Policeman says he struggled with suspect who was trying to scatter drug powder in the street

Officer says he ended up coated in brown powder

A policeman described in court on Wednesday how he struggled with an alleged drug trafficker to stop him from disposing of the drug, which was in powder form.

The officer was testifying in the trial by jury of 34-year old Herman McKay, who stands accused of being in possession of some half a kilogram of heroin in circumstances which indicated that it was not for his personal use.

Mr McKay was arrested by the police in Marsa in August 2007 and allegedly tried to throw away the drug from his car. 

The police constable said he had accompanied another officer to Triq is-Serkin, Marsa, acting upon information of drug activity in which Herman McKay was involved.

Arriving on site, the policeman recalled how he had seen another officer speaking to a group of some five or seven individuals, while another man, later identified as Mr McKay had been taken aside by another police officer for questioning.

Mr McKay had first tried to throw away the key of his Mercedes, parked a short distance away.

The police picked it up and as they opened the car, Mr McKay, who appeared agitated, told the officer not to damage it. 

Suddenly, Mr McKay drew a brown package containing two bags with brownish powder from an open armrest in the car. As the two officers looked on, Mr McKay bit into one bag, punctured the plastic and scattered its contents over the dusty, gravel road.

The officer said he struggled with Mr McKay, who was evidently trying to get rid of evidence. He pulled him out of the vehicle and they fell backward onto the dusty road. 

“It all happened in a split second,” the officer said, adding that he had no idea as to what had become of the second bag.  

Questioned as to how a suspect had been given sufficient time to do all this under the watchful eyes of two policemen, the witness admitted that “one learns from one’s mistakes.”

In the course of the scuffle, the constable said, he had ended up like a ‘fish coated in flour,’ sprinkled all over with the suspected drug, so much so that he had to be driven home by a fellow officer after having helped to salvage what they could of the scattered drug. They covered the brownish patches with cardboard boxes, newspapers and anything else they could lay hands on.

“It was the best we could do at the time,” explained the witness, pointing out that it had been slightly windy on the day.

Shown a faded and folded newspaper exhibited in the records of the case, the constable could not quite confirm that it was one of the papers used but remarked that the date ‘August 17, 2007’ was rather indicative.

When pressed under cross-examination as to how come none of these details had been revealed when he testified before a magistrate in 2009, two years after the alleged crime ‘when his memory must have been clearer’, the constable said  that he had only testified for ‘some two or three minutes’ and had not been asked any ‘specific questions.’

Mr Justice Antonio Mizzi asked the constable whether he had been photographed on site, coated in powder as he had described.

The constable said that he wasn't. 

Asked further by defence counsel whether the accused and his car had been photographed, the officer’s reply was “I don’t know.”

“Are you telling me the truth?” was the judge’s direct question, to which the witness replied, “Yes, 100 per cent.”

“Where did you change your clothes? Where did you get them cleaned?” two of the jurors asked. “At home,” was the reply, before the officer stepped off the witness stand.

The trial continues.

Lawyers Elaine Mercieca and Justine Cilia from the Attorney General’s Office are prosecuting.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are defence counsel.

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