrate Farrugia has just delivered a prima facie decree that there is sufficient evidence for the accused to be placed under bill of indictment. Records of the case will now be sent to the Attorney General.
12:01pm: PC St John said he then started scouring the site for evidence, and later that evening had entered a nearby residence to start looking through CCTV footage.
The recordings had featured a white Toyota flashing by at high speed. Officers had tried zooming in, however they still couldn’t make out the number plates, he said.
11:58am: The police officer tells the court that he had scrambled, calling for three ambulances and other officers to be dispatched.
11:55am: When he arrived at the scene, a man had run out at him groaning in pain. The front of his jeans was drenched in blood. A few paces away was another man who was also reeling in pain having been shot too. It was this second victim who had told him that another man had been shot.
“I saw a man wearing a red hoodie. I called out to him ‘Mr, Mr, it’s the police. But there was no response and no sign of life,” he said.
11:53am: Another police officer, Cecil St John, has now taken the stand.
He had also been on duty that night and had responded to call from the police control room. A person, he said, had been shot.
11:50am: Further down the road, she found a man, wearing a red hoodie and headphones, with eyes half shut – it was the lifeless body of Lassana Cisse.
She tells the court she had immediately called for assistance.
As she waited for other officers to arrive, she spoke to the two injured migrants who told her of the drive by shooting.
She then searched the street to try and preserve evidence.
Close to Mr Cisse’s body she found one bullet casing and further down the road she found two more. She recalled marking the items with stones and cans found on site and closing off the scene with police tape.
11:45am: The sergeant said she had followed the blood stains on the tarmac and found a second man who called out to her and said he had been shot in the buttocks.
11:41am: Police Sergeant Theresa Farrugia of the Birżebbuġa police station is next to take the stand.
She tells the court how she had been on duty the night of the murder, and was among the first officers on the scene after the shooting.
A man, she describes as “dark skinned”, had called out to her on Triq il-Ġebel. He approached from a field path close by and said that he had been shot in the groin. She remembered how his jeans were blood stained.
11:38am: The court says the surgeon and two pathologists on the case as well as Inspector Charlot Casha, the head of Forensics, are all to declare by the next sitting whether the corpse needed to be held for further investigations or whether it might be released for burial.
11:34am: The court is now discussing an application for the release of Mr Cisse’s corpse, filed by Arthur Azzopardi, parte civile, on behalf of the migrant’s family.
There appears to be no objection as long as inquiries have all been concluded.
On his part, Inspector Arnaud points out that technical reports are likely not to have been be completed yet.
11:30am: PC Scerri tells the court how Mr Scicluna took officers to his home, and handed over his weapons and some eight boxes of ammunition.
11:28am: Lorin Scicluna was arrested in Naxxar during a group march with AFM colleagues.
PC Scerri tells the court that the soldier was led to the Ħal Safi barracks where his Toyota was parked. A search of his car had been inconclusive.
11:26am: Once the police had identified the car using the government’s Automatic Number Plate Recognition system, they were then able to confirm it belonged to Mr Scicluna. The CCTV map constructed by investigators had also put the car close to Mr Scicluna’s home at the end of its long drive on the night of the murder.
11:22am: The officer tells the court how investigators had taken stills of the car, and shown them to witnesses who then confirmed that the shots had come from that same vehicle.
11:19am: He had received a tip off about a suspicious white car that had been seen fleeing the scene. He had checked out CCTV footage from the area to identify the car and reconstruct the possibly route it could have taken.
The CCTV investigation continued next day in Birżebbuġa, with officers collecting footage from residences and businesses.
11:13am: Court resumes. PC Gary Scerri from the CID’s homicide squad takes the stand. He recalls how on April 6 he had gone to crime scene, at around midnight.
He had found the corpse of Mr Cisse, blood trickling out from a head wound.
11:05am: In last week’s court sitting Inspector Arnaud had detailed how the police had traced the white Toyota from the murder scene, using a maze of CCTV.
