Trial by jury: Italian testifies that the killer had two men waiting in a getaway car
An Italian national who worked at the Italian food store/restaurant, Chef D’Italie, the place where the murder of Vittorio Cassone took place 23 years ago, yesterday testified that the murderer had two men waiting for him in a getaway car following the shooting.
Mr Cassone was shot in the chest during a hold-up on 13 January, 1993 at Chef D’Italie, where he worked. The robber allegedly made off with Lm150 (around €350 in today’s money).
Lawyers Kevin Valletta and Anne Marie Cutajar from the office of the Attorney General are prosecuting.
Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are defence counsel. Judge Antonio Mizzi is presiding over the case.
Silvano D’Agostini, who was the chef responsible at the time of the murder, testified that:
“I opened that cash register from an emergency leaver and gave the robber some Lm150 (€350). The robber took the handbag of a woman in the restaurant and fled. I saw a car driving away. He (the murderer) was certainly not on his own, somebody had been waiting for him for sure,” Mr D’Agostini said in open court.
He then said that he identified another person in the passenger seat, apart from the driver.
“The car was old and badly sprayed,” the witness said.
In a trial by jury, a number of witnesses took the stand throughout the day.
Mr D’Agostini explained that on the day of the murder, it had been a relatively normal day, clientwise. Mr Cassone was wellknown, he said, adding that many clients would come to the establishment because of Mr Cassone himself.
“Every day after 3pm we used to close the cash and leave the float as is. After opening for the evening shift, we would then close the cash for the day,” he explained.
The murder is said to have taken place at around 6pm.
“I was in the kitchen and at some point I heard somebody shout. I went outside to see what happened, and I saw someone wearing a pair of gloves, and with ladies tights on his head, brandishing a small toy-like pistol.
“I saw Vittorio with his hands up high, looking scared. It was like he was paralyzed. I went to the table and grabbed a knife to throw it at him. At one moment I heard a gunshot. Marco (Rossi, an employee who was present at the time) went on the ground in the kitchen, at the back.
“Marco told Fabrizio Comaldini (one of the owner’s sons, present at the time of the murder) to come out from the kitchen. I stuck my head out of the kitchen and saw Vittorio on the floor. I didn’t see any blood and thought he had fainted. I slapped him a couple of times, but he was dead.”
Describing how he remembers the robber, Mr D’Agostini said:
“He had been average height, his facial characteristics were clearly visible through the dark brown tights,” he said.
“His hair was a strange colour, a shade of blonde. It wasn’t very pretty. His cold eyes struck me most - his evil eyes.
“The pistol was tiny, like a toy. I think it was a .22 calibre. In fact, even the wound was tiny, not even a drop of blood. It was incredible, a man with a family...”
Also testifying yesterday was Marco Russo, an Italian national who had been 24 when the murder took place. He was employed as a helper at the restaurant/store and did a bit of everything, the courts heard.
Throughout his testimony, tensions flared up due to a statement Mr Rossi made to the police during the identification parade following the murder all those years ago.
Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri, representing the accused, pointed out that when Mr Rossi identified a person in the identification parade, he told the police that he was 99 per cent sure.
He then identified another two people in the parade, saying that they look somewhat familiar and that only God is 100 per cent sure of everything.
He was confronted with his testimony during the compilation of evidence, 13 years after the events. “I took a decision when I was asked to testify in the case. I felt that I should tell the truth and not continue to lie,” Dr Camilleri read out.
“Whoever wrote that must have lied,” he replied. “So you lied?!” said Dr Camilleri.
Dr Camilleri highlighted that the witness was unsure of the height of the man, not 100 per cent sure that he had identified him properly and that there were serious doubts. She again highlighted the fact that the witness had only seen the robber momentarily.
Dr Camilleri went over the details, saying that back in 1993, the witness was not sure. She highlighted the fact that after all these years, he is saying that he is now sure of what he was saying. She asked him therefore, whether he can confirm that he changed his version of events.
“At the time Russo had testified that he had not taken steps because the Italians hadn’t been certain. Now you have told us that you are certain – said Dr Camilleri.
“At the time I was young. I didn’t know Maltese, I was in a foreign country. What happened, I didn’t know the laws. I thought it would be better to take a step back. Then in time you mature and start to see things differently.” He vociferously denied ever saying he was unsure.
“My conscience is clear and I did my duty. I testified, I said that I was 99 per cent sure. This is the fourth time I am explaining this. Only God has 100 per cent certainty, people can have doubles in the outside world.”
Also testifying in court yesterday was Mary-Rose Suda, a client present at the time of the murder. She described her version of events, how she had been in the store for 20 minutes and how her handbag had been stolen.