One of the men accused of complicity in a botched hold up in Zabbar last month, threatened a police inspector after a number of people testified against him in court on Thursday morning.
Luke Vella, 23 and Marlon Baldacchino, 18, both from Żabbar appeared before magistrate Gabriella Vella as the case against them continued on Thursday. The pair are still currently under arrest, accused of complicity in the armed robbery in which shots were fired.
Marcus John Calleja, 46, of Balzan had previously been charged in connection with the robbery and had pleaded not guilty. Calleja had been arrested after he had entered a shop, armed and wearing a hood, and demanded money from the owner, who resisted him with the assistance of bystanders. At that point Calleja had allegedly opened fire, before being arrested by police officers from the Rapid Intervention Unit.
One of the prosecuting police inspectors, Fabian Fleri, testified that CCTV and mobile phone positioning data showed that Luke Vella was waiting in a car as Baldacchino entered the shop. Vella was constantly on his phone to Baldacchino during the hold up, he said. But when questioned, the man had denied all involvement in the heist, saying he had been speaking to Vella for other reasons.
A confectionary employee also testified this morning, explaining how the robber had entered his shop and pointed a gun at him. He had struggled with the robber, who fired shots as he was wresting the firearm from his grasp. When he had subdued the would-be thief, he pulled off his hood. “I know Marcus,” said the shopkeeper. “He started to say ‘I wasn’t supposed to come here.’”
It was the third time that he had tried to steal from him, he said. Vella had bought items from the shop just three weeks before the failed heist. He had last seen Baldacchino some years ago, he said.
Another youth testified, saying he had gone to the shop to buy cigarettes. When he left he noticed someone outside. “I was on my bike and he asked for a lighter and asked me to give him a lift on my bike. I rode with him on the bike away from the confectionary.”
The witness claimed not to have known the person, but had “seen him somewhere in Zabbar before”. He was around 19 or 20 and dressed in black, he said.
Asked if he recognised anyone in the courtroom, at first he said “I don’t think so.”
But reminded that he was under oath, he later said “he might have been one of the accused” as “he looked a bit like him.”
Lawyer Roberto Montalto, appearing for Vella, asked for bail, saying that there was no correlation with the eyewitnesses and his client. “The case against him is based on phone calls and data. It is up to the court to decide whether these are unequivocal, but there is no risk of him tampering with evidence.”
“He is also being accused of breaching bail, but the alleged breach of bail are the charges against him and so unproven.”
“Here we have a crime over two months old, in which time he was on police bail and had not attempted to contact any other of the co-accused or witnesses.” Although Vella’s criminal record was a matter of concern, he had cooperated with the investigation, said the lawyer.
“In this case, it appears that Vella… did nothing that could cast a shadow over his behaviour on bail. He never skipped an appointment or tried to abscond or hide.”
Inspector Fleri, in his submissions on bail, told the court that Vella had been in court from the age of fifteen. His untrustworthiness is reflected in his criminal record, said the inspector.
The court said it was of the opinion that the accused did not give the necessary guarantees required by law. Bail was denied again.
As the accused were being taken out of the courtroom, a disturbance arose in the corridor after one of them made a threatening remark to one of the prosecuting police inspectors about his children. It is not known whether further charges will be pressed in regard to this incident.
Lawyer Mark Busuttil appeared for Baldacchino, lawyer Roberto Montalto appeared for Vella. Inspectors Fabian Fleri, Lydon Zammit and Joanna Piscopo prosecuted.
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