10:55am: The court is taking a quick break, known as temporary adjournment. Inspector Arnaud is expected to provide a further half hour of testimony for today when the proceedings continue.
10:50am: Mr Green tells the court how Mr Scicluna had another car but would use the white Toyota starlet for hunting trips and other things. Mr Fenech had a Volkswagen which he kept spick and span.
10:43am: The witness says that after this incident, the three of them got back into the car and said things like “What the hell, he comes to our country and throws rocks at us Maltese!”. This was the sentiment they all shared, he says.
10:41am: Mr Green says that when they had had this confrontation with the migrant the car’s licence plates had been placed upside down on the car’s dashboard. After the incident the plates were put the right way up on the dashboard. The court was told that the plates were not properly affixed to the front and rear of the car as these were replacements after the originals had been reported stolen.
10:29am: Mr Green tells the court how he would go hunting with Mr Scicluna near the Ħal Safi Barracks. He had also been with the two when they had driven passed a migrant on his bike and insulted him in Arabic. The migrant had hurled stones at their car. When asked why they did this, he replies: “You know, to pick on him”.
10:24am: Inspector Arnaud asks Mr Green what Mr Scicluna had to say about the hit and run incident. “He doesn’t like migrants, because the country is filling up with them,” Mr Green replies. He adds that Mr Fenech would also complain about how migrants were “invading us”.
10:19am: Mr Green tells the court how Mr Fenech had told him about the hit-and-run incident while the three of them were at the Attard pastizzeria where Mr Scicluna worked. Mr Fenech had later shared a photo of the smashed windscreen from the hit-and-run incident on a Whatsapp chat. The photo was later deleted.
10:17am: Replying to questions by Inspector Arnaud, Mr Green tells the court that he had known Mr Scicluna for around three years, having met him through playing Playstation online. Mr Scicluna had introduced him to Mr Fenech a few months ago.
10:15am: A new witness is brought in to testify, a delivery man named Jason Green.
10:05am: Inspector Arnaud explains there were two crime scenes along Triq il-Ġebel at a distance of some 50 metres apart. One near the corpse of Mr Cisse and the other at the spot where two other migrants had been shot.
10.02am: The court hears how both surviving migrants had told the police that they believed the shots fired at them had come from the driver’s side of the vehicle. Inspector Arnaud says that Mr Scicluna had a gun license and was a registered shooter. Gunshot residue was concentrated on the side of the car indicated by the two migrants.
10am: Inspector Arnaud says that Lorin Scicluna, who claims to have been the driver on the night of the drive-by shooting, had accompanied police along the route taken from the crime scene to Triq is-Sorijiet, Paola.
9:59am: Inspector Arnaud explains that Mr Scicluna had admitted during interrogation to owning a semi-automatic CZP10 9 mm, and that he had disposed of its ammunition before the police had got to him. Six 9mm bullet casings were found at the scene of the crime. The pistol had an extended magazine, giving it an extra five rounds.
9:55am: Lawyer Giannella de Marco, appearing for Fenech, is now starting her cross-examination. She asks about the version given by two surviving migrants in hospital. And for details about the alleged murder weapon.
9:52am: Inspector Arnaud exhibits personal documents belonging to Mr Cisse which were found in his bloodstained bag after the murder. Three packets of A4 photos of the Toyota taken by Inspector Arnaud himself and four envelopes containing dvds of interrogations of accused, are also submitted.
9:50am: Returning to the day of murder, Inspector Arnaud details how mobile phone data collected by the police showed that the two accused had left Attard and moved to the Fgura.
9:48am: The cousin had been questioned alone and then repeated his story in the presence of both the accused.
9:47am: Inspector Arnaud says Mr Fenech had asked the cousin how to burst the barrel of a handgun sometime before the murder. However, he had refused because it was dangerous.
