Four prison warders at the Corradino Correctional Facilities, facing charges of assaulting and seriously injuring a prisoner, were remanded in custody by magistrate Silvio Meli yesterday.
Francis Debono, 41 of Safi, Francis Meli, 38 of Birzebbuga, Daniel Cuschieri, 27 of Paola and George Falzon, 27 of Qormi, stand accused of seriously injuring Perry Ingumar Toornstra, 32 from the Netherlands, after the latter staged an unsuccessful escape attempt last Saturday.
All four have pleaded not guilty. They are being kept under arrest at Police Headquarters instead of prison.
MaltaToday reported the alleged beating on Wednesday, although at that stage it proved impossible to confirm reports that Toornstra was even injured. The Justice Ministry confirmed only yesterday – the same day the four warders were charged in court – that Toorsntra suffered fractures after being re-admitted to the CCF a few minutes after trying to escape.
Toorsntra was on his way back to prison from an hour’s leave, during which he had visited his mother at a hotel, when he took advantage of a moment’s inattention to open the van door and jump out onto the street. He ran off, still handcuffed, in the direction of Paola’s main square, and was apprehended and re-arrested some six minutes later.
Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera was appointed to inquire into the escape attempt, and the allegations of subsequent physical abuse surfaced in the course of her inquiry.
Maltatoday was subsequently informed that Toornstra was re-admitted to hospital on Thursday, reportedly showing symptoms of internal bleeding.
However, it proved impossible to confirm the basic details of Toornstra’s condition until a whole week after the incident; and even then, questions about his alleged readmission to hospital remain unanswered.
Other questions linger, regarding the failure of either the police media unit, CMRU, or the prison authorities to issue a press release announcing the attempted escape.
Even in case of Nicholas Azzopardi – whose mysterious death in Mater Dei on April 22 went unnoticed and unannounced – there was an initial CMRU press release to inform the public that a detainee at the Police HQ had been injured in an escape attempt.
MaltaToday is meanwhile informed that Toorsntra was accompanied by an escort of only two officers at the time of his attempted escape, and that both of these were seated in the front seats of the vehicle... against standard practice in cases such as these.
Perry Ingumar Toornstra himself will also be arraigned for attempting to escape.