One of the three men accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia used his mobile phone to set up a rendezvous in a Gozo hotel room soon after the assassination.
The court today heard the testimony of a man who first met Alfred Degiorgio (Il-Fulu) at the Ħamrun chocolate festival towards the end of October – very soon after Caruana Galizia was assassinated on the 16th of that month.
“I parked in Pieta near Sa Maison at around 7pm and we met at the chocolate festival,” he said. “He introduced himself to me as Roger. We spoke, he told me he wants to visit me in Gozo soon, and we exchanged mobile numbers.”
Portelli spoke with ‘Roger’ over the phone from his workplace and met up with him one more time – at a Xlendi hotel in November for around fifteen minutes. The two haven’t spoken again since.
Alfred Degiorgio had allegedly been stationed in Bidnija on the day Caruana Galizia was killed. When he saw the journalist entering her car, he sent a text message to his brother George – who was stationed on a boat in the Grand Harbour – who then sent a text message to a device that was attached to a bomb that had been planted inside Caruana Galizia’s car. Although the suspects used new phones to carry out the murder, the police managed to trace these phones back to them as they had repeatedly matched with the locations of their personal phones.
It is unknown at this stage which phone Degiorgio used to set up the rendezvous, but prosecuting officer Keith Aranud said his phone call to Portelli was “extremely relevant” to the Caruana Galizia case.
Arnaud asked the court to forbid the publication of the witness’ name, arguing that “what went on in the hotel room had no relevance to the case”, but this request was turned down by magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit.
The three murder suspects. Courtroom sketch by Seb Tanti Burlo
Some other points from today’s sitting:
Two police officers testified how they had taken another of the other murder suspects, Alfred’s brother George Degiorgio (Ic-Ċiniz), back to the Marsa potato shed after the major police raid there in December. While there, Degiorgio asked the police officers for a glass of water and the officers poured him a glass. However, Degiorgio told the officers that he wanted to drink from another glass as he “does not use this place himself”.
Foreign experts from Interpol and Europol had accompanied the Maltese police throughout their searches of the houses of the Degiorgios and of the third murder suspect Vince Muscat (Il-Koħħu). They also accompanied police as they searched the house of Miguel Caruana – a friend of George Degiorgio who was initially arrested in connection with the Caruana Galizia case but later released on police bail.
Bidnija resident Mario Vella testified how he had rushed home after his daughter called him about a nearby explosion and ended up driving right into the crime scene on Bidnija Hill. At the time, the only people present on the scene were a couple of police officers and Matthew Caruana Galizia – the eldest son of the murdered journalist. Vella recounted how he had called his brothers to warn them that police were closing off the road and how Matthew Caruana Galizia had accused him of taking photos of the scene. Vella denied this was the case and showed Caruana Galizia his phone, but Caruana Galizia smashed his phone on the floor.