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Delayed justice: Questions linger on morbid deaths of foreign nationals

Five years ago today, the body of Justin Plette was found lifeless at St George’s Bay. We still don’t know what happened. It’s one in a number of cases of justice denied.

(Clockwise) Johanna Boni, Mike Mansholt, Justin Plette

Five years ago, 22-year-old Justin Plette, went out to Paceville for a night of clubbing with friends. He never made it home.

As the night turned into the early hours of the morning, Plette, who was Dutch and worked for an iGaming company in Malta, stood outside a club waiting for his friends to use the toilets. But when they emerged, they did not find him there, according to the testimony which Plette’s father, Julian, gave to the media a few days later at a remembrance ceremony.

Plette had been living in Malta for eight months. Not long after he disappeared from the club, the police discovered his lifeless, fully-clothed body, lying in a foetal position on the rocks in St George’s Bay. His phone and wallet were gone, and scratch marks and bruising were evident on Plette’s face.

His family insisted that he died after anonymous individuals drugged him and stole his belongings, arguing that Plette had had some drinks, but was not drunk, and had not taken any drugs.

The incident was similar to another that happened the previous day when a Spanish student was drugged, dragged and robbed. Unlike Plette’s case, the drugs had worn off, and the student awoke and recalled the incident, Plette’s mother Margit had told the media. She had said her son died from heart failure caused by the drugs.

The testimonies of the parents at that remembrance ceremony would be the last the Maltese public heard about the death of Plette, as no reports or public announcements by the authorities followed.

Plette’s case is not the only fatal case of foreign nationals in Malta which, years later remain shrouded in questions.

The lack of answers means mourning families cannot have closure. They have no choice but to fight for justice, or answers at the very least, which only adds to their suffering.

Johanna Boni: the ongoing legal battle in its fourth year

One morning in January 2016, 27-year Johanna Boni was riding her motorcycle to work down Labour Avenue in Naxxar when she was suddenly impacted from behind by a cement mixer. She was reportedly dragged for over 30 metres.

Four years later, and her parents, Josephine Mifsud and Pippo Boni who live in Sicily, are still fighting a legal battle in the Maltese courts for justice for their daughter, for what they believe was an act of negligence.

Johanna Boni and her parents Josephine and Pippo.

Since then, The Times of Malta reported that Boni’s body was given an undignified burial: she was buried naked in a plastic bag, while the clothes the parents provided were tucked in the corner of the coffin.

This has led to another long and arduous legal battle, with an increased amount of complexity, given that it is the first case of its kind.

Mifsud is the sole breadwinner of the family, putting her source of income towards funding the travel to Malta for every inquiry and court hearing, according to a family friend who set up a Go Fund Me page in December to raise funds for the family to support their legal fees.

In the page description, the organisers of the fundraiser wrote that Boni’s family “has been driven to the brink of insanity by the ineptitude of the Maltese legal system in the ensuing four years”.

Mike Mansholt: How did he really die and who took his organs?

In 2016, German teenager Mike Mansholt was found dead at the bottom of Dingli Cliffs. While it was claimed that he had fallen to his death while riding his bike, the real cause of his death was never established and several irregularities in the circumstances that suggested foul play were ignored.

The boy’s father said a German doctor had told him that his son’s injuries were not consistent with a fall, nor was the damage to his bike. In addition to this, the teenager’s phone, wallet, Go-Pro, and backpack were never found. But there was something even more sinister that had been taken.

After the body was flown back to Germany, a second autopsy was undertaken, and officials found that most of the boy’s internal organs were missing. A Maltese medical expert had said in court that the organs had been eaten by rodents, despite no evidence to support such a claim. All further requests for information had been ignored.

Mike Mansholt

The case was reopened in April 2018, but it reached the same conclusion- that Mike probably died from a fall while providing no further evidence and ignoring evidence that would suggest otherwise.

The Mansholt family are still looking for answers, as well as their son’s organs.

Simon Morisson: after coma, no answers

In April 2018, an open-top double-decker City Sightseeing Malta bus filled with tourists was driving in Zurrieq when two passengers seated in the top deck of the bus were struck by low-lying tree branches and died on impact. Another 50 people suffered injuries.

Two years later, the Malta Police Force is still awaiting conclusions of an inquiry by magistrate Monica Vella before issuing any charges, according to a report in a Scottish new portal published in April.

A Scottish tourist was left in a coma. He suffered a head wound, a broken arm and an eye injury.  The Daily Record reported that the victims of the crash have been “forgotten” during their fight for justice.

Morisson slammed the lack of action from Maltese authorities. “We haven’t had any contact from the Maltese government, police or courts, which is very frustrating,” he said.

In February last year, the heirs of Elisaveta Danielova Avdala, one of the victims of the crash, sued the bus operator and Transport Malta for the damages.

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