It was on this day back in 1977 that Malta was stunned by the letter bomb murder of 15-year-old Karin Grech and now, 40 years later, the murderer remains unknown and could still be at large.
Karin Grech was killed when she opened a parcel disguised as a Christmas present addressed to her father Edwin Grech, back then in charge of the obstetrics and gynaecology department at St Luke’s Hospital. Her brother, 10-year-old Kevin, witnessed the scene before his own eyes.
The murder had a significant political tinge to it, given Edwin Grech’s role in the notorious industrial dispute at the time between Maltese doctors and Dom Mintoff’s Labour government. The dispute was largely due to Mintoff’s plans to set up a government board to vet new doctors, and partially also to his plans to impose a two-year housemanship on graduate doctors. The Medical Association of Malta imposed strikes, which lasted ten years, and the government fought back by locking striking doctors out of hospital.
Malta’s medical school was also closed down, forcing medical students to move abroad to continue their studies. Edwin Grech was working in the UK at the time, but he was promptly called back to Malta to head the obstetrics and gynaecology department and was subsequently labelled a strike-breaker.
Prof. Edwin Grech
Another of the very few Maltese doctors who refused to strike, then Labour MP Paul Chetcuti Caruana, also received a bomb parcel at his house on the same day but it failed to detonate.
In 2011, Edwin Grech said he had information that a group of fourth and fifth year medical students had hired a criminal bomb expert to make the explosive device that killed his daughter.
He also claimed that the murder case had not been solved due to political interference and that “a lawyer who was involved in politics” had indeed allowed medical students to use his office as a meeting place.
Former police officer Charles Demicoli, who had investigated the case for several years, agreed with Grech’s theory but said the plan was probably hatched by a single medical student.
“I think it was done by one of the students. I think he did it alone, all by himself and that’s why it hasn’t come out,” he said. “If there were more, then somebody would have spoken up by now. Some crimes are solved because people talk and, in this case, nobody ever spoke.”
He said police had searched the houses of several medical students, and that several of them had labs in which they could create bombs. However, the students themselves were never interviewed because they had all already left Malta to study abroad once the investigations had started.
After Karin Grech’s murder, doctors warned they were being brutally harassed, intimidated and unfairly interrogated by the Maltese authorities – treatment that prompted many of them to emigrate from the island.
Earlier this month, the Grech family filed a judicial protest against the Attorney General, the police commissioner and the Director General of Courts after the pieces of envelope which had contained the bomb allegedly vanished from the courts. A week later, the three men said the evidence had been found and passed on to the inquiring magistrate.
Insellem il-memorja ta’ Karin Grech li nqatlet bl-aktar mod barbaru 40 sena ilu. pic.twitter.com/eHOFHkewm0
— Adrian Delia (@adriandeliapn) December 28, 2017
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the Labour Party will this evening hold a ceremony in San Gwann, outside the Karin Grech monument, to mark the 40th anniversary of the murder. PN leader Adrian Delia also referred to the occasion in a tweet.