As investigators unravel last Monday’s assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia by a car bomb near her rural home, information about the crime scene has circulated around the globe. Amid all the reports, calls for international help, and political gunslinging, here’s a roundup of all the important points that have been reported so far.
1. How did the explosion actually happen?
Daphne Caruana Galizia was driving on a road near her house when, at around 3pm on Monday 16th October, her car underwent a severe explosion. Frans Sant, one of her neighbours and a key witness, said he was driving in the opposite direction on the road at the time. He said there was first a small bang, at which point he hit the brakes on his own car, and “about three or four seconds later” there was a “tremendous” explosion.
The explosion turned the car into a ball of flames, according to Sant, and propelled it right past his vehicle, and into the fields, where it was found.
However, police have yet to confirm what happened exactly.
2. What was used in the explosion?
Reports indicate that a plastic explosive was used, one that was “much more powerful” than any of the explosives used in any of Malta’s recent car bombs. Police sources, as well as media outlets, have told local press that the actual explosive could be a material called Semtex, a military grade explosive that has been used in large scale terror attacks. Up to half a kilo of the material may have been used in the explosive. If Semtex is confirmed, it could be the first time it was used in an attack in Malta.
Given that Semtex is manufactured in specific factories, it would mean that the material must have been brought in from outside of Malta, indicating significant planning behind this attack.
Experts have speculated that the description given by witness Frans Sant, describing a small explosion (the detonator) followed by a powerful explosion (the main charge) is in line with Semtex use. It is being reported that the bomb was most likely attached to the bottom of the car, under the front passenger seat. This has not yet been confirmed.
Sources have also said it is likely that the bomb was triggered remotely, which if so, would mean that killer was close to the site. If so, the killers’ exact location could be discovered through triangulation, a speciality of the FBI.
However, the police still have not indicated what they believe could have triggered the explosion.
3. How did her car end up in a field?
Caruana Galizia’s car, a white Peugeot 108, was found burnt out in a field near the road where the explosion took place. Initial reports said the explosion had launched the car into the field, but Frans Sant said it rolled there after the second explosion.
The police have not given a timeline as to what happened, so this is purely based on the single eye witness.
Her laptop was found nearby, damaged, but experts are looking into recovering stored data.
4. Where was Caruana Galizia going?
Reports have said that she had just left her residence in Bidnija, was alone in her car, and was heading out to take care of some errands. However, seeing as her laptop was with her, she could have been planning to work from outside her house or speak to someone; this has not been officially confirmed by investigators.
5. Who was first on the scene?
Matthew Caruana Galizia, her eldest son, has posted online about what happened after he heard the explosion from the family home in Bidnija. He ran to the field, where, along with two police officers, he attempted in vain to do something to save the journalist’s life.
Soon after, Caruana Galizia’s husband, sons, and family members arrived at the field.
The police force, on their part, have yet to give any indication as to the timeline of events.
6. Why was she driving a rented car?
The car that Caruana Galizia was using was a leased car, which has led to much speculation, speculation that the police has not addressed.
However, a close friend of hers noted that Caruana Galizia had been leasing that Peugeot 108 for “many months”, due to her preference of having a long-term lease on a car rather than buying one.
7. Was there a crater on the road?
Early reports from forensic expert Anthony Abela Medici said that “the size of the crater showed the extensive amount of explosive used.”
However, images show a scorched road with a trail of debris leading to the final resting spot of the car, and no large crater can be seen.
This would go against rumours that the bomb had been placed underneath the road.
8. Will the Government be giving out a financial reward for information related to the case?
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has stated that the government is looking into the legal parameters of giving a monetary reward to anyone with information leading to the capture of Caruana Galizia’s killer(s). It is said that they could be offering €1,000,000 as a reward. However, the Caruana Galizia family has refused to endorse this reward, instead asking for the Prime Minister to resign.
Muscat also said the police have an “open cheque” to access resources to solve the case.
David Thake, a close friend of Caruana Galizia, has also started up a fund to remunerate anyone with information leading to her murderers’ arrest, and has raised at least €10,000.
Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange pre-empted the Maltese government and offered a €20,000 reward himself to anyone with information relevant to the investigation.
