Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murderers intended to shoot her on an August night in the summer of 2017, but aborted the plan at the last minute.
Convicted murderer Vince Muscat and Alfred Degiorgio were already on site in a field in Bidnija with a clear view of Caruana Galizia typing away at her computer.
Degiorgio was to shoot her through a basement window using a long-range rifle that was resting on sacks filled with soil.
But when the pair called George Degiorgio to reach them with the getaway car, a problem arose.
George informed his brother Alfred that there were many police cars around and the plan was called off.
The details were given in court on Tuesday morning by Muscat, who was testifying in the compilation of evidence against alleged murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech.
“Alfred realised that his brother was getting cold feet about coming over with his own car. We called it off… George always preferred a plan to use a bomb to murder her because it was less hassle,” Muscat testified.
Last February, Muscat admitted guilt and was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a plea bargain agreement. He was also given a presidential pardon to tell all on the murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop.
The Degiorgio brothers, who were co-accused with carrying out the murder, have stuck to their non-guilty plea and are awaiting trial.
Fenech is charged with masterminding the murder by asking Melvin Theuma to get in touch with the Degiorgios and get them to eliminate Caruana Galizia. Fenech is alleged to have paid €150,000 for the murder.
Theuma was given a presidential pardon to tell all after he provided police with several recordings of conversations he had with Fenech and others in the aftermath of the murder.
In Tuesday’s sitting, Muscat said that he asked “Maksar and Jamie” to supply the explosives.
Maksar is the family nickname of brothers Adrian and Robert Agius, while Jamie Vella is their associate. They allegedly supplied the bomb that was eventually used to eliminate Caruana Galizia. The trio are facing separate charges.
The bomb was imported and contained 500g of gelatine and had to be activated through a mobile phone SMS.
Muscat testified that when they were given the go-ahead to set their plan in motion after the 2017 general election, Alfred and himself used to track Caruana Galizia’s movements on a daily basis.
He told the court of how they used several vantage points to observe Caruana Galizia’s house in Bidnija using powerful binoculars. They also followed her to a coffee shop in Naxxar, where she used to go regularly.
Bomb supplied by ‘Maksar and Jamie’
The first plan was to shoot her and the weapon was supplied by Robert Agius and Jamie Vellam he said. But when that plan was aborted, they opted for a bomb.
Muscat said a plan to place the bomb inside Caruana Galizia’s car on Notte Bianca did not materialise but on 15 October, Alfred noticed that the journalist’s car was parked outside the gate.
Muscat testified that himself and Alfred made their way to the car in the dead of night and while he stood watch, Alfred picked the car lock and placed the bomb underneath the driver seat.
The bomb was detonated by George Degiorgio on 16 October, shortly before 3pm when Caruana Galizia drove out of her home, the court heard.
Muscat recounted how the day after the murder he drove Alfred to Marsaskala from where he was to collect the balance of €120,000 for the assassination. The money was split equally between the three. €30,000 had already been paid when the murder plan was set in motion.
Muscat told the court that the Degiorgio brothers were tipped off on a police raid on the Marsa potato shed that served as their headquarters. He said Alfred knew that the raid would take place on 4 December.
Muscat said Alfred never told him who he was getting information from but insisted that former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta was “leaking information”.
Magistrate Rachel Montebello is presiding. Lawyers Charles Mercieca, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri are Fenech’s defence team, while Superintendent Keith Arnaud, aided by deputy attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia, is prosecuting.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are representing the Caruana Galizia family parte civile. Lawyer Marc Sant is assisting Vince Muscat.
More to follow.