In the third week of the trial by jury of Meinrad Calleja, facing a trial by jury for having allegedly commissioned the attempted murder of Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami’s personal assistant, Richard Cachia Caruana on 18 December, 1994, the accused took the witness stand for the first time as the prosecution rested its case.
Meinrad Calleja recalled how a package he sent from abroad to his sister Clarissa, to pass on to Joseph Fenech, known as Zeppi l-Hafi, contained a kilo of cocaine. His sister and Fenech were apprehended by the police on 2 December, 1993. In January 1994, Calleja flew into the UK, expecting to be arrested on arrival, but his re-entry into the country proved uneventful – save for the appearance of Joseph Fenech at his door, "not even ten minutes" into his arrival at his home from the airport.
According to Calleja’s testimony, Fenech had already arranged for his liberty through what he described as a get-out-of-jail-free card which meant he would never spend a day in jail – he appeared at his house to tell him he would arrange for the drug charges against his sister to remain in the jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court, with the prospect of a suspended sentence.
And days later, Fenech re-appeared, satisfied with Calleja that he had not mentioned his (Fenech’s) name in a deposition he (Calleja) gave during police investigations, with a copy of the police statement in Fenech’s hand.
But Calleja said Fenech tried to blame his sister for what happened, whilst he (Fenech) was worried Calleja could testify against him. Fenech’s threats to Calleja’s wife and children, according to the defendant, mentioned similar fates such as those "which happened to Karin Grech", or ending up "cut up and stuffed in plastic bags".
This is the picture Calleja gave of Zeppi l-Hafi, awarded a presidential pardon by the Prime Minister to reveal who had commissioned him to kill his personal aide, Richard Cachia Caruana. In his recent testimony, Fenech said he contracted Carmel Attard and Ian Farrugia to carry out the murder. Fenech had stated during police interrogations that he was never in Mdina on the night of the attack.
In his statement given to the police when he was arrested just days after the attempted murder of Richard Cachia Caruana, Fenech said he was not in Mdina on the day of the attack. Cachia Caruana also told Police Commissioner George Grech it had not been Fenech, saying he would have recognised him if it had been him.
Past fears may have been quelled for crime scene witness Nicholas Jensen Testaferrata, who testified that it was Joseph Fenech whom he saw stabbing Cachia Caruana.
Yet despite his claim, there is no reconciliation with Cachia Caruana’s repeated insistence that it was not Fenech who attacked him, who claims he would have recognised Fenech, whom he knew since his days as night sentinel outside the Opposition Leader’s house during the turbulent eighties.
But Jensen’s flashback, was rekindled as he watched Fenech walking by hurriedly during the onsite inquiry in Mdina. This has allayed earlier doubts he may have had when he first pointed out Fenech as the aggressor during Ian Farrugia’s trial by jury.
His first identification of Fenech came when the press ran the photos of the man whom Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami had awarded a presidential pardon to reveal who had commissioned him to carry out the murder. An "uncomfortable and uneasy" Cachia Caruana, as Jensen described him when he told him he thought his attacker had been Fenech, told him: "if you think so, you should say so."
Now, watching Fenech hurriedly turning into the street as Jensen stood by the Mdina Cathedral, he "suddenly remembered what happened that night", after having drawn on Fenech’s mannerisms during the week the two of them had spent waiting to take the witness stand in Ian Farrugia’s trial ("…he had some nerve to sit down next to me as we waited outside the court for our turn to take the witness stand…")
"I had long been saying I had recognised him from his gestures and seeing him run yesterday made me think it was him… now I am more certain it is him," Jensen told the Court two days following the onsite inquiry.
The poetics of retribution
The theory of retribution has offered a calculated plan of vengeance neatly rounded off with the attempt to kill the PM’s aide round about the first anniversary of Brigadier Maurice Calleja’s resignation as commander of the Armed Forces. Earmarked by Calleja would have been acquaintances of Cachia Caruana’s, namely former The Times journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and Adrian Strickland.
Both had their house front doors burnt about the same time as the botched murder. Strickland’s wife is the daughter of Brigadier George Micallef, who had passed the message from Castille for Brigadier Calleja to resign.
Former Police Commissioner George Grech said investigations had linked the string of events as a build-up towards the Mdina attack.
The Meinrad Calleja defence team did not take lightly to attempts by Caruana Galizia to add anthropological insight into why the arson attack on her front door should have suggested symbolical retribution from none other than Meinrad Calleja. The defence team exhibited other articles Caruana Galizia had written throughout the same period in 1993 on controversial subjects such as hunting and the Freeport Terminal contract.
But Caruana Galizia’s testimony revealed much about the taut decision that tested the powers at the helm. She had been assured of the brigadier’s resignation by Cachia Caruana, but The Times editor Lawrence Grech had been personally told by the brigadier that resignation was not on the cards, on advice of Guido de Marco, then deputy Prime Minister. Relaying the news of divergent opinions between the PM and his deputy to Cachia Caruana, The Sunday Times published her unsigned article quoting government sources confirming that Maurice Calleja would be made to resign.
Caruana Galizia’s friendship with Cachia Caruana, the "one plus one" nexus that sussed her out as author of the article, would have offered much fodder for Meinrad Calleja’s hatred of her. Caruana Galizia recalled being in a particular place when she overheard Calleja’s wife promising vengeance ("That bitch is going to get it").
Fearing retribution from Meinrad Calleja, she decided to leave the island to stay with friends in Germany in the week between the 7 and 14 December, 1994, the week of the anniversary of the publishing of the article. The disappearance of her dog and the arson of her neighbour’s front door (a case of mistaken identity, Police deducted, since the houses were called ‘Ras Rihana’ and ‘Dar Rihana’), pre-empted the arson on her door. The defence pointed out she had left on her own without her husband and three children.