A look at Mafia-style mur­ders in Malta over the last decade

Malta Independent - - CAR BOMBS AND SHOOTINGS - Neil Camil­leri

24 April 2008

The murder of car dealer Ray­mond Agius, 49, was prob­a­bly the first of sev­eral Mafia-style killings in Malta. The vic­tim was in­side the But­ter­fly Bar in Birkirkara when two men wear­ing mo­tor­cy­cle hel­mets with their vi­sors down walked up to him and one of them shot him in the head. The killers then walked out of the bar and sped off on a mo­tor­cy­cle. No one has been charged with the murder and it was widely be­lieved that the per­pe­tra­tors were for­eign con­tract killers.

1 Oc­to­ber 2012/31 May 2013

Paul De­gabriele, known as ‘is-Sul­dat’ saw a per­son plac­ing an ob­ject un­der­neath his pick-up truck in Fgura and in­formed the po­lice, who later con­firmed the pack­age was a bomb.

Mr De­gabriele’s luck did not last long, how­ever, for he was shot and killed in Marsa the fol­low­ing May. The man was shot at close range in front of Sammy’s Bar by a man wear­ing a base­ball cap. The vic­tim was ac­com­pa­nied by a friend, who did not rec­og­nize the killer. The killer used a 9mm pis­tol to shoot De­gabriele thrice in the head and twice in the chest. The man sped off in a stolen van. The po­lice be­lieved the killer was a for­eign hit­man – prob­a­bly a Si­cil­ian. A cou­ple of months ear­lier, Mr De­gabriele had been in­ter­ro­gated by the po­lice in their in­ves­ti­ga­tions on the murder of ‘il-Lion.’

22 Au­gust 2014

Jonathan Pace, the owner of Tyson Butcher, was sit­ting on his bal­cony in Fgura when he was hit by shots fired from a mov­ing car. The as­sailant used an as­sault ri­fle. Pace was hit five times in the head and back and died later in hospi­tal.

A few months ear­lier he had been charged with the at­tempted murder of Vince Mus­cat ‘il-Koħħu’ – one of the men al­legedly in­volved in the failed 2010 HSBC heist. Pace was out on bail.

The vic­tim had also been de­clared bank­rupt by a court in 2013 af­ter be­ing or­dered be­ing or­dered to pay over €90,000 in debts and for ad­ver­tis­ing taken out with na­tional tele­vi­sion sta­tion PBS.

4 April 2009

This grisly murder took place in St Paul’s Bay in­side the vic­tim’s fa­ther’s work­shop. Ni­cola Ro­mano, who owns a gyp­sum busi­ness, was hor­ri­fied when he found that his son’s body had been placed into an in­dus­trial furnace.

Upon closer in­spec­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tors found that the man had had some 20 nails fired into his skull with a nail gun. Some res­i­dents had com­plained about the use of the furnace, more so af­ter a small ex­plo­sion took place, but the crime re­mains un­solved.

18 Fe­bru­ary 2013

The owner of Con­ti­nen­tal Meat Co Ltd, Ron­ald Galea, 65, of Birkirkara, was shot and killed out­side his Ħal Far fac­tory. An eye­wit­ness told the po­lice that the killer had shot the vic­tim re­peat­edly be­fore flee­ing the scene in a Toy­ota Vitz. It was re­ported at the time that the killer had prob­a­bly es­caped abroad. The vic­tim was shot eight times in the back and head with a 9mm hand­gun. A man in his thir­ties was held for a while but no one was ever charged. It is be­lieved that the killer owed money to the vic­tim or was act­ing on be­half of some­one who did. 54-year-old Ray­mond Caru­ana was shot with an as­sault ri­fle as he ar­rived at the San Blas farm­house he called home at the time. A whole clip (30 rounds) had been fired at the ve­hi­cle but Mr Caru­ana’s body was found on the ground, a few me­tres away from the ve­hi­cle. A burnt car, with an as­sault ri­fle in­side, was found in Ra­bat the fol­low­ing day.

Mr Caru­ana was known to the po­lice and had been ac­cused of in­volve­ment in the at­tempted bribery of late Judge Ray Pace. But po­lice said it was un­clear whether his murder was re­lated.

23 Novem­ber 2010

Joe Bal­dacchino, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Bal­dacchino Group, which owns the Kempinski ho­tel in Gozo, was shot by an uniden­ti­fied mo­tor­cy­clist in a Val­letta carpark. The shoot­ing took place in broad day­light near Hast­ings Gar­den. The vic­tim had un­wit­tingly in­formed the mo­tor­cy­clist that he had dropped his li­cence plate. Sec­onds later the rider un­zipped his jacket, pro­duced a gun and shot the busi­ness­man in the back. Mr Bal­dacchino, 51, died in hospi­tal a month later.

The busi­ness­man was in­volved in many court cases re­lated to prop­erty and busi­ness in­ter­ests, leav­ing the po­lice

with a long list of po­ten­tial sus­pects. A car with Mr Bal­dacchino’s car num­ber plate num­ber was later found in­side the car of con­victed crim­i­nal Romeo Bone. But the po­lice did not find enough proof to charge any­one with the murder.

