A doctor on Monday described in court the horrific injuries suffered by traffic policeman Simon Schembri in the hit-and-run near Luqa, saying the officer had been in imminent danger.
The court was also told by a police inspector that the accused, teenage driver Liam Debono, had been caught driving without a licence just four days previously after having been involved in another crash. But that crash was not immediately reported.
The court was also told that Debono had known that the policeman was trapped under his car, telling police he had weaved his car to dislodge him.
It was also revealed that PC Schembri had been wearing upgraded protective gear, including a helmet, which he personally paid for. A lawyer representing the family said his injuries might have been worse without it.
The doctor was the first to testify in the compilation of evidence against Debono, who stands accused of the attempted murder of the policeman almost two weeks ago.
Police constable Schembri suffered critical injuries when he was thrown over the bonnet of Debono's unlicensed Mercedes, then thrown to the ground, run over as the car reversed and dragged for a considerable distance. His medical condition has since improved.
Mr Debono, 17, was subsequently chased and arrested by the police and has been held behind bars since.
He was arraigned on May 16 and pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, causing grievous injuries, causing offences against a public officer, driving a Mercedes registered as ‘garaged’, with false number plates, driving without valid insurance cover, driving without the owner’s consent and driving without a licence.
He was also accused of disobeying police orders, driving without a seat belt, using a vehicle licence disk pertaining to a Volkswagen Polo, breaching a number of traffic regulations, receiving stolen property (number plates and car licence) and being a relapser.
12.28pm - Magistrate Mifsud upheld the request for a provisional supervision order so that a probation officer might follow the young man. Debono remains under arrest. The compilation of evidence continues later this week.
12.26pm - The magistrate pointed out that while the defence lawyer was duty bound to do his job well, on the other hand, the victim was still critically injured in hospital.
Dr Arthur Azzopardi, who is appearing parte civile, pointed out that had PC Schembri not been wearing special upgraded gear, which he had bought, his injuries would have been much worse.
12.23pm - After the police witnesses gave their evidence, defence counsel Franco Debono requested a provisional supervision order. The accused, he said, was a minor who was still attending school up to last year. This was the product of Malta's educational system. He requested the court to appoint a probation officer to follow the accused wherever he might be, for the good of society as a whole.
12.05pm - A traffic policeman, Illes Grech, had tears in his eyes as he explained how early on the fateful day he had accompanied Schembri on the scene of an accident. They then parted ways, but he heard Schembri on the radio asking for the number plate details and he asked him whether he needed any help. Schembri had said he did not need any. Moments later he heard that a policeman had been run-over. He went to the scene and found his colleague in a terrible state. He too tried to keep him conscious and focused.
A young girl who had been on a bus stop told the police: kaxkru miegħu, ħadu miegħu (he dragged him along). She was in a terrible shock. She indicated the direction where PC Schembri had been dragged by the Mercedes.
11.51am - Once an ambulance team arrived, the sergeant said he proceeded to the spot close to Montekristo estate where Debono was arrested. Debono had slight knee injuries and was taken to Floriana health centre before being taken to the police lock-up.
The sergeant said he asked Debono: 'do you know what you’ve done?'
Debono said nothing about the incident but said that he had purchased the number plates from a man from Żejtun for €10. They had been stolen some seven months previously.
11.40am - Police Sergeant Bordieri who is stationed in Luqa described how he went to the scene of the incident. He found PC Schembri severely injured but still conscious. He told him that he was in great pain. One civilian was helping the injured policeman. He stayed next to him, trying to keep him focused. He told him “I’m Bordieri. Are you recognising me?” He did.
The sergeant said he also spoke to civilian witnesses and recorded verbatim what they said.
10.52am- Inspector Chantelle Casha explained how on the site of the incident she saw long tyre mark and another blackish mark compatible with uniform markings on the ground. The police officer's helmet had the visor missing. It was discovered some 100 metres away.
She also explained how a court expert retrieved CCTV footage from establishments in the area. Another expert was tasked to recover data relative to accused’s Facebook posts.
The inspector was followed by other police officers who spoke about the scene and their role in the investigation.
10.35am - Following interrogation and a day after the arraignment, the police spoke to Liam Debono's sister, in whose name the Mercedes was registered. She said she had bought it upon her brother’s insistence although she too had no licence. But she was safe in the knowledge that the car was to be garaged. However just a day before the incident, she had told her brother that she was no longer comfortable in having the car registered under her name. She did not even have the key of the garage where the car was meant to be kept. She was not pleased because she had got to know that he was driving car and had even crashed. She had suggested a transfer of the car to their father, but Liam refused. She appeared to fear her brother although she denied this, the inspector said.
10.33am - Care was taken in removing the Mercedes from the site. The contractor was asked to lift the car from upper part so as not to corrupt any possible evidence on the underpart of the car.
