Members of a local law firm had feared for their personal safety and that of their loved ones after a former colleague whose consultancy contract was not renewed by the firm, bombarded them with threatening messages vouching revenge, a court was told on Monday.
Bartosz Marcin Adruszaniec, 42-year old Polish lawyer who ended up a squatter in abandoned premises lacking water and electricity, was back in court as a number of former colleagues and a relative of one of the partners, recipients of the allegedly threatening mail, took the witness stand.
The accused, who was remanded in custody upon his arraignment in April, is pleading not guilty to charges of harassment, blackmail and threats, instilling fear in the partners and other employees at the firm.
He is also facing charges relating to simple theft from a shop and an attempted robbery from a private residence at St Paul’s Bay.
“It was scary. It put me under mental stress. I felt I was targeted,” recalled the personal assistant to one of the partners at the law firm, the name of whom was banned by the court after parte civile lawyer Stefano Filletti pointed out that the story generated negative publicity which was having an adverse effect on the professional and personal lives of the alleged victims.
The court was told that the non-renewal of the lawyer’s consultancy contract around February had unleashed a barrage of WhatsApp messages, calls and Instagram posts, including disturbing images of a burnt-down house and a woman lying at the foot of a flight of stairs, besides mention of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“Tonnes of WhatsApp messages were being sent. I was scared,” recalled the assistant, explaining that she had forwarded the mail to the HR Manager.
“We were all very tense. At one point we had to get security at the office,” the woman concluded.
The wife of one of the partners testified that she too had ended up a recipient of messages. They had threatened to destabilize her marriage after the accused alleged that her husband had been involved in an extramarital affair while on a business trip abroad.
“I trust my husband but I confronted him. It caused stress in our relationship. We worked through it,” the woman explained, adding that although later, the accused had apologized, saying that he had not wished to involve her, after a brief interval, the threatening messages resumed.
The accused had allegedly told his former employer’s wife that her husband “had unleashed him,” also making reference to the Caruana Galizia murder which had accentuated the woman’s fear for the safety of her husband, particularly when the sender of the messages claimed “I have nothing to lose.”
As a mother of two young kids, the woman feared that she would find her tormentor waiting outside the family home. Stress and anxiety kicked in, the witness recalled.
Another partner at the firm had also shared the same feelings, recounting his experience when testifying as to how he too had been bombarded with threatening mail over a span of a few weeks, pointing out that it was not normal to receive 28 long messages over just four days.
Even worse was one particularly “disturbing video” wherein the accused- in an intimidating tonne-told the viewer “It’s such a beautiful day……this will not stop here.”
“I felt threatened,” the witness said, explaining further how he feared that the former consultant might turn up outside his family home scaring his wife and children.
The accused had threatened “to publish things,” taking out or inventing information “to damage the reputation of the firm,” the witness went on, explaining how the firm serviced a certain clientele who would expect no correspondence save for that which was work-related.
“We risked losing important clients,” the legal partner stressed.
In spite of all this, the firm had felt concerned about their former colleague’s well-being, even agreeing to offer him psychiatric help and money to settle his accommodation bills.
The case continues.
Lawyer Graziella Tanti is defence counsel.
Lawyer Stefano Filletti is appearing as parte civile for the law firm.
Inspector Clayton Camilleri is prosecuting.
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