9. Why didn’t she have police protection or CCTV set up?
Many have wondered why there was no “fixed point” policeman posted outside her house, nor some sort of CCTV circuit set up either in her house or on the street outside.
Close friends of the journalist said she relied on her two dogs, both Bull Mastiffs, who were always on the lookout, and would bark if anyone approached her house.
She made use of police protection in 2010, and a couple of times since then, but refused to have them outside her home permanently or have CCTV installed because she “did not want to live like a prisoner in her own house.”
While the police force haven’t commented on her lack of protection, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was asked why he hadn’t sent a policeman or installed CCTV near her house. He replied that if he had done so, she would have accused the government of Malta of spying on her until he had removed them.
However, PN MP Jason Azzopardi has counter-argued that she was clearly vulnerable and the police should have guarded her regardless of her own personal wishes, as is done all over the world when prominent people refuse protection.
10. How long was her body left on site?
Her body, according to police, was blasted out of the car with the explosion’s force. Her remnants were left untouched on Monday night, to allow forensic experts to reach the scene of the crime while it remained untampered with.
Tents were erected over the remains of her car and body nearby. Her body was reportedly removed Tuesday night and an autopsy was carried out today.
11. Did she file a police report about the recent threats?
According to a report by TVM, Caruana Galizia had filed a police report 15 days before her slaying saying that she was being threatened. It is reported that she was being threatened by people connected to Opposition Leader Adrian Delia in the last few weeks of her life.
However, the police have said that no reports of threats against Ms. Caruana Galizia were lodged at the Mosta police station in the past two weeks.
They referred to Mosta specifically because Bidnija would fall under the remit of the Mosta police station, however there is a chance that she filed a report in a different police station for some reason, or that TVM were wrong in their reporting.
12. What stories was she working on?
The possibilities could be endless. Some of the most recent stories released were in regards to the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri’s libel cases as well as allegations of kickbacks; Adrian Delia’s ties to prostitution rings in Soho, and even illegalities relating to the Zoo in Siggiewi.
Obviously, there is the possibility that she was working on a story that hadn’t been revealed yet, seeing as she had a tendency to come out with breaking stories straight out of the blue.
However, with news that her laptop was found among the rubble, there is hope that the stories she was working on could finally see the light of day, and maybe shed some light on what led to her assassination.
13. Which company did she rent her car from?
This is unknown at this time.
14. Where and how was the explosive planted?
While a local forensic expert said that he believes the explosion was not inside the cabin of the car, nothing has been confirmed. There are a few possibilities:
- A timed explosive device was planted on her car
- A remote controlled explosive device was planted on her car
- An explosive device was planted on or near the road that she was known to drive on
Sources have said it is likely that the bomb was triggered by mobile, however, police have confirmed nothing; neither has there been any information about when the bomb could have been planted.
15. Has anyone been investigated yet?
In an abysmal press conference yesterday, the Police Commissioner said that nobody had been questioned yet because the focus of the investigation has been on collecting the evidence. He also said that the police would be questioning everyone it takes to solve the murder.
16. Who will be leading the investigation?
Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera was the magistrate on call at the time of the explosion, so she was automatically handed the case. However, after protests and an application from the Caruana Galizia family for her to be replaced due to them having no confidence in her, she voluntarily abstained from continuing the inquiry.
The Chief Justice then assigned Magistrate Anthony Vella, a magistrate appointed under a PN administration.
Regarding the groundwork, there seems to be three main entities undertaking the investigation, not including the Civil Protection Service who assisted on site; they are the Maltese Police Force, the FBI, and a team of Dutch forensic experts.
Reports that Scotland Yard were on site as well have been debunked by the police themselves.
The Prime Minister pointed out bringing in these organisations had nothing to do with the competence of the Maltese police, but proof of his dedication to finishing the investigation.
He noted the Maltese force did not have the same technical capabilities as these groups, specifically pointing out the triangulation capabilities of the FBI as well as the cadaver reconstruction abilities of the Dutch forensic unit.
It has also been confirmed that the Maltese Police Force will be leading the investigation, and the other organisations will be assisting.
17. What happened to her personal mobile phone?
Unknown. Her phone was found to be disconnected when called. The police have not responded to questions regarding this.
18. Has her family been offered protection?
Unknown. Requests sent to the Malta Police Force have not been answered at this time.