The magisterial inquiry on the stabbing in July 2019 of Melvin Theuma, the State witness in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination case, is still ongoing six months later, the police have told The Shift.
In reply to additional questions regarding Theuma’s current condition, the spokesperson said Theuma’s current state of health cannot be divulged “due to data protection” – leaving questions regarding the incident, and the extent of Theuma’s participation in the ongoing court case, lingering.
On 21 July, merely hours before he was due to appear in court, Theuma was found in his Swieqi home with severe injuries, including a slit throat and several stabs to his abdomen. Questions regarding the motive promptly surfaced. A statement by the police that same night said “the first indications show that it was self-inflicted”.
Members of the public had questioned the speed with which the police had arrived at their conclusions, with foreign forensic experts also telling The Shift that conclusions on whether his injuries were self-inflicted could not have been drawn before Theuma had even arrived at the hospital.
The next day, in the only media briefing on the incident to date, Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa laid out why and how the police had come to the conclusion that Theuma’s wounds were most likely self-inflicted, while not completely ruling out foul play.
Chief Police Inspector Keith Arnaud said Theuma had told him, in the presence of paramedics, that the wounds were self-inflicted. Theuma said this upon the police inspector’s arrival at the scene, according to Arnaud.
A few days later, The Times of Malta had reported that Theuma had told the inquiring magistrate, through a handwritten note, that there was no third party involvement and that Theuma ‘stabbed himself’ because his evidence in the murder case was being doubted.
Theuma, who was given a presidential pardon to reveal all he knows about the assassination of Caruana Galizia, provided evidence in the form of recordings of conversations with numerous people, the majority of which were with prime murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.
Prior to the stabbing, the court was questioning Theuma about each recording. Each question required a thorough explanation by the self-confessed middleman. A butchered throat would likely hinder his ability to do so.
Despite citing “data protection” as a response to questions about Theuma’s condition, the police were sending out regular emails with an update on Theuma’s health in the weeks following the stabbing. The notifications came to a sudden halt shortly after Theuma was sent home in August. Since then, any progress has remained unclear.
In November, The Malta Independent reported that Theuma had not yet fully recovered and may be unfit to testify for long periods of time.
On Wednesday, Arnaud told the court that Theuma is still being treated and assessed by psychiatrists. Information about his health was ordered to be presented to the Court by Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit. In December, Magistrate Rachel Montebello also upheld a request to have court experts describe their findings on Theuma’s mental health.
Questions sent by The Shift in August asking for the key points of the corps’ forensic analysis and whether their investigations had confirmed Theuma’s wounds were indeed self-inflicted were left unanswered by the police who referred to the ongoing magisterial inquiry.
The findings of magisterial inquiries are commonly not announced. So if the public obtaining information on the incident rests on the inquiry’s completion then this does not guarantee disclosure.
It is worth recalling that over the past few months new findings published show that Fenech had allegedly attempted to purchase deadly items on the internet, twice.
In September, Counter Terrorism Unit Head George Cremona told the public inquiry board that in September 2019, US Homeland Security had contacted him and informed him that they were investigating a case where firearms, ammunition and a suppressor (silencer) were purchased on the dark web.
Cremona said it was “difficult” to find out who the buyer was since it was paid for in Bitcoin and the buyer was anonymous, but it was to be delivered to “George Fenech, 21st floor, Portomaso, St. Julians”. George Fenech, the father of Yorgen Fenech, had already passed away at the time.
It was difficult for the police to follow through on the investigation since the website was taken down due to other investigations by the Guardia di Finanza in Italy.
In September 2020, The Times of Malta had reported that US investigators had traced online searches for a deadly poison back to a device owned by Fenech. Sources had told the newspaper that an FBI investigation last year had flagged online searches for a poison known as potassium cyanide, by Fenech, just a few months before he was arrested for commissioning Caruana Galizia’s death. Lovin Malta had later revealed that Theuma is believed to have been the target of the cyanide plot.
At the same time, questions remain about how Theuma could have harmed himself when under police custody.