Dr Adrian Vella who is the mutual doctor of disgraced former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and murder suspect Yorgen Fenech took the witness stand on Tuesday morning.
The gathering of evidence against Fenech who stands accused of complicity in the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia will continue.
Vella had confirmed with investigators that he passed on several letters between Fenech and Schembri, while the former was under police bail. He maintained that he never read the content of the letters.
Thank you for following this live blog. The next sitting is scheduled for 25 August at 10am.
The court upholds the request.
Dr Caruana Curran explains that due to coronavirus restrictions, the accused cannot hand over any court notices to the defence team. They requested to be kept informed.
Arnaud says that he did not bring the information with him due to other reasons.
He will be supplying the information requested at the next sitting.
Dr Mercieca says that Arnaud was meant to bring some clarifications.
The cross examination has been postponed to a later date.
They left at around 7.45pm.
The witness says that he was later joined by Jacob Borg but the captain was not around when the journalist joined his colleague.
The witness says that then he informed the editor that it was all quiet.
The captain did not go back on the boat.
Mirabelli says that when the captain told him that he would go out later that week, he did not see him again.
Some five minutes later, the lights went on, and then the captain emerged.
The captain and Mirabelli exchanged some words since they knew each other. He knew the captain from a common hobby and had no idea he was the captain.
The captain asked him what he was doing there and Mirabelli said that he was sent there. He asked him if he was going out, and the captain told him that he came down to put the power back on. He then disappeared. The captain came back some five minutes later and told him 'just to let you know, we will be taking the boat out some time later this week'.
The witness says that the Captain conveyed to him that he would not go out that evening since it was windy.
He sent a photo of the boat to the editor.
He says that he was there alone and was told that a journalist would join in later.
He says that he got a call at 7pm to keep an eye on the boat. His editor sent him a picture of the boat.
Arnaud asks about the 19th November.
Mirabelli is a photographer with the Times of Malta.
Matthew Mirabelli takes the witness stand.
The court tells the defence that the prosecution has every right to summon witnesses.
Dr Mercieca tells the court that they were not informed about the next witness.
Vella steps down, nodding to Fenech's mother on his way out.
The cross examination has been suspended for today.
He says that Cutajar would intervene and call him a liar. He says that it was most probably when he said where he had picked up the papers from.
Dr Caruana Curran asks whether Cutajar was on the phone texting someone while he was giving his statement.
Vella says that Cutajar had his mobile phone but he does not know what he was doing.
Vella says that Arnaud and Zahra were attentive to what he was saying.
While he was giving his statement to the police, Cutajar was present almost until the end of the session.
Dr Vella says that initially there were Police Inspectors Arnaud and Zahra, during the night.
Then they took him down and they met former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar.
He says that at no point he was left alone with Cutajar.
Dr Caruana Curran asks about when Vella was arrested.
We're back in the courtroom.
The defence asks to start questioning behind closed doors. The public is yet again asked to leave the hall.
Dr Vella is called back inside the courtroom.
The defence informs the court that they will continue cross examining the witness.
The court session has been suspended for a few minutes until the defence consults with the client.
'What do you have to say about this?' She asks.
Vella reiterates that he got the papers from him.
Magistrate Montebello asks the witness directly that Schembri had testified before the court denying that he passed on any papers to Vella.
He is shown the papers to identify Fenech's handwriting.
Dr Caruana Curran asks whether the witness could be shown the papers. Vella says that he would not recognise the content because he did not know what they contained.
Caruana Curran asks whether the papers were amended while Fenech was on the phone with Schembri. he adds he does not recall, and he only recalled the phone call because the lawyer reminded him.
Vella says that what he recalls was Fenech scribbling over the papers.
'What if I tell you that Fenech took the papers and read them out before us two?' Caruana Curran asks.
He says he did not recall that.
Dr Caruana Curran asks if he got a call from Schembri at the moment they were there.
Vella confirms saying that he handed the phone over to Fenech. The witness says that the conversation took some two to three minutes. noting that he did not recall the phone call.
Dr Caruana Curran takes over – he refers him to the Portomaso episode.
Vella says that there were a maximum of six papers which were folded altogether in two.
Caruana Curran and Mercieca have a word in private before continuing with the questioning.
How did you know which papers? Mercieca asks.
Vella says that Schembri never touched the papers and simply indicated the papers with a nod of the head. He remarks that Schembri did not saying anything and assumed that they were the right papers.
