Former drama teacher Erin Tanti has been sentenced to 20 years and six months in jail after pleading guilty to the wilful homicide of his student Lisa Marie Zahra at Dingli Cliffs in 2014.
Tanti’s trial by jury was supposed to start today but the former teacher filed in a last-minute guilty plea in an attempt to decrease his punishment.
Judge Consuleo Scerri Herrera promptly sentenced Tanti to 20 years and six months in jail and fined him €22,000. Apart from the wilful homicide charge, Tanti was also found guilty of assisting in a suicide, participating in sexual activity with a vulnerable minor and creating and possessing indecent images of minor.
The sentencing sparked scenes of emotion in the packed courtroom, with people sobbing and a relative of Zahra shouting out “kornut” (cuckold) at Tanti as he was escorted to jail.
Tanti was arrested on 19th March 2014 after he was found lying injured at the bottom of Dingl Cliffs, near Zahra’s dead body, with his car nearby.
Tanti had been in a secret relationship with Zahra, who was suffering from depression and had tried to harm herself on multiple occasions. However, a groundsman at Zahra’s home once spotted Tanti on the premises and called up her father, hotelier Tony Zahra.
Lisa Marie Zahra told Tanti, who warned her that he will kill himself if her family knew his identity. Zahra told him that if he was going to kill himself, she wanted to join him, and Tanti drove her off to Dingli Cliffs.
Zahra family statement
After the sentence was passed, the Zahra family issued this statement:
“It is one of the worst possible circumstances of life for a parent to lose their child. When this loss is unexpected and the result of criminal behaviour by a third party, it becomes even harder to accept.”
“The past five years have been really difficult for the entire Zahra family, who had to come to terms with the death of Lisa Maria. Besides the psychological trauma and legal delays, this period was rendered even harder by the fact that the family couldn’t discuss facts of the case in public. This was effectively a homicide and the Zahra family couldn’t address certain incorrect reports that appeared in sections of the media.
Now the Zahra family can speak freely. Today, in front of the criminal court, Erin Tanti admitted to killing Lisa Maria Zahra on 19th March 2014.
Erin Tanti was an adult and her teacher and had an obligation to protect and take care of Lisa Maria, a 15-year-old student. Were it not for Tanti’s criminal act, Lisa Maria would still be enjoying life today.
The Zahra family always knew it was a cold-blooded homicide and now, after a legal procedure that lasted over five years, Erin Tanti has admitted to the crime of homicide.
In the most cruel fashion, Erin Tanti took away the life of a beautiful 15-year-old girl.
To honour the memory of Lisa Maria and to try and bring something positive out of this tragedy, the Zahra family set up the Lisa Maria Foundation. This foundation will continue working hard in Lisa Maria’s name and will do everything possible to ensure that our children are protected, including by ensuing continuous scrutiny of people entrusted to look after them in every sector. In so doing, we hope that Lisa Maria’s memory will be kept alive and that we can avoid other tragedies.”
“The Zahra family would like to thank the police, in particular Inspector Keith Arnaud, for their intense and detailed investigations, especially in the days following Lisa Maria’s death. We would also like to thank the lawyers who assisted us throughout these proceedings – namely Giannella DeMarco, Joe Giglio, Stephen Tonna Lowell and Reuben Farrugia. We also thank Attorney General Peter Grech and his assistant Philip Galea Farrugia for all the work they put into this case. Finally, we would also like to thank all the friends and people who have shown solidarity and who have supported Uncle Tony and the rest of the family.”