Officers testify on searches undertaken in Caruana Galizia murder case

The compilation of evidence against George and Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat continued today, almost a year after Daphne Caruana Galizia's brutal murder in a car bomb

The compilation of evidence against the three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia continued today
The compilation of evidence against the three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia continued today

George Degiorgio, his brother Alfred Degiorgio and associate Vince Muscat were back in court Friday, as the compilation of evidence against them continues. The three are accused with the murder of journalist Daphone Caruana Galizia.

A number of reports were presented in this morning’s brief sitting, for which the victim’s parents and sisters were present.

Two forensic unit officers took the witness stand to testify regarding the search undertaken at George Degiorgio’s flat in St Paul’s Bay.

The officers said they lifted fingerprints from the apartment, retrieved several items and collected samples for DNA testing.

Two other officers, who were tasked with carrying out searches - on 4 December - at GO’s Marsa head office, a parked Toyota Aygo vehicle, and a building in Zabbar, also gave testimony.

The case continued under the usual tight security
The case continued under the usual tight security

They presented to court the photos taken in relation with their searches, including fingerprint images.

In a sitting on the case yesterday, forensic officers told the court that devices had been collected from cars parked outside the potato shed and regatta club in Marsa, and from two vessels. Devices were also lifted from the bottom of the sea, and from locations in St Paul's Bay and Siggiewi.

Amongst these were devices sent to Europol's The Hague headquarters for more examination.

The case continues on 25 October.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The accused 

  • George Degiorgio 55, unemployed, lives in St Paul's Bay, known as Ic-Ciniz
  • Alfred Degiorgio, 53, unemployed lives in St Paul's Bay, known as il-Fulu
  • Vincent Muscat, 55, unemployed lives in Msida, known as il-Kohhu

The courtroom players 

  • Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is presiding
  • Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are prosecuting
  • Deputy attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia is assiting the prosecution
  • Martin Fenech is appearing for Vince Muscat
  • William Cuschieri and Martha Mifsud are appearing for Alfred Degiorgio
  • Josette Sultana is appearing for George Degiorgio
  • Therese Comodini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi are appearing parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family

What we know so far

Caruana Galizia’s car

  • The Peugeot car Daphne Caruana Galizia was driving at the time had been leased four months before
  • Her son Matthew Caruana Galizia had occasionally used the car in the period
  • Matthew was the last person to have parked the car outside the gate of the family’s Bidnija home
  • Investigators dismantled a similar model of the car to determine whether any debris collected from the crime scene was extraneous
  • This led the police to discover the presence of an electronic board, which was part of the SIM card dock on the explosive device

The ‘small white car’

  • A person who spoke to the police had noticed a “small white car” frequenting a particular area at Tat-Targa Battery, part of the Victoria Lines
  • On the day of the murder the white car was there but unlike previous occasions the driver was not inside
  • Police noticed that next to where the car used to be parked part of a wall had collapsed and led to a place with a birds-eye view of Bidnija
  • Forensic experts combed the area for any clues, including cigarette butts
  • After the murder, the car was never seen again
  • Given Caruana Galizia did not have a fixed pattern of movement, police believe someone was shadowing her movements

The detonator

  • Location data from the Bidnija area led the police to home in on a number that received an SMS at 2.58pm and stopped broadcasting thereafter
  • The number was linked to an electronic device normally found in appliances that can be activated remotely
  • This device acted as the detonator of the car bomb
  • The device was switched on in the Bidnija area at around 2am on 16 October
  • It remained in a static location for the day until it received an SMS and disappeared

The killer SMS

  • The SMS that triggered the bomb was sent from a Nokia 105 mobile phone connected to the cell tower near the YMCA in Valletta
  • This phone was switched on, on the day of the explosion and started broadcasting from a cell ID near the Curia
  • The signal moved to Paceville, Senglea, Rinella, Zabbar and Xghajra as it bounced from cell towers north and south of the country every hour
  • The cell towers all faced seawards that led police to suspect the mobile phone was on a boat circling the island
  • The number linked to the detonator and the number that sent the SMS had been set up in November 2016 and had only corresponded with each other on three occasions

The pleasure boats

  • The Degiorgio brothers both own pleasure boats
  • CCTV footage showed that one of them – the Maya – was spotted leaving the Grand Harbour at around 8am before turning north
  • At the time the killer SMS was sent, the Maya was spotted under the Great Siege Bell area, where it stopped for a few minutes before heading towards Marsa

The top up call

  • The Secret Service had intercepted a call from George Degiorgio’s phone, asking the recipient to top him up with €5
  • The person was unable to and Degiorgio called another person, asking the same question “Don’t take long, if you can,” Degiorgio told the person
  • The person complied and minutes later topped up the number identified by George Degiorgio
  • Police obtained call profiles relating to George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat
  • All mobile numbers involved were activated within 20 minutes of each other – two were activated in Senglea and the third in Hamrun

Other facts

  • Alfred Degiorgio's DNA matched that found on a cigarette butt, which was picked up from the Victoria Lines
  • Police say Alfred Degiorgio was the spotter monitoring the Caruana Galizia household and is believed to have remained all night at the vantage point
  • Alfred called his brother George Degiorgio to inform him Caruana Galizia had left the house
  • The call lasted 107 seconds, which is the time it takes to drive from the house to where the bomb exploded
  • After detonating the bomb by SMS, George Degiorgio messaged his wife with the words: "Buy me wine, my love."
  • George Degiorgio had been telling people the day before the murder that he was going fishing
  • After the incident George was heard boasting "I've caught two big fish today"
  • Though unemployed, the Degiorgio brothers each owned a boat and luxury cars
  • Europol experts accompanied Malta police investigations and searches when the three men were arrested

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