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