For­mer worker at Ital­ian food shop re­calls mo­ment thief shot and killed his col­league

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

An Ital­ian na­tional who used to work at Chef Italie food shop, the place where the mur­der of Vit­to­rio Cas­sone took place 23 years ago, re­called the mo­ment an armed thief en­tered the shop and shot his col­league.

Fabrizio Coma­l­dini, who at the time of the mur­der was 19 years old, was called to tes­tify in a trial by jury yes­ter­day.

The mur­der took place in 1993 at the Chef Italie food shop 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 man charged with the mur­der can­not be named by court or­der since he was a mi­nor at the time of the in­ci­dent.

Mr Coma­l­dini tes­ti­fied he was next to the vic­tim, be­hind the cash reg­is­ter. At one point, a man wear­ing jeans and a red­checked shirt en­tered the shop car­ry­ing a small pis­tol in hand. The thief was shout­ing ‘karti, karti,’ want­ing the cash from the reg­is­ter. As Mr Coma­l­dini was look­ing down at the cash reg­is­ter, get­ting the money, he heard a shot be­ing fired.

“At that in­stant, I thought he had shot me and I fell back­wards. But then I looked and saw Mr Cas­sone on the floor,” he tes­ti­fied.

He said that at first, he had thought that Mr Cas­sone had fainted while the thief had man­aged to es­cape with the money. The witness said that at first glance, he did not see any blood. But then, he leaned down to his col­league and, un­der­neath the vic­tim’s shirt, he saw a small hole just above his heart. He said that there was no blood flow­ing from the wound and re­called how Mr Cas­sone drew his last gasps of breath while in his arms.

At the time, there was also a client in the res­tau­rant and she had her hand­bag stolen. The witness would not re­call the date, but said it was be­tween 4pm and 5pm.

The pros­e­cu­tion asked the witness to de­scribe the pis­tol and the face of the man. He said it was a semi-au­to­matic, small cal­i­bre hand gun. He re­called that the man looked rel­a­tively young with clear eyes, blonde hair and the skin colour was rel­a­tively fair.

The court, presided by Judge An­to­nio Mizzi, heard how dur­ing the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pa­rade which took place back in 1993, the witness had iden­ti­fied the ac­cused with ‘99%’ of cer­tainty. He said he did not say 100% for fear of hav­ing to face the man, or maybe the ac­cused would es­cape from prison and come back to haunt him.

He iden­ti­fied the ac­cused sit­ting in the court hall.

The Judge also asked if at any point, the po­lice had pre­sented him with pho­tos show­ing faces. The witness re­mem­bered that this hap­pened and said that he had iden­ti­fied ‘a cou­ple of peo­ple’ who looked very sim­i­lar. “Did you iden­tify th­ese same per­sons in the ID pa­rade?” the Judge asked as the witness con­firmed this.

Dur­ing the cross ex­am­i­na­tion, Dr Mar­ion Camil­leri said that the man had iden­ti­fied a cer­tain Ja­son Galea. She asked if the witness is con­fused as he gave four dif­fer­ent ver­sions.

“So you were un­de­cided un­til some­one sug­gested one par­tic­u­lar per­son?” she asked.

But the pros­e­cu­tion ob­jected to this claim and the Judge warned them to be very care­ful with this line of ques­tion­ing.

Pressed to state if he is con­vinced on who he is iden­ti­fy­ing, the witness said that a lot of years have passed and he might be able to recog­nise him if the ac­cused wears a sock on his head.

“In that lit­tle time, I could see his clear eyes and now that I see him here, I am a lit­tle more con­vinced of who I had iden­ti­fied,” Mr Coma­l­dini said.

But Dr Camil­leri in­sisted that not even today, he could not be con­vinced on the man’s height, be­cause at the time of the mur­der, the witness was stand­ing on a plat­form be­hind the counter. She also asked why is it that his sig­na­ture could only be found on one ID pa­rade, “was it be­cause you were not con­vinced?”

The witness said he did not know.

Asked to clar­ify what pho­tos he was shown beyond the ID pa­rade, the man said that it was not a book­let full of pho­tos, but was pre­sented with some ‘ten pho­tos’.

The de­fence then asked if the man re­called the po­lice in­spec­tor say­ing that they sus­pect that the ac­cused was be­hind this. But the witness said he could not re­mem­ber.

Mar­ion Camil­leri kept ask­ing why the man was not con­vinced when he was asked to iden­tify the ac­cused and the witness re­it­er­ated that he only said ‘99%’ be­cause he was afraid. At the time of the mur­der, the ac­cused was out of prison as he had es­caped. But the de­fence said that if the witness was truly afraid, then he could have iden­ti­fied the man ‘100%’ to put him back in­side.

The ses­sion con­tin­ued in the af­ter­noon, with the de­fence ask­ing whether Mr Coma­l­dini knows of any re­la­tion­ship be­tween Mr D’Agostino (for­mer em­ployee at the res­tau­rant) and the vic­tim’s wife. The witness said that he had not con­tacted Mr D’Agostino since 1993.

When asked again, for the third time, to re­call what had hap­pened, Mr Coma­l­dini said that the thief had no rea­son to shoot, be­cause he was not threat­ened by us. “I don’t know if he shot the vic­tim by mis­take or not. All I know is that it could have been me.”

Ear­lier yes­ter­day, the jury was shown a num­ber of pho­tos taken by the foren­sic of­fi­cer on duty at the time, Al­fio Borg. The pho­tos showed the food shop, the empty car­tridge on the floor and the ca­daver of the vic­tim ly­ing on the floor be­hind the counter.

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.

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