Saviour Gaffarena, 27, who was killed in a shootout on Wednesday night had past scrapes with the law, facing burglary charges. He was acquitted in 2017 after the prosecution failed to provide evidence linking him to aggravated theft in Qrendi.
Gaffarena’s cousin, Vince Gaffarena, 17, was seriously wounded during the same incident earlier this week.
The police believe that the shootings were linked to drugs and are now following possible leads. During a press conference, police officials said the two men accused of committing the crime, aged 18 and 19, are in custody and are believed to be the prime suspects in the case.
The police noted that the two victims were “known to the police” and often involved in the same “circle of crime”. The two have denied the charges.
The man killed on Wednesday had been accused of carrying out a burglary in Qrendi in 2010. At that time, police had arraigned Gaffarena and Christian Parnis on charges of aggravated theft.
Parnis had also been found to be in possession of counterfeit banknotes.
Parnis and Gaffarena were released because the prosecution could not provide enough evidence linking the men to the theft.
The two allegedly broke into a house in Qrendi from which they were accused of stealing €15,000 in electronic gadgets, firearms, jewellery and cash.
Gaffarena and Parnis were also charged with selling stolen goods. Parnis was also accused of relapsing and breaching the conditions imposed upon him in a previous suspended sentence.
The court, at the time presided over by Magistrate Josette Demicoli, had heard how the alleged burglary occurred when the married couple, residing in the house in Qrendi, were not at home.
The two men were arraigned five years after the alleged theft, due to information passed on to the police by a third party, which prompted the arrests. This third party had told the owners of the house that he had purchased items which were stolen from their home.
It emerged that the stolen goods were purchased from what they referred to as ‘L-Ingliz’ who negotiated the price of the items over a drink.
The third party told police he had purchased the items because they were reasonably priced, and paid for the stolen goods in the presence of the accused, who were friends of the Englishman.
The court noted, however, that the fingerprints which were taken from the crime scene did not match those of Gaffarena or Parnis. It was also noted that the prosecution, led by inspectors Arthur Mercieca and Carlos Cordina, failed to present evidence linking the two men to the theft.
“The fact that the accused were in the company of a man who had admitted involvement in the theft, does not mean that the accused are necessarily involved, as well,” the court ruled.
As for an additional charge of possession of counterfeit money against Parnis, the court said that the prosecution had found one €50 note in his possession, but did not prove that the accused had known that the money was counterfeit.
The police are now investigating the murder of Gaffarena, and the authorities have detained a 17-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman to assist in the inquiry.
Gaffarena was shot in the head. His cousin, Vince, was shot in the chest and face. He is still recovering in hospital, while police are working to determine the motive for the shooting.