Trial by jury: Ital­ian tes­ti­fies that the killer had two men wait­ing in a get­away car

Malta Independent - - NEWS - ■ He­lena Grech

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.

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