More details from the disturbing case of the man charged with murdering his mother and sister at their Għaxaq home emerged in court this morning as police investigators revealed the clues that ultimately led to Joseph Bonnici’s arrest and prosecution.
Bonnici was last month charged with the double homicide of his mother Marija Lourdes and his sister Angele, shooting them in the head and finishing them off with a mallet before burying their bodies in a nearby field. He is pleading not guilty to the charges.
A slightly-built man, he cut a nervous figure in the dock as the police pressed their case against him, oftentimes twiddling his fingers at the bottom of the bench and glancing away from the witness stand.
Inside the Għaxaq home
The defendants lived in a segregated building in Għaxaq, with a garage separating the house that Marija Lourdes and Angele used to live in and the one Joseph and his girlfriend used to live in. The door connecting the garage to Marija Lourdes and Angele’s part of the house was further bolstered by a stone slab.
Marija Lourdes and Angele lived under the gaze of several CCTV cameras, with the mother keeping the monitor in her room.
Asked by police officers why the cameras were installed in the first place, Joseph said they were scared but that he had no idea why. However, his girlfriend explained that they were worried about an impending civil lawsuit in which they had to pay €80,000 in compensation to the relatives of their former neighbours, who Joseph Bonnici’s father had murdered back in 2000.
“She said they were worried about having to pay so much compensation when they were only on minimum wage,” PC Malcolm Pace explained.
At one point, Joseph Bonnici suggested to police officers that his mother and sister might have fled the country to escape this lawsuit.
However, police soon realised that this was an extremely unlikely story
Marija Lourdes’ and Angele’s phones and wallets, including their ID cards and Angele’s driving license, were still inside their respective bedrooms. Police also found another phone, a laptop and a tablet inside Angele’s room, but Joseph insisted that she had a third phone.
PC Malcom Pace said it seemed as though someone had left the home in a rush. A half-drunk mug of coffee was found in the kitchen and there was a mess of clothes on Angele’s bed.
Also, Angele’s car was still parked inside the garage.
Police later discovered that neither Marija Lourdes nor Angele ever owned a passport, which means that, had they escaped Malta, they would have done so without any form of identification. However, even that was unlikely, as none of the victims’ bags or clothes were missing.
‘I killed them, but I never raped my sister’
Smelling a rat, police requested Joseph Bonnici’s call profile from GO. While analysing it, they realised there were inconsistencies between the call profile and his original testimony. They called him in for interrogation, where he eventually admitted to killing his mother and sister and agreed to lead officers to the Gudja field in which he had buried their bodies.
At one point, Joseph interrupted the interrogation to say he is feeling tired and hungry and wants to speak to his girlfriend. Police called his girlfriend over to the Żejtun police station so the two could speak privately, but she was confused and agitated at what was going on. After attempts to calm her down failed, the police called in a medic.
In his testimony, Inspector Roderick Attard revealed the first thing Bonnici told him following his arrest.
“In front of my very eyes, Joseph told me that it’s true [that he killed his mother and sister] but that the rape allegation wasn’t true at all,” he said. “He told me he was going to end up in prison anyway.”
It emerged in previous court sittings that Angele Bonnici had started spreading the word that her brother had sexually abused her, but Joseph Bonnici insists she was trying to blackmail him into giving her money so that she could buy a new car.
While Bonnici’s motive for killing his mother and sister remains unclear, it is evident that the rape rumours were weighing on his mind at the moment of his arrest.
Bonnici led police to the field and told them to search behind a particular abandoned room but said he didn’t want to look at what he had done to his relatives. However, it was dark and the officers required Bonnici to pinpoint exactly where he had buried the bodies.
At one point, he admitted that he had shot his sister twice and smashed her head in with a mallet and that he had fired one shot at his mother before resorting to the mallet. He went up to his bedroom and pretended to sleep until his girlfriend arrived home from work and then creeped back outside and drove the bodies to the field.
Magistrate Joe Mifsud is presiding over the case while Inspector John Spiteri is prosecuting and Franco Debono is acting as Bonnici’s defence lawyer. The case continues on 24th April at 9am.