Almost two years since Melvin Theuma, the state witness in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination case, was found in his home stabbed and severely wounded, the public remains without answers because the magisterial inquiry hasn’t been concluded yet, according to the police.
On 21 July 2020, 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.
The Shift followed up by sending questions to the police to learn of any progress made, but the reply was that the magisterial inquiry is still ongoing, some 21 months later.
The lag in investigations and magisterial inquiries in Malta is notorious. In 2020, a parliamentary question revealed that there were a total of 113 magisterial inquiries unconcluded at least six years after they were launched (from 2014 onwards). The European Commission has also raised concern over the lack of efficiency in Malta’s justice system in its rule of law reports.
“Serious challenges remain as regards the efficiency of the justice system, in particular the length of court proceedings, the impact of the low number of judges and the digitalisation of justice,” it had said. The 2021 report had highlighted that delays were further exacerbated by the pandemic and by a “relatively low number of judges and magistrates”.
A statement by the police that same night of Theuma’s stabbing had 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 one of the few media crime briefings 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.
In court, Chief Police Inspector Keith Arnaud said Theuma had told him, in the presence of paramedics, that the wounds were self-inflicted. The Times of Malta had also 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.
Such a vacuum of information in the findings of investigations also stands in stark contrast to other EU member states, where police give frequent press briefings and updates on cases, especially high profile cases. In Malta, magisterial inquiries are, as a rule, hidden from public view, unless leaked.
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.
After recovering from his injuries, Theuma went back to court in February 2021.