Murdered lawyer was in ‘cruel, abusive’ marriage
The lawyer found murdered in her car in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq in April had told her friend about the violence, intimidation and threats she was experiencing in a cruel and abusive marriage, a court heard yesterday.
Margaret Mifsud, whose husband Nizar El Gadi has been charged with killing her, was only putting up with it for the sake of her two children, who meant everything to her, her friend Geraldine Watson said.
Ms Watson, a Canadian national, said she had known Dr Mifsud for 10 years. Although she had only met her twice in person, they corresponded regularly by e-mail.
“She was so unhappy as she was trapped within her marriage. She told me her husband was cruel to her and her children in many ways but she couldn’t leave him because of the children who needed their father. She always felt torn apart,” she told Magistrate Saviour Demicoli.
Ms Watson was testifying in the compilation of evidence against 34-year-old Mr El Gadi, who stands accused of murdering Dr Mifsud by applying pressure to her chest, effectively stopping her from breathing.
In her e-mails, which Dr Mifsud signed off with “XoXoXo”, the lawyer described her marriage as “a tragedy”. Mr El Gadi, she wrote, was “not good for me” but she was keeping everything bottled up because of their two girls.
“She told me that after Nizar was cruel to her and her children, she didn’t know what to do. She tried hard to live a normal life. She spoke of violence, intimidation and threats.
“I could see how tormented she was in her marriage. She was afraid he would kidnap the girls. She always lived in fear,” Ms Watson told the court.
She said she particularly understood Dr Mifsud because she too had difficult marriages and wanted to “help her find peace through the love of God”.
A question by the defence on how Catholic she was, given that she was divorced three times and also had gay friends, was deemed unacceptable by the magistrate, who ordered lawyer Martin Testaferrata Moroni Viani to change his line of questioning.
Ms Watson said that in one of her last e-mails to her, Dr Mifsud spoke of her belief that her ex-husband was persecuting her “for religious reasons” and that he was using her “as the only means to get into the country”.
Dr Mifsud told her of how Mr El Gadi “was controlling her every single move, almost suffocating her, threatening her and being abusive in many ways”.
The last e-mail she received from Dr Mifsud was two days before she died.
Ms Watson rejected a description of her as Dr Mifsud’s “agony aunt”, adding that she simply listened and understood her.
Even though it was only through e-mails, she had got to know Dr Mifsud “inside out”.
Also taking the witness stand was Police Inspector Josric Mifsud, who said Mr El Gadi had attempted to strangle himself while at the police headquarters.
He was transferred to Mount Carmel Hospital and eventually discharged.
Constable Maria Scicluna said she spoke to Dr Mifsud’s mother when she turned up at the Birkirkara police station to report her daughter missing after she failed to return home after a farewell party in Xemxija.
Dr Mifsud was found dead in her car in a secluded spot in Baħar Iċ-Ċagħaq. There were no external signs of violence on the body, except for dried blood that had oozed out of her mouth and nose.
Early in their investigation into her death, the police had found a handwritten letter at Dr Mifsud’s home detailing an incident in which Mr El Gadi tried to strangle her, barely a month earlier.
Dr Mifsud wrote that, as the incident unfolded, Mr El Gadi had menacingly asked her if she would like to know how to kill someone without being found out.
The case continues.