Restaurant employees claim they identified killer in 1993 Chef Italia murder
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.