Malta Independent

Investigat­ors smelled a rat when missing women’s phones and personal effects were still inside house


Investigat­ors looking into the apparent disappeara­nce of Maria Lourdes and Angele Bonnici became suspicious while examining the Għaxaq house they shared with Joseph Bonnici, where they found the women’s phones, documents and other personal effects.

“Had the women left the house, they must have done so in a hurry,” the court heard officers say, as the mother’s phone was found on a chair still switched on, along with a half-finished mug of coffee in the kitchen. A plugged-in laptop was recovered from the daughter’s room, where clothes were found strewn across the bed together with a handbag containing a purse with Angele’s personal documents still inside.

This didn’t add up, said a number of police officers who testified as the compilatio­n of evidence against Joseph Bonnici resumed yesterday.

Police officers from the Żurrieq and Żejtun police described their search for the mother and daughter after they had been reported missing on 27 March. The manhunt eventually turned into a murder inquiry after Joseph Bonnici, who had filed the report, confessed to having murdered the two women.

Bonnici had initially claimed to have last seen his mother at around 7am on 27 March when she had allegedly waved to him from her balcony.

But after an absence of just seven hours, at around 2.30pm, the man had gone to file a missing persons report at the local police station. This, he said, had been prompted by his father, who was worried because his routine phone calls home from prison were not being answered.

One police sergeant who had visited the missing persons’ home, told Magistrate Joe Mifsud how he had accompanie­d Bonnici as he searched the house, saying that he had sensed something amiss that he could not quite articulate at the time.

The home was clearly inhabited by the missing women up till very recently, he said. The mother’s phone was switched on, lying on a chair. There was a halffinish­ed mug of coffee in the kitchen and a plugged-in laptop inside Angele’s untidy bedroom, where a handbag containing a purse with her personal documents still inside was found.

Inquiries made to the Passport Office returned with the reply that neither of the two missing persons had ever registered for a passport.

The CCTV monitor beside the mother’s bed had been switched off and the four CCTV cameras had been unplugged, the court was told.

Officers observed that a stone slab had been removed by Bonnici to gain access to his mother’s adjacent residence. He explained that he had done so because “he was concerned about his relatives.”

The mother had taken to barricadin­g her door with a wooden plank for extra security, he said. Asked why, he replied that it was “because they were scared,” but answered “I don’t know” when asked what they were afraid of.

That reply, reiterated several times by the man throughout the house inspection, had made an impression on the officer, causing him to suspect that something was wrong.

Bonnici later confessed to the murders. “This is true but the rape thing is completely false,” he had told interrogat­ors. “I was still going to end up there,” he had said, meaning prison.

After the spontaneou­s confession, the inspector recalled a heavy silence in the police car, broken only by Bonnici’s directions to the Għaxaq field where he had buried the women. He had refused to accompany the officers to the burial site.

“I’ll show you where but I’m not coming with you because it’s not a pretty sight,” he had said. Bonnici then indicated a spot next to a rubble wall where the bodies were found.

Another officer recalled how after the accused’s arraignmen­t, while custody was transferre­d to prison officials, the man had said, “Now I need to start everything from the beginning. There’s nothing that can be done seeing as the mind worked like that,” before breaking down in tears.

The manager of a florist where the accused used to work, described his former employee as an exemplary, hard-working man who had never caused any trouble and who had always excelled at the tasks he was given.

Several people had expressed shocked disbelief about the charges to the accused’s former boss over the past few days, he said. The florist said that he had heard about the women’s disappeara­nce on the news but thought that everything had turned out OK when Joseph turned up for work as normal. He recalled how on the Wednesday morning after the murder, Bonnici had turned up to work looking tired and sick, asking for the day off, and had later called in asking for the following day off too, saying that his sister needed something.

The case will continue next week.

Inspectors Keith Arnaud, John Spiteri and Roderick Attard prosecuted.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are defence counsel.

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