MaltaToday | 17 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 17 August 2008

Azzopardi’s family cling to bracelet as they query CCTV evidence

The father and brother of Nicholas Azzopardi are requesting assurances that the police video footage produced in the inquiry into the latter’s death is authentic.
Reno and Joseph Azzopardi, brother and father of the deceased who mysteriously fell off a three-storey wall after being interrogated by police last April, queried whether the footage handed over to the inquiring magistrate was really taken on the day of the accident.
“When I was summoned last week by judge Albert Manchè to watch the footage shot by the police yard’s CCTV, I noticed Nicholas was still wearing his gold bracelet on his right wrist as he was filmed walking towards the balustrades and back,” Reno said yesterday. “Yet, when I rushed to hospital upon learning that he was dying there, he didn’t have the bracelet upon him. I am told the police remove all personal belongings, including bracelets, whenever they interrogate and detain anyone. So could it be that the police are only producing the footage of the day before he was taken to hospital in danger of dying, when he had just been arrested and therefore not yet beaten up?”
Questions sent yesterday to the police about their policy of removing personal belongings from suspects during interrogation remained unanswered.
Azzopardi, 38, was taken in for questioning at police headquarters on the evening of Tuesday 8 April.
On the evening of the next day, he was reported to have jumped off a wall that allegedly led to his fatal injuries that caused his death 13 days later in hospital, but only after he alleged that he was severely beaten up and thrown off the wall by his interrogators.
Last week, one of the two inquiries was concluded and presented to the government and the Attorney General. Although the inquiry report by Magistrate Anthony Vella and accompanying documentation remain unavailable to the public and to the Azzopardi family as yet, the conclusions as reported by the Home Affairs Ministry exonerate the police of any wrongdoing and conclude that the deceased had escaped and jumped of his own accord.
Still, there seems to be no footage of Azzopardi jumping, but only of him walking unaccompanied towards the wall and walking back.
Azzopardi’s relatives are insisting on seeing all the police footage, rather than just one clip, including the first time he set foot inside the headquarters.
“There should be that footage available too, so if the police want to come clean they should show when he was taken in for questioning and all the subsequent video clips of him while under police custody,” his brother said.
His father Joseph insisted that, even if the Magistrate’s conclusions were correct, his son was still the responsibility of the police once he was inside the depot.
Reno Azzopardi also insists he was told by Police Inspector Louise Calleja that he had hurt a policeman before running and jumping from a window – a version that does not tally with the magistrate’s conclusions.
“At no time was there any aggression, beatings or violence on Nicholas Azzopardi from a member or members of the police, during the time when he was in their custody from Tuesday 8 April at 3.15pm till 9 April, 5.59pm, when he escaped and jumped off,” the magistrate’s report concluded.
Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici said he was still awaiting another inquiry by Judge Albert Manchè into the same case so before he could reach his own final conclusions.

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