9:42am: The court hears how after the murder a cousin of Mr Fenech, a certain Dylan, had sent him a text message urging him not to hang around with “bad company”.
9:40am: Turning to the day of murder. Mr Fenech says he had been at pastizzeria where Lorin worked, keeping him company and then the two had gone their separate ways.
9:37am: Mr Fenech had also denied that he would shoot at birds and cats, but says he and Mr Scicluna would occasionally shoot an air rifle.
9:35am: Inspector Arnaud says that under interrogation Mr Fenech had confirmed the reported hit-and-run incident involving a migrant on a bike, but said the migrant had kicked their car door for no reason. When he got out of the car, the migrant had run off. Inspector Arnaud points out that their car had been moving at the time the migrant was meant to have kicked their car.
9:33am: Mr Fenech confirms that he and Mr Scicluna occasionally went to Ħal Far to taunt migrants but not out of spite or hatred but “as a joke”. He says he doesn’t hate migrants but disliked that they came to Malta.
9:31am: Inspector Arnaud tells the court how Mr Fenech had joined the AFM in October of 2017, first meeting Mr Scicluna around that time.
9:30am: Magistrate Farrugia has entered the court room and Inspector Arnaud has just taken the stand.
9:25am: Inspector Arnaud has also entered the court room, with proceedings expected to begin shortly.
9:22am: Francesco Fenech has just been ushered into the court room by a police officer. He sits in the dock, hands clasped on his lap, having a word with his lawyer.
9:19am: Mr Scicluna has left the court room to have a private word with his lawyers.
9:18am: Lorin Scicluna has just been brought into the court room. Officers removed his handcuffs as he takes a seat in the packed court room.
9:17am: Today’s court session is expected to see Inspector Keith Arnaud give details of Mr Fenech’s interrogation regarding the events of April 6. The soldier is believed to have pulled the trigger on Mr Cisse, the 42-year-old Ivorian. Two other migrants were also injured in the drive-by shooting. They are also being charged with another hit-and-run involving another migrant.
9:12am: We’re coming to you live from Hall 8 of the magistrate’s court, which is presided over by magistrate Ian Farrugia. The court room is filling up with family members of the accused, but the dock remains empty as the two soldier’s charged with the murder are yet to be brought into court.
9:09am: The two soldiers were suspended from their duties following a special order by President George Vella last week. An internal inquiry is ongoing at the AFM.
Lawyer Giannella de Marco is appearing for Francesco Fenech while Julian Farrugia and Franco Debono are appearing for Lorin Scicluna. Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Trevor Micallef are prosecuting. Dr Arthur Azzopardi is parte civile for the victim’s family.
9:07am: The family of the accused have just walked into the court room. Lawyer Kris Busietta and Inspector Trevor Micallef too.
9:06am: Inspector Keith Arnaud is expected to bring evidence against Francesco Fenech in Tuesday’s session, which should be starting in a few minutes.
9:05am: Shocking details about the murder first emerged in court last Friday.
They are also being charged with another hit-and-run involving another migrant.
Highlights from Inspector Keith Arnaud’s previous testimony:
- The suspects admitted they did not like migrants and would sometimes drive past Ħal Far taunting them.
- On the night of the murder, Fenech told Scicluna to join him to shoot cats.
- When Scicluna expressed shock at the shooting, Fenech threatened to shoot him too.
- Police intricately studied CCTV footage close to the scene of the crime.
- After the murder, the suspects changed some of the car’s distinctive marks to avoid identification.
- The victim was wearing headphones when shot.
- The music was still ongoing when Arnaud approached the corpse, a light flashing under the white sheet.
Lawyer Giannella de Marco is appearing for Francesco Fenech while Julian Farrugia and Franco Debono appear for Lorin Scicluna. Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Trevor Micallef are prosecuting. Dr Arthur Azzopardi is parte civile for the victim’s family.
Magistrate Ian Farrugia is presiding.
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