Charged with 2001 murder

'They had left the girl to die to avoid trouble'

Three years after an entire family was jailed for letting 18-year-old Rachel Bowdler die in a field from a drug overdose five years earlier, the man thought to have sold her the drug was yesterday charged with her murder.

New evidence in the case has led to the arraignment of 32-year-old David Gatt, who is believed to have sold her the dose of heroin which killed her.

In 2006, Concetta Decelis, her husband Carmel and their son Jason were jailed for over 40 years between them for allowing Ms Bowdler to die when they dumped her in a field in the limits of Mġarr in May 2001.

Mr Gatt yesterday pleaded not guilty to the murder, trafficking in heroin and cocaine and relapsing.

His lawyers asked for bail, arguing that their client could easily have escaped had he wanted to since Ms Bowdler died eight years ago. However, Magistrate Mizzi denied bail at this stage.

The lifeless body of the 18-year-old was found in a field in the area known as Ras il-Ġebel on May 13, 2001. The day before, she and Jason Decelis were in his mother's flat in Buġibba. Both had a drug addiction problem. At about 6 p.m. she lost consciousness from a heroin overdose and Mr Decelis panicked.

He phoned his father, who rushed to the flat and started wetting her face and chest in an attempt to revive her but she would not come to.

Mrs Decelis returned home from work at about 10.30 p.m. to find her husband tending to the unconscious stranger.

Eventually, her husband, from whom she was separated, left for his Pietà apartment while Mrs Decelis kept tending to Ms Bowdler throughout the night. But it was all in vain.

Early in the morning, the husband went back to Buġibba after being told that the girl was still in a bad shape. In fact, at one point she stopped breathing and Mrs Decelis decided that the young woman's body had to be removed from her apartment.

She and her son carried her down the stairs and loaded her onto the back seat of a car.

The three then drove off to the Mġarr field where they laid her on the ground and drove back home.

Following a trial by jury in June 2006, Ms Decelis was jailed for 15 years and her son Jason for 25 in the first ever conviction in Malta for what is known as murder by omission. Carmel Decelis, the father, was jailed for eighteen months as he was cleared of murder but found guilty of involuntary homicide.

On handing down judgment, the court pointed out that they had left the girl to die to avoid getting into trouble.

Their persistent omission lasted 12 hours in all - a time lapse in which, the prosecution had insisted, the girl could have been saved.

Police Inspectors Norbert Ciappara and Dennis Theuma prosecuted in Mr Gatt's case.

Lawyers Joseph Brincat, José Herrera and Veronique Dalli represented Mr Gatt.

Factbox: Rachel's story

After Rachel Bowdler was found dead in the Mġarr field, her tragic life story unravelled at the law courts when her father delivered a moving testimony during the Decelis' trial.

When he took the witness stand in June 2006, John Bowdler explained how the girl had discovered the body of her mother who had just been brutally raped and killed.

The Bowdlers were in Egypt at the time, where her father had taken up a post working in the oil industry.

Three weeks after they settled there, he was visiting a customer some 400 kilometres away from home and in his absence, a burglar introduced himself in the house and killed his wife Marlene with a hammer. Rachel discovered the body when she returned home from school.

After that, Mr Bowdler returned to Malta and eventually he remarried. But his daughter did not have a good relationship with her stepmother even though she got on well with her two children.

"Rachel was often forced to live at one end of the house and not allowed to play or eat with the other children," Mr Bowdler had testified.

When her father eventually separated from his second wife, Rachel was very upset as she had lost her "brother and sister".

She eventually started taking drugs and he took her to Mount Carmel Hospital for observation. When she was fit to leave, she settled in Gozo with him and found a boyfriend who was a teetotaller. She started studying again and was due to sit for her O level exams.

She had a full time job at a restaurant where everybody loved her and it seemed that at last she had left her terrible childhood behind her.

But tragedy struck again. Her boyfriend, Michael Sacco, died in a traffic accident while on his way to university. He died soon after he had disembarked from the Gozo ferry and she saw her boyfriend's accident on the news. A month later, she took an overdose.


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