10.23am - Inspector Saliba said he had gone to the site where Debono was arrested and informed him of his legal rights. Debono initially refused a lawyer’s assistance. He told the police he would first speak to his mother so that she might decide.
I’ve seen people cry when they ran over a cat or panic when they brush against a car mirror. Debono was too calm. He ran over the constable, dragged him 400 metres and just remained calm as though he had just got up to have breakfast- Police inspector
"I’ve seen people cry when they ran over a cat or panic when they brush against a car mirror. Debono was too calm. He ran over the constable, dragged him 400 metres and just remained calm as though he had just got up to have breakfast," the inspector said.
Inspector Saliba said that when police asked Debono whether he knew that the policeman was under his car, he said yes, and he had weaved the car to dislodge him.
10.14am - He headed out to the scene, initially unaware of who the victim was. He found commotion and two colleagues were in tears. Schembri was nowhere in sight.
Finally he reached the victim and recognised him as Simon Schembri. He was in a macabre state, with skin peeled off, bones showing and tyre marks on uncovered bones. A wrist bone was splayed out.
The inspector explained that the officer had been wearing protective gear. His helmet was 3-star superior to the basic model. Even the protective suit was upgraded, but some of it had been worn away when he was dragged.
The right hand had no glove. This meant that Schembri had been going through paperwork or about to write when hit.
Interjecting, Magistrate Mifsud said all traffic policemen should have the upgraded gear, and it should be paid for by the state, not out of their own pocket. The state had sufficient funds, he said.
10.06am - Inspector Pier Guido Saliba said that when PC Schembri stopped the Mercedes, he radioed in asking for a check of the number plates. It was immediately noted that the plates actually belonged to a Ford.
Schembri told them that he did not yet require assistance, but the matter was to drag for a while.
Then, suddenly, the call for assistance was received by the control room.
10.02am - Had he been arrested the latest accident would not have taken place, the magistrate says, while urging people not to fear reporting such cases.
Continuing, the inspector said the accused’s father told the police that he had not been aware that son was driving the Mercedes.
10am - Magistrate Mifsud asked why no action was taken after the previous incident.
Dr Arthur Azzopardi, parte civile explained that the third party involved in that incident had not immediately filed a report.
9.55am - The interrogation was conducted in presence of lawyer and recorded.
Debono was passive all along and did not answer questions other than to say he was living in a Tarxien garage where the car was meant to be garaged.
He also asked about the condition of the policeman "I ran over".
After interrogation, he was taken back to lock up. The grinder was handed over to a chemicals expert to check for any traces of cannabis.
The inspector pointed out that just four days before this incident, Debono had been caught driving without licence and had crashed into another car.
9.52am - Debono was found in possession of a (drugs) grinder and a penknife.
A breathalyzer test was done on the spot but there was no trace of alcohol in his blood.
Debono told the police that he had bought the car number plates from 'Manuel' who had stolen them. They were bought for €10.
The inspector said the accused’s mother was summoned by police to be present during interrogations since Debono was a minor.
9.49am - As the car was driven off at speed towards Ta' Kandia, police officers at the police compound there were alerted. Upon exiting, they spotted the silver-grey Mercedes. The driver, Liam Debono, made a handbrake turn in a bid to escape but crashed into a wall. He got out of the car and ran off, but was arrested.
9.44am - PC Schembri was found some 400 metres away from where he was initially hit by the car. He was face up and conscious.
The inspector explained that when he was hit by accused’s car, PC Schembri was flung onto bonnet. His palm marks could be seen on the bonnet which was dirty.
He then slid off. At that point, his protective clothing left markings on the ground.
CCTV footage showed the car slightly raised because of the body beneath.
The officer was dragged for some 400 metres. The car then ran opver him with a back wheel.
9.40am - Police Inspector Fabian Fleri explained how the incident took place. He said phone calls had poured in, with one girl who witnessed the scene saying a policeman had been 'killed'.
He said PC Schembri had stopped Debono because he was not wearing a seatbelt. He asked him for his driver's licence. He told him he was not carrying it, then drove at the officer and ran him over.
9.30am - The doctor said the injuries suffered by the policemen were among the worst he had ever seen.
The abrasions, friction burns and fractures were extensive.
"Had he not received immediate treatment he would have died."
PC Schembri is still in intensive care.
9.20am - The first to give evidence before Magistrate Joseph Mifsud on Monday morning was a doctor from the Mater Dei Emergency Department.
Describing the injuries suffered by the policeman, he said his right hand was no longer viable and what the emergency crew could see was a mangled limb. The policeman also had friction burns on his right shoulder and the upper chest, where the skin was almost completely rubbed off. protective clothing had been completely worn away. He had also suffered multiple rib cage fractures.
His injuries were grievous and he was at risk of imminent loss of life.
He was administered anaesthetic on site not to prolong suffering.