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Forensic experts testify in Caruana Galizia murder case

Compilation of evidence against three alleged killers continues

Almost a year to date since Daphne Caruana Galizia's gruesome murder, the three men suspected of the killing were back in court for the compilation of evidence.

Thursday's sitting: as it happened

12.15pm: The sitting has been adjourned until tomorrow. In today's brief hearing, forensics officers said devices had been lifted from parked cars outside the Marsa potato shed and regatta club and two vessels - the Maia and Cubeno - apart from the sea-bed and locations in Siġġiewi and St Paul's Bay. Some devices were sent to Europol in The Hague for further analysis. 

12.10pm: Under cross-examination by the defence, the forensic officer says tests were carried out on the fingerprints at the shed but yielded no results. Asked why they were presented, he says their remit did not permit them to say which items may or may not be connected to the case.

Seven fingerprints were passed on to relevant experts, but their task was only to lift the evidence, the witness says. He is also asked whether he saw police show the suspects an arrest warrant, but says the arrests had already been carried out once he arrived on scene. 

12pm: Four officers from the forensic department are now testifying, having worked on a joint report appointed by former inquiring magistrate Anthony Vella. The report concerns items retrieved by divers - and others found at the potato shed or in parked cars close by. Batteries and SIM cards were among the items recovered from the sea bed while VHF radio taken from BMW parked outside the Marsa regatta club.

11.45am: Defence lawyer Martin Fenech asks whether the expert was accompanied by police when he seized the devices. The witness says it was the Maltese police or forensic officers who removed devices, and that he could not give instructions, only advise. Every time he and a colleague - Constantino Petro - examined devices, they signed a chain of custody document. The devices included mobile phones, a boat GPS, and possibly computers and a PlayStation. 

The case is taking place amid tight security. Photo: ReutersThe case is taking place amid tight security. Photo: Reuters

11.27am: The court is still making its way through confirmation of the documents from the various searches, which were referenced in previous sittings.

11.15am: Searches were carried out at a flat in Triq Għabex and Triq it-Tonn, St Paul's Bay, and other locations in Siġġiewi and Marsa. The searches - reports of which the witness is currently confirming to be his - concerned Improvised Explosive Devices and digital forensics.

11.05am: The forensic expert says he came to Malta on December 3, together with colleagues from Europol, and joined in searches of a boat shed, though he cannot say where this was, with Maltese forensic experts, and then began "forensic acquisition" of several seized devices. Some devices were sent to the Europol offices at The Hague to continue the task. 

11am: The first witness, speaking through an interpreter, is Marco Torri, a digital forensic expert at Europol. He was called to Malta by the authorities after the bombing, and his primary task was to support authorities during house searches, with digital support and advising about seizure of devices.

10.45am: The three accused have just entered the courtroom and taken their usual seating at the dock, with three armed security guards behind them. Ms Caruana Galizia's parents are also present, with her widower and one of her sisters. The sitting will be starting momentarily.

What we know so far:

Ms Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb blast on October 16, close to her home in Bidnija.

In December, police arrested 10 men in connection with her murder.

Three of those - Degiorgio brother Alfred and George, and Vincent Muscat - were charged with her murder. The others were released on police bail without charge.

After a couple of false starts, the compilation of evidence got underway with magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit presiding.

Read: Who was Daphne Caruana Galizia?

The suspects: Alfred Degiorgio (il-Fulu), his brother George (iċ-Ċiniz) and Vince Muscat (il-Koħħu).The suspects: Alfred Degiorgio (il-Fulu), his brother George (iċ-Ċiniz) and Vince Muscat (il-Koħħu).

So far, the magistrate has heard:

The bomb - between 300gr and 400gr of TNT - was an improvised explosive device clearly intended to kill the journalist.Forensic experts say there was metal shrapnel embedded in Daphne Caruana Galizia's body.

National security information system unit officer explained how information was collated from the various calls, determining the time and location they were made.

The FBI helped to home in on suspicious phone numbers. One was linked to a remote-controlled device and went active at 2am in Bidnija on the day of Ms Caruana Galzia's murder. It received an SMS at the time the bomb went off and immediately went off-radar.

Triangulated cell tower data to work out that the killer SMS was sent from out at sea. George Degiorgio was seen going fishing on that day, and shortly after the bomb went off texted his partner "buy me wine, my love."

Received reports of a suspicious car regularly parked by tat-Tarġa Battery - an ideal vantage point for the killers - in the days leading to the murder. The car was subsequently never seen there again.

Found a "fresh-looking" cigarette butt with Alfred Degiorgio's DNA on it under a tree at the tat-Tarġa vantage point.

The key courtroom players:

Martin Fenech is appearing for Vince Muscat, known as il-Koħħu, 55.

William Cuschieri and Martha Muscat are appearing for Alfred Degiorgio, known as il-Fulu, 53.

Josette Sultana is appearing for Alfred's brother George Degiorgio, known as iċ-Ċiniz 55.

Philip Galea Farrugia from the attorney general's office and inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are appearing for the prosecution.

Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing parte civile.

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