The papers were faced down on a corner of a table. They were A4 papers.
He says that he has carried his professional secrecy for 32 years. 'Ask all persons in this room who have been my patients. I would never do such things,' Vella says when asked about the content.
He says that Schembri indicated some papers on his desk and told him to take them and give them to Fenech.
When Schembri came downstairs, he invited Vella into the living room.
Mercieca asks about the 'Mellieha episode'. He says that Schembri's wife informed him that Keith Schembri was taking a shower.
Vella says that probably Yorgen Fenech had brought the papers to Gozo because Franco Fenech did not bring anything with him to Gozo.
Mercieca asks about their time in Gozo. Vella confirms that Franco Fenech was the one putting forward proposals and that Yorgen Fenech was 'resolute' on not leaving.
Dr Charles Mercieca takes over the questioning.
He adds that it was not Schembri that told him to use the encrypted app, Signal, to communicate, saying that he used it to communicate with others.
Vella says that Schembri did not tell him to delete WhatsApp.
Initially, Schembri told him not to open if he did not know who was outside.
He says that when his daughter informed him, he called him again and Schembri had advised that he opens the door and follow through.
Vella says that 11.30pm there was someone banging on his door. He did not know if they were police or thieves. Vella says that the first person to call was Schembri.
Vella confirms that Fenech was agitated at the time.
Vella replies yes, adding that Fenech had said that if he went down, everyone will go down with him.
'Ninzel jien, jinzel kulhadd mieghi!' he repeats.
Upon looking the papers, Fenech exclaimed something, Dr Azzopardi says.
Azzopardi asks about when he went to deliver the papers at Portomaso.
Vella says that he did not ask why he changed his number. 'It didn't cross my mind,' he says.
Vella says that two days later it was in the media on the share transfers. He adds that there were a lot of papers on the table.
'Lili ma temmnunix. Imma jien ma nsaqsi qatt,' Vella adds.
The court tells him not to say that, because he was here to testify under oath.
Dr Azzopardi asks him about the papers the brothers signed in Gozo.
Dr Azzopardi asks whether at the time Fenech needed to relax.
Vella says no.
Vella says that it could have been in 2017 that Fenech went up with Vella to Gozo.
Vella says that he had never seen him like that.
Dr Azzopardi press on, acknowledging that Vella is a discreet doctor, and asks again whether he asked about the cause.
Vella says no, he did not ask him directly since he was in that state.
Dr Azzopardi refers him to when he said that he saw agitated and whether in 30 years he had seen him in a similar state.
Dr Jason Azzopardi starts cross examining the witness.
He remarks that that is how he concluded it was money.
Vella says that upon leaving Fenech's apartment, Fenech had asked him if he had any money with him. Vella recalls he had €50. Fenech then told him to stop by at the office.
He had his personal belongings in a small brief case.
Before going up to Gozo, Yorgen Fenech stopped by at his office.
Arnaud press the witness to recall any conversation.
Vella says that Fenech maybe went to the office to get some money. He adds that Fenech only had a brief case, which he might have gotten from his office.
Vella says that Fenech did not tell him why he forgot his phone at home.
Schembri had advised him to open the door and go with the police, he recalls.
He says that he was afraid that he would end up in jail for delivering the papers.
The court asks why would he delete personal messages on WhatsApp and if he communicated with Schembri or any one regarding the papers.
Vella says he uses Signal with Keith Schembri and not WhatsApp.
'Jien u Keith Schembri dak iz-zmien ma konnix nitkellmu WhatsApp. Konna nuzaw Signal.'
Vella says that he deleted WhatsApp before switching off the phone.
Vella says that his daughter came to his bedroom screaming that the Police were trying to reach him. He says that he might have called Schembri using his daughter's phone, saying she had it too.
Vella switched off the phone when he started receiving calls, he assumed were from the Police Headquarters. The banging went on for long.
Vella says that he took advice from Schembri on a normal basis.
The witness says that a thought has crossed his mind that those people were there because of the papers he had passed on. He adds that he did not know that it was the police at the time.
He says that he didn't think of calling the police and that Schembri came to mind, knowing that he would come to his assistance.
"Hsejjes minn kullimkien. Kissruha dar."
Asked why he called Schembri, Vella says that at the time Schembri would have helped him out, had it been thieves – Schembri would have sent the police.
"Kieku gara xi haga, kien jghaqdini," he says.
Vella says that at around 11.30pm he heard a knock at the door. He called up Keith Schembri telling him that there were people outside.
Vella says that it was normal for him to be asked to run errands. 'Medical duties sometimes call for that…'
He replies that he was never asked before to deliver letters between the two.
Arnaud asks whether it was normal for him to act as a messenger.
Vella says that Sunday he got a call from Fenech's lawyer and asked to go over. It was around 7pm. Vella says that he did not go because he was afraid.
The court orders that the witness is given a glass of water. He is visibly shaken.
Barely audible, Vella says that he was then arrested on Monday morning.
Vella says that after slamming the papers, a police inspector came along to inform Fenech that his wife was going abroad.
'There were emotional scenes and honestly I was not prepared for such scenes. Then I took the opportunity to leave when his wife left,' Vella says.
"I recall Fenech clearly saying 'ma jistax ikun'," Vella recalls.
Vella, Fenech and Caruana Curran were inside the room while Fenech was scribbling over the papers.
Vella says that Yorgen Fenech was initially agitated, at some point Fenech said 'it cannot be' and then he slammed the papers.
'Because he was next to me,' Vella finally says.
Vella says that Fenech began scribbling on the papers. The doctor insists that he did not look at the papers.
Arnaud keeps pressing on why he had decided so.
The witness says that upon seeing the police present in the apartment he got scared and gave the papers to the lawyer instead of handing the papers to Yorgen Fenech.
Vella says that there were police everywhere – on the balcony, near the lift, and inside the apartment.
Magistrate Montebello orders the witness to address the court and not look at the lawyer.
The witness says that he tried to give the papers to the lawyer but Fenech took them away.
He says that his wife, the maid, Yorgen Fenech, Gianluca Caruana Curran and maybe his brother were present inside the apartment.
Vella says that then he went to Portomaso. He says that after taking the lift, he got a fright upon seeing armed officers outside his house.
The doctor says that he did not speak about the case, adding that Schembri and his wife were in a hurry.
Vella says that due to his profession he can fold papers fast. He elaborates that he did not look at the papers nor did he ask about them, saying that this was his personal trait.
Vella says that Schembri did not elaborate on the content of the papers and he never opened them.
Vella explains how he folded the papers and placed them in the inner coat pocket.
Vella says Schembri had told him to take these papers to Fenech.
'Hudhomlu naqa' please.'
He says that some A4 papers were lying on a desk, turned down. He says that he did not look at them, folded them and took them.
Vella says that he works at Seabank DB too, and that he works there on Sunday.
Vella says that Fenech had introduced him to Schembri around four years ago when he had a serious condition. He mentions having gone to the U.S. with them.
Vella recalls that Schembri had called him in the morning telling him if he happened to be close to his home, to stop by.
'Tkun ghaddej minn hawn ghaddi,' Vella recalls Schembri telling him.
When Schembri was ready, they talked and then Schembri gave him some papers for Fenech.
After finishing work, he went to Mellieha. There was Schembri's wife. At the time of his arrival, Schembri was taking a shower. He says he waited around 20 minutes.
The next day, Fenech called Vella. Initially, he did not take the call because Vella did not recognize the number.
Vella recalls that Fenech gave him an update on his health and asked him to retrieve something from Mellieha.
'Mur sal-Mellieha ghand siehbek,' he recalls Fenech telling him.
He clarifies that 'siehbek' refers to Keith Schembri.
On the day, he had no more contact with Fenech.
He went to visit Fenech again. He referred Fenech to hospital. Vella says he did not go to Mater Dei Hospital.
The witness does not recall the day.
Vella says he got a second call from the lock up informing him that Fenech was experiencing some chest pain.
They spoke about Fenech's health.
Vella says that he received a call from the police headquarters. He says that he prescribed tranquilizer drugs, preempting the withdrawal symptoms. He recalls that there were two other police officers inside.
We have been ordered out again.
Vella says that the conversations were more like science fiction.
He does not recall when he called his friend with a fishing boat or if it was in the presence of the brothers.
Vella explains that his friend has a fishing boat. He recalls having called him, with Magistrate Montebello remarking that then it was not a bluff.
Tell me, what to say, please? he asks, adding that he could not understand.
Magistrate Montebello says that he was given plenty of chances.
Many countries and places were mentioned including Mexico, Tunisia and Paris.
'Hu pacenzja Dr Vella