4 Fe­bru­ary 2014

58-year-old Joe Galea, known as ‘il-Ġilda,’ was gunned down as he sat in­side his van in the early hours of the morn­ing. The po­lice said they were look­ing for two men who had sprayed the ve­hi­cle with bul­lets fired from an au­to­matic as­sault ri­fle. The

po­lice had told jour­nal­ists that they did not know why the fa­ther of five had been mur­dered but con­firmed that he had been threat­ened. The men had ap­par­ently fired from a 4x4 ve­hi­cle and in­ves­ti­ga­tors were in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether this had been a con­tracted hit.

8 Oc­to­ber 2015

Lawyer Carmel Chir­cop, 51, was gunned down in­side his Birkirkara garage, a stone’s throw away from his home. He was hit by four bul­lets. The lawyer was well known in the Birkirkara com­mu­nity but also had vast con­nec­tions within the mar­itime sec­tor, in

which he spe­cial­ized as a lawyer. The Malta In­de­pen­dent had re­vealed how Dr Chir­cop held 157 po­si­tions across 117 dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies. Com­pli­cat­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions fur­ther was the fact that his co-direc­tors hailed from 12 dif­fer­ent coun­tries. He had re­ceived death threats in the past.

16 Novem­ber 2011

Canon Bon­nici Street in Ħam­run was shaken by a car bomb ex­plo­sion at 9.30am. The car had just been parked there by Keith Galea, who had got out from prison just a week ear­lier. The car ex­ploded mo­ments af­ter he walked into his mother’s home. Three by­standers were in­jured in the blast. Mr Galea served time on pros­ti­tu­tion-re­lated charges. Had the bomb gone off an hour ear­lier it might have in­jured a num­ber of chil­dren who were walk­ing to a nearby school.

12 Fe­bru­ary 2014

‘Bomb ex­pert’ Pi­etru Cassar aka ‘il-Ħakka’ was gunned down in Triq Santa Mar­ija in Że­j­tun with a 9mm pis­tol. Ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous re­ports, Mr Cassar was known to have pro­duced bombs for both main po­lit­i­cal fac­tions in the trou­bled 1970s and 1980s. The vic­tim was at­tacked in his garage where he was hit by three shots but man­aged to stum­ble out into the street, where he suc­cumbed to his in­juries. Four months ear­lier he had been ar­rested af­ter the po­lice found ex­plo­sive ma­te­rial, small arms and am­mu­ni­tion in­side his garage. He had claimed the weapons were for self-de­fence.

16 Jan­uary 2016

Martin Cachia, 56, was killed in­stantly when a bomb went off in­side the Alfa Romeo car he was driv­ing long the Marsas­cala by­pass. Po­lice said it was un­clear whether the man was the tar­get or whether he was know­ingly trans­port­ing the de­vice.

The po­lice had con­firmed that Cachia had been in­volved in a num­ber of court cases, in­clud­ing on drugs, con­tra­band cig­a­rettes and hu­man smug­gling. The vic­tim, who was out on bail, had not re­ported re­ceiv­ing any threats but his son’s res­i­dence had been tar­geted in an ap­par­ent ar­son at­tack the year be­fore.

15 March 2012/13 De­cem­ber 2012

A fire­fight in­side an un­der­ground garage com­plex in Marsas­cala left Kevin Gatt ‘iż-Żibġa’ dead and two in­jured. Steven Zam­mit suc­cumbed to his wounds some months later. Joe Cu­ta­jar ‘ilLion’ – the third man wounded in the in­ci­dent – was later charged with murder. But he was shot dead in­side his car on a rainy day in De­cem­ber that same year. The Mosta shoot­ing took place shortly af­ter an­other man, Joseph Grech known as ‘ilYoyo’, was shot and killed in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq. Grech had been shot in the head by a small cal­i­bre pis­tol.

1 June 2014

Dar­ren De­gabriele, 35, of Għaxaq, was blown up in­side his car as he drove on the road lead­ing from Marsaxlokk to Że­j­tun. Mr De­gabriele suf­fered ex­ten­sive burns and died a few days later in hospi­tal. The blast also in­jured the vic­tim’s girl­friend, who was in the car with him, as well as a man who was driv­ing past the Mitsubishi Pa­jero when it ex­ploded. In­ves­ti­ga­tors later found that the bomb was placed in­side a metal con­tainer filled with ball bear­ings. Mr De­gabriele was the owner of the Gente di Mare res­tau­rant as well as a fuel busi­ness. Six peo­ple were in­ter­ro­gated but none have been charged.

26 Septem­ber 2016

A bomb filled with screws and ball bear­ings went off in­side a van as it was be­ing driven along Aldo Moro Road in Marsa in Septem­ber, griev­ously in­jur­ing the driver. Josef Cassar, 35, lost both legs in the ex­plo­sion while an­other man who was in the van was slightly in­jured. The blast also in­jured a 38-year-old man who was driv­ing his car along­side the van at the time of the ex­plo­sion.

It later emerged that the bomb had been planted un­der­neath the van and was det­o­nated by a mo­bile phone. Mr Cassar is the sole di­rec­tor of a haulage com­pany based in Marsa.

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