‘I saw her some 40 hours before she was brutally assassinated’ – Daphne’s mother

Sons of Daphne Caruana Galizia Matthew Caruana Galizia and Andrew Caruana Galizia and her parents Rose Vella and Michael Vella, leave the Courts of Justice after a hearing of Melvin Theuma, who allegedly acted as a middle man in a plot to murder the journalist, in Valletta, Malta, December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
  • Daphne’s mother, Rose Vella, told the Board of Inquiry that she last saw her daughter some 40 hours before she was brutally assassinated.
  • Daphne’s father, Michael Vella, said that had the authorities done their job, his daughter would still be alive.
  • “People told me to dig a hole next to her grave and die next to her,” Megan stated.
  • Someone from the media who cannot be named or identified by court orders testified in the public inquiry.

Live blog:

4:42pm Case put off to 27th December at 9.00 am.

4:37pm Mallia recalled other incidents which the family has been subjected to, including verbal and physical assaults.

Another incident took place when Helene and herself were at the protest memorial and a man came up to them throwing the flowers and photos to the ground. This incident was caught on camera by a French TV crew.

“The best protection journalists can have is for the police to investigate their stories,” Amanda Mallia said.

4:34pm Amanda Mallia also spoke of the harassment Caruana Galizia had faced when threatened with SLAPP actions and the various libel cases filed against her.

‘Boo.. boo…boom u Joseph il-King’ were among the comments passed in front of Amanda Mallia and her family.

4:31pm She recalled a photo of May Day which was uploaded to Facebook by Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri captioned ‘On the 3rd June, a whole coalition against Daphne Caruana Galizia.’

She recalled a second post by Schembri in which he shared a video and said that on election day people like Matthew Caruana Galizia and his mother would be eliminated. Mallia said that from Theuma’s testimony it emerged that, by then, her assassination had already been contracted.

4:28pm Neville Gafa uploaded photos of Daphne Caruana Galizia in the company of her husband and her niece when Amy was still a minor, Amanda Mallia told the Board of Inquiry.

After PL used Daphne Caruana Galizia’s photo on their billboard, she spoke of increased harassment.

Amanda Mallia spoke about the cafe which Daphne Caruana Galizia used to frequent and which was searched by the Police. She also mentioned the incident with Animal Welfare Officials in Sliema, when they were pressed to give Daphne Caruana Galizia.

4:26pm Mallia told the court that MPs asked a parliamentary question asking whether a journalist had police protection or whether there was a fixed point in Bidnija.

‘Daphne was dehumanised by government ministers and officials,’ Amanda Mallia said.

4:24pm Mallia recalled that when her daughter Megan Mallia was hospitalised, she was very wary about Daphne Caruana Galizia visiting her daughter.

“State employed medical staff who celebrated my sister’s horrific death,” Mallia said.

4:22pm Mallia is now speaking about Glen Bedingfield’s blog which was updated during office hours.

“I found myself explaining to my daughters in simple terms that the Labour Party perceived her as their enemy,” she told the Board referring to when PL used Daphne Caruana Galizia’s photo on their billboard.

4:19pm She spoke about when ‘Taste your own medicine’ was launched which used to attack Daphne and her family. She recalled a trip to Taormina when along with her father and daughter, they went to a playground and someone Maltese had seen them and told TYOM that her father had another family in Sicily. The innuendos were also echoed by Norman Hamilton.

Mallia said that she was also subject of various rumours aimed at getting to her sister.

4:18pm Mallia said when she learnt that her sister was assassinated she was shocked but not surprised. She recalled other times when she would hear an explosion and would go to the Running Commentary website to see if it had something to do her.

4:15pm Amanda Mallia took the witness stand and recalled the last day when she took her daughters to see her.

“Daph stop writing, it’s just not worth it,” Amanda recalled telling her. She said that it is hard to pinpoint when her life was in danger; however, looking back probably it was.

4:13pm Her sister told the Board of Inquiry that the family has been harassed while putting flowers and candles at the protest memorial.

“Daphne could never be bought, Daphne could never be silenced, so they killed her. I can never bring my sister back, but what we can do is call for truth and justice. Justice must be served,” Asciak concluded.

4:11pm Asciak went through a number of articles by Caruana Galizia.

The representative of Malta to the Council of Europe referred to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s website as a ‘hate blog’ in a reply to a report filed over the protection and safety of journalists.

4:08pm Asciak’s voice broke as she continued to speak about the harassment Daphne Caruana Galizia was subjected to, after PL came into power.

“It is the job of journalists to scrutinise politicians, and not the politician’s job to scrutinize journalists,” Asciak reads out.

She recalled the time Minister Chris Cardona and his aide filed libel suits against Caruana Galizia; her phone would not stop ringing.

4:06pm Asciak referred to ‘Taste your own medicine’, a website which was promoted by then secretary-general of FZL and now MEP Alex Agius Saliba. She noted that the website was taken down and replaced by Glen Bedingfield’s blog. Bedingfield was at that time a communications aide within Muscat’s office.

4:04pm Helene Asciak takes the witness stand.

‘“There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.” – To many these are Daphne Caruana Galizia’s last words. To me, my sister’s last words were those she said to me as I stepped out of her car, right outside my home, when she dropped me off in the evening of October 14, 2017. The very same car in which she was killed, less than 48 hours later,’ Helene Asciak says, adding that from then on the battle for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia began.

4:02pm Daphne Caruana Galizia’s niece told the court that once while at the airport lounge, they saw Keith Schembri.

“Her assassination was a shock to me, but not a surprise,” Megan told the court.

“On a daily basis we have to battle state propaganda and troll armies,” Megan explained to the court as she spoke about the aftermath of the assassination, saying that the family had no time to grieve.

“People told me to dig a hole next to her grave and die next to her,” Megan stated.

4:00pm Megan Mallia continued to testify before the Board; she recalled how the family was harassed before the protest memorial. A man had taken pictures of them which were later uploaded to Facebook with the hashtags ‘name and shame’. She recalled how the man then proceeded to throw the bouquet of flowers on the floor as he wrestled with Daphne’s father to take away Daphne’s portrait.

3:57pm Mallia continued to tell the Board that she was taunted at school during the run-up to the snap election.

A classmate had told Megan Mallia at school some days before the assassination: “Do me a favour,” he said, “go ask your aunt why she invented all those stories on Panama Papers,” Mallia told the Board of Inquiry. She added that she had replied that her aunt did not fabricate stories.

3:53pm Megan Mallia, Amy’s sister, takes the witness stand. She recalled that in 2011 when they were participating in a protest against the Libyan dictator Ghaddafi, a group of activists followed her.

Megan told the Board of Inquiry, that when she was hospitalised, her aunt did not visit her, saying that she could not recall the reason it had something to do with other patients in the room

Officials of the Animal Welfare Department had stopped Megan and her family while they took the dog for a walk in Sliema. The officials asked if the dog was chipped. She recalled that her aunt hesitated to give Daphne’s name and would only do so when she confirmed with Daphne Caruana Galizia that the dog was indeed microchipped.

3:51pm Mallia told the Board that a classmate her that “it would better if someone put a bomb under her seat too”. She told the Board that she received a meme of her late aunt.

3:49pm Her niece recalled that at the wedding reception of one of Caruana Galizia’s son, the police came in. Mallia said that she later learnt they came to ask them to lower the sound. However, her initial fear was that they came to arrest her aunt.

“Daphne was continuously and viciously attacked throughout her life, as well as after her assassination,” Mallia told the Board.

3:47pm Mallia recalled how during the run-up to the snap election Partit Laburista would use photos of Daphne Caruana Galizia on their billboards, explaining that this was done so that ‘people would pick on her looks’.

Walking through Valletta, people whispered that she was Daphne’s illegitimate daughter, adding that it was no an isolated incident.

Her niece told the Board that Neville Gafa uploaded photos of her (when she was still a minor) with Daphne Caruana Galizia to his Facebook profile.

3:45pm We are back in the courtroom. Next to testify is Daphne Caruana Galizia’s niece Amy Mallia.

She recalled how when she was on a holiday with her family, and there were rumours about her grandfather had a family in Sicily. “False rumours about my family and hateful comments became the norm,” Mallia said.

In court this week:

On Wednesday, the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech is set to start before a magistrate’s court presided over by Magistrate Rachel Montebello. On Thursday, middleman Melvin Theuma is set to continue testifying in court in the compilation of evidence against the three men who stand accused of detonating the bomb.

Both Mr and Mrs Vella, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s parents, testified at the beginning of the second hearing in the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

2:29pm Media told to leave the courtroom.

2:28pm “On 16 October, 2017… my daughter was killed… in a car bomb,” Mr Vella said before bursting into tears. The parents took a seat in the courtroom.

2:25pm He said that his daughter was supported by both local and foreign readership. He said that the then-Opposition leader before the snap election was supportive towards Caruana Galizia.

On publication of the general election results – people took to social media to blame his daughter for the loss of the election.

He also referred to the new leader of Partit Nazzjonalista who denigrated Daphne Caruana Galizia saying that the new leader would not speak about corruption.

Mr Vella said that the authorities failed to take action to ensure her safety, while they also failed to take action on the stories she broke out.

2:21pm Michael Vella, Daphne’s father takes the witness stand. He described his daughter having a strong sense of duty and a sense to do what is right. Mr Vella said that the reactions to her writings over the years, she had been a constant source of worry both to him and his wife.

Mr Vella spoke about the removal of Police Commissioner John Rizzo. He recounted how the level of threats escalated following the publishing of findings from the Panama Papers.

He also referred to another article published by Caruana Galizia in which emails were published showing the SLAPP action Henley and Partners wanted to initiate against his daughter.

2:19pm Tearfully Ms Vella says that was the last time she was to see her as some 40 hours later her daughter was assassinated in a brutal car bomb in Bidnija.

“Had the government investigated corruption, Daphne would still be alive,” Ms Vella said tearfully while apologising for crying.

2:16pm When her mother suffered a stroke, a medical officer at the hospital told that it is probably “because of Daphne”.

“I was always worried when she visited us and left alone at a late time at night,” Ms Vella said. She said that she would worry that her daughter would be accosted and physically assaulted.

She recalls that one day Daphne appeared usually thoughtful; she told her she would return with her birthday present.

2:14pm Daphne Caruana Galizia’s mother, Rose Vella, takes the witness stand. Vella gives her statement in English.

“Once I was hospitalised at Mater Dei, Daphne visited me late in the evening,” Mrs Vella said. She recalled that a car had blocked Daphne’s car making her turn around. The man proceeded to file a police report saying that he and his pregnant wife were attacked by Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Another time, Daphne was at a Naxxar coffee shop. Her photo appeared on MP Glen Bedingfield’s blog. After that time the coffee shop was searched, the owners later told Daphne Caruana Galizia.

2:09pm The Board of Inquiry has accepted the request made by the lawyers and ordered that the hearing take place behind closed doors, adding that the witness’ name is not be revealed or in any way identified.

2:02pm Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia said that a person has approached the lawyers and made themselves available to testify in the public inquiry. Comodini Cachia asked for their testimony to be heard behind closed doors. The lawyer said that the information to be divulged is not yet in the public domain, adding that the information can give the direction to the Board of Inquiry.

The person’s name is not being divulged in open court.

2:00pm We are in Hall 20 where the second sitting of the public inquiry has just started. The Board of Inquiry entered the courtroom.

The Board of Inquiry accepted the request filed by the lawyers to acquire the TAP3 files which were presented in the libel case instituted by Economy Minister Chris Cardona. The Board has ordered that these files are presented in the acts of the public inquiry. The data formed part of the libel suit Cardona had filed against Daphne Caruana Galizia after she claimed that he had visited a German brothel.

Background

The second sitting for the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. In Tuesday’s sitting, the parents of the slain journalist testified followed by her sisters.

During the first sitting, widower Peter Caruana Galizia and his son Matthew Caruana Galizia testified before the Board of Inquiry.

Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi are appearing for the family.

The Board is composed of Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, Judge Emeritus John Said Pullicino and Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro.