Res­tau­rant em­ploy­ees claim they iden­ti­fied killer in 1993 Chef Italia mur­der

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Ju­lian Bon­nici

Two eye­wit­nesses to the fa­tal shoot­ing of Vit­to­rio Cas­sone claimed they iden­ti­fied the ac­cused as the killer with ‘99.9%’ cer­tainty, but that they feared telling the po­lice at the time due to fears of reprisals from the of­fender.

The mur­der took place in 1993 at the Chef Italia res­tau­rant in St Ju­lian’s. Vit­to­rio Cas­sone, an Ital­ian na­tional, was killed af­ter a masked man shot him fol­low­ing an armed rob­bery. In the theft, the masked man stole Lm150 (roughly €350 in to­day’s money).

The case, which is be­ing presided over by Judge An­to­nio Mizzi, sees the ac­cused be­ing charged with wil­ful homi­cide, theft ag­gra­vated by vi­o­lence, means, time and value, hold­ing a per­son against their will, pos­ses­sion of a firearm with­out the nec­es­sary po­lice li­cence and car­ry­ing a loaded weapon.

The man ac­cused of the of­fences is cur­rently serv­ing time in prison for other crimes, but he can­not be named since he was 17 years of age at the time of the mur­der.

Re­tired po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent Chris Pul­li­cino told a jury yes­ter­day that he had been as­signed the un­solved mur­der case when he joined the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Depart­ment in 2003.

In his ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he ap­proached Vic­tor Testa, a man who had been ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the crime. How­ever, Mr Testa was able to pro­vide an al­ibi which was ver­i­fied by for­mer Po­lice Com­mis­sioner John Rizzo, who had met him in Paola at the time of the mur­der.

Mr Testa also claimed that on the day of the shoot­ing he had given a lift to the ac­cused. He went on to say that while he was driv­ing a gun went off and he im­me­di­ately stopped and asked the men to get out of his ve­hi­cle.

Yes­ter­day, the de­fence claimed that Mr Testa had been found

with gun­shot residue on him at the time of the mur­der. How­ever for­mer po­lice com­mis­sioner Em­manuel Cas­sar said that at the time, “The test­ing ma­chine was de­fec­tive and out of or­der. Even if it had been work­ing, the re­sults would not have been im­me­di­ately avail­able.”

Mr Pul­li­cino then spoke to Sil­vano D’Agostino res­tau­rant’s chef. The for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent then said that Mr D’Agostino had ad­mit­ted that he had iden­ti­fied the ac­cused with “99.9%” cer­tainty in an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pa­rade which took place in 1993. He also told the of­fi­cer that he had not in­formed the po­lice back then due to a fear of reprisals from the killer.

In a state­ment dur­ing the in­quiry into the crime in 2005, Mr D’Agostino also claimed that “fi­nally his con­science could rest” be­cause he couldn't bear hold­ing in what he knew any­more.

He also spoke with Marco Russo, an­other em­ployee, who was con­cerned with his safety at the time.

Mr Russo also claimed that he had pos­i­tively iden­ti­fied the ac­cused in a photo line-up.

The de­fence ques­tioned the cred­i­bil­ity of the pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tions, af­ter Mr Pul­li­cino said, “I had searched the po­lice data­base for Testa's photo. In 1993, his photo was one with a mous­tache and big hair. He didn't fit the de­scrip­tion of the ac­cused at all... the per­son I saw in 2005, the mous­tache was gone and his hair was cropped short.”

De­fence lawyer Mar­ion Camil­leri ar­gued that the photo on the data­base had been taken a few years be­fore the mur­der.

Mr Pul­li­cino coun­tered by say­ing that the ac­cused had al­ready been iden­ti­fied while he was on the run, through pho­to­graphs on the po­lice data­base, the jury was told: “When some­one gives a de­scrip­tion of a sus­pect, they are fed into a sys­tem and match­ing pho­to­graphs are shown. This is the sys­tem adopted across the globe.

“A de­scrip­tion is fed into the E-fit sys­tem and re­sults are shown to the wit­ness. The iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pa­rade is the last step.”

The jury also heard from cour­tap­pointed ex­perts Bri­gadier Mau­rice Calleja and for­mer po­lice­man Jes­mond Cas­sar. It was their duty to present a bal­lis­tics re­port from the mur­der.

They how­ever con­cluded that the round had been badly dam­aged and could not be com­pared with any in­di­vid­ual weapon. They could con­firm that the round was fired by a semi au­to­matic weapon.

Lawyers Kevin Val­letta and Anne Marie Cu­ta­jar from the of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral are pros­e­cut­ing.

Lawyers Franco De­bono and Mar­ion Camil­leri are the de­fence coun­sel.

When some­one gives a de­scrip­tion of a sus­pect, they are fed into a sys­tem and match­ing pho­to­graphs are shown. This is the sys­tem adopted across the globe.

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