Dingli burglary suspect acquitted as key witness fails to confirm identification

Dingli burglary suspect acquitted as key witness fails to confirm identification

Witness who singled out suspect tells court he was too far away to identify

A man accused of robbery from a Dingli home has been acquitted after the key witness was unable to positively identify him in court.

Paul Abela, a 62-year old Rabat resident, known as ‘il-Fjakk’, stood accused of having broken into the residence in Dingli early one afternoon back in March 2012, allegedly making off with €2,000 in cash and several gold items.

He was also accused of having received stolen goods, voluntary damage to third party property as well as with recidivism.

Police had received an anonymous phone call in which the caller said they had noticed three men in a grey van outside a particular house on the main street. One of the men, who was not the owner, had slipped into the premises while the other two had driven away, the caller said.

A constable was dispatched to the indicated house. When he got there some 20 minutes later, he found the front door closed and intact.

However, a second phone call from a neighboring property soon reached the police station, reporting that her house had just been burgled.

Investigators soon pieced out the perpetrators’ plan.

It appeared that the thieves had first entered the neighbouring property and then used a table, a chair and a stone to scale the wall and access the other property that was eventually burgled.

Confidential information had subsequently put the police on the tracks of the suspected thief identified by the source by name, surname and nickname.

A neighbour who told police she had spotted two suspicious men while she was hanging clothes out to dry on her roof. She described on of them as having a dark complexion and wearing a cap, and subsequently identified Mr Abela as one of the men during an identification parade two months later.

She told police that Mr Abela was “probably” the man she had seen on the roof, though she was not 100 per cent sure.

On the same day of the lineup, the witness had testified before the inquiring magistrate and given a somewhat different description, now saying that one of the men, the elder of the two, was of a rather stocky build, with a protruding belly, wearing a cap and a chequered flannel shirt.

Yet although she claimed that at the time the man had frowned at her, she later could not identify the accused in court, claiming that he had been too far away on the day of the burglary.

Although prosecuting inspector Carlos Cordina had testified that a person who wished to remain anonymous had mentioned the accused to him by name and nickname, this source never testified in the proceedings, the court observed.

On the basis of all evidence put forward, magistrate Josette Demicoli, concluded that “while the stature described by the witness matches that of the accused, it also matches that of other persons.”

Since no other direct or circumstantial evidence pointing to the accused was produced, there was insufficient evidence linking the accused to the alleged crime.

Besides, the timeframe indicated by the key witness did not match that later determined by court experts, the court concluded, pronouncing an acquittal.

Lawyer Kathleen Grima was defence counsel.