The pardoned middleman in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Melvin Theuma, has not yet fully recovered and may be unfit to testify for long periods of time, sources close to the case have told The Malta Independent on Sunday.
Theuma was hospitalised in July after an alleged self-harm incident that took place at his Swieqi home, a day before he was due to testify in the compilation of evidence against alleged murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech.
Theuma claims Fenech had paid him to act as a go-between with the three suspected hitmen who blew the journalist up in a car bomb attack in October 2017. Much of the evidence against Fenech rests on his testimony and secret recordings that he took over a number of months.
Theuma allegedly slashed his own throat and stabbed himself in the abdomen on 22 July. He was, for a time, in critical condition. At first, he was speaking to police by scribbling notes on a piece of paper but started talking about two weeks later.
The police had issued daily updates on his condition. Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa had told journalists that there was no sign of a break-in at the house, which was under constant police watch.
He was discharged from hospital on 7 August. A month later he was back in hospital, this time for unrelated heart surgery.
In August, following the suicide attempt, Fenech’s defence team asked the court to appoint experts to assess Theuma’s psychological state. The move was taken by some to indicate that Fenech’s lawyers would target the credibility of the main witness against their client.
The court had appointed a team of psychiatrists to assess Theuma but, for unspecified reasons, the medical experts had later renounced their brief.
On 21 October, when asked by Fenech’s defence team as to Theuma’s condition, Magistrate Rachel Montebello said a new team of experts had been appointed and a report would be presented to the court before Theuma would be summoned to testify again.
Sources said the report has not been presented yet.
Notwithstanding this fact, Fenech’s defence team this week filed a court application calling for the murder case to resume and for middleman Melvin Theuma to return to the witness stand for cross-examination. They also asked for the next sitting in the compilation – scheduled for 2 December – to be brought forward.
A source said it was difficult to understand how the lawyers are asking for Theuma to be brought to testify when they were the ones who asked the court to appoint a psychiatrist to assess him. “You have to decide. You’re either going to wait for the report, or you’re going to tell the court that he is mentally unfit to testify.”
Another source said that Theuma is speaking, but not as before. “He has not recovered 100% and there are doubts on whether he can spend long hours testifying in court.”
Theuma has testified on various occasions and in different cases, including the compilation, the public inquiry and the case against the alleged hitmen. His testimony sometimes lasted up to six hours or more. “This is difficult for a normal healthy person, let alone for someone who suffered such injuries,” the source said.
A few weeks ago, Fenech’s lawyers said that their client was “framed” by Theuma, who had “bought his presidential pardon for €17,000” using Edwin Brincat ‘il-Gojja’, an acquaintance of then police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar. They also charged that the prosecution had “coached” the witness, a claim which the police inspectors involved in the case vehemently denied.
Two of Fenech’s lawyers, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Charles Mercieca, are currently being over an alleged attempt to bribe a Times of Malta journalist. Chief Justice Emeritus Vincent de Gaetano is chairing the committee that is probing the allegations.