After spending the week calling for help for her brother, Marthese had a bad feeling.
Bastjan was acting erratically again – she knew he had battled with mental health issues before, he had even spent time in Mt Carmel – but she was at a loss at what to do with no one able to offer assistance.
“I remember, it was a Friday, and I had spent the week doing everything I could with my brother’s social worker and other groups to get help, so things don’t get worse,” Marthese said in a powerful interview on Xarabank.
“I’ll never forget, on Monday his social worker told me that since tomorrow was a festa, the 1st of May, the professor probably won’t answer and that I might need to call the police,” she said.
“I felt bad getting the police involved. The police are armed and this was 13 years ago… the only weapon police had to protect themselves were their revolvers… and that’s what they used with Bastjan.”
“On Friday, I was informed that Bastjan had entered the statue of St Bastjan in the pjazza, between the metal gate and the statue itself,” Marthese recounted emotionally.
“I called the police station all morning to tell them he was in the statue, and they told me “but what is he doing wrong?’ I asked them to please go help him, to go get him before he damages something…. and by the evening, I had given up, I told myself I wasn’t going to get through to anyone.
Hours later, Bastjan Borg was shot repeatedly by police in Qormi, after causing a “commotion” near the pjazza. He was 48 years old when he was killed.
“At around 1:30am, my other brother called my crying, saying there were some shots in Qormi, and I thought ‘they killed our brother’… I don’t even know what I started thinking, I took it so bad, I had spent a week telling them this was going to happen…”
“They shot five bullets at close range, and all aimed to kill – they didn’t shoot towards his feet, they were all head and chest.”
Marthese is speaking out about the pain her family suffered due to a lack of police training when it comes to dealing with people who may be suffering from mental health issues.
“13 years ago, I was scared to show my face – there was a stigma on talking about mental health, and I was scared for my family, I didn’t think society would accept us. Today, I want to lead by example because we need to learn from these incidents.”
“Whoever isn’t in full control of his mental capacities, that person has nothing less than you or me.”
Saying her brother Bastjan was a “hero” to her, she says she had appealed years ago for safer ways for police to handle people.
“The police didn’t need to go armed with revolvers, we had appealed for taser guns and pepper sprays back then. That said, nowadays they used a taser gun and there was still a death,” she says in reference to the recent death of Ronnie Ghiller, who died after a group of RIU officers and a doctor stormed a home he was hiding scared in.
“I believe there needs to be a team of specialised people to understand these people, more than the family members or the police from the station understand,” Marthese said.
“They need to understand the behaviour of those who don’t have control of their mind, as that person is their own worst enemy at that moment. They can hurt themselves, so these people can help them to heal and enjoy their lives and family again.”
Bastjan’s death led to a five-year inquiry that found the officers had acted in self-defence – they said Bastjan was carrying a pocket knife. The magistrae in quetion has issued recommendations on better ways to approach these types of situations; they were never made public.
The Richmond Foundation has a 24/7 helpline for anyone who may be suffering from mental health issues, which you can call on 1770.
However, 13 years ago, Bastjan found no help, and no one understood what he was going through. But Marthese hasn’t forgotten her beloved brother.
“I just miss seeing my brother going to catch rizzi, and coming back and having a nice meal with him… I miss that,” she ended.