Buġibba trial: Second death too much of a coincidence

Buġibba trial: Second death too much of a coincidence

Forensic expert suspicions raised by similar circumstances

A forensic expert, called to investigate the death of a man inside a Buġibba apartment two years ago, explained in court how his suspicions had been aroused when he realised that eight months previously he had investigated a similar death inside the same apartment.

Mario Scerri was taking the witness stand in the compilation of evidence against Dragana Mijalkovic, the 44-year old Serbian national, held under preventive custody ever since criminal proceedings targeted her as the culprit behind the death of 67-year-old David Grant and 78-year-old Neville Ayers in 2016.

Finding the second elderly Briton inside the same flat in October 2016, under similar circumstances as the other victim discovered earlier in February, both men bearing lesions and signs of neglect, the medical expert recalled how his suspicions had been aroused.

On both occasions, Dr Scerri had been met by Ms Mijalkovic, "as hyperactive as always", whose version he had recorded, explaining further how on the second occasion the woman had appeared to have been on the defensive.

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When interrupted by defence lawyer Peter Fenech pointing out that this was merely the expert’s opinion, Dr Scerri said that he was only relating his observations, namely that the woman had reacted by "trying to explain many things at once".

Dr Scerri explained how Mr Ayers’ lifeless and unclothed body had been found lying on the bare floor, bearing bruises at various stages of healing, a laceration on the right hand and pressure lesions.

Upon further questioning by the defence, Dr Scerri confirmed that elderly persons tended to bruise easily and took long to heal.

Dr Scerri had been informed that, a few days before his death, Mr Ayers had allegedly visited a bar close to his residence and had appeared to behave normally, even requesting a local singer to play his favourite tunes.

Also testifying in the sitting was Marie Therese Camilleri Podesta’ who conducted the autopsy on David Grant, the first victim - certified as having died of pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs).

This was a natural occurrence, possibly precipitated by certain factors such as lack of mobility and dehydration, the expert told magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, pointing out that the victim’s “general condition had been very poor considering that he was only 67 of age”.

The other victim’s immediate cause of death had been pneumonia, "a killer even among those younger in age", Dr Camilleri Podesta explained, adding that weak health and lack of attention obviously made things worse.

The charges against his client essentially revolved around two deaths stemming from natural causes and yet Ms Mijalkovic was still behind bars ever since her arraignment over a year ago, Dr Fenech observed.

Moreover, there was an obstacle to the issue of bail since the woman had no fixed address in Malta and unfortunately was unlikely to receive much assistance from local NGOs, Dr Fenech remarked.

The case continues.

Inspector James Grech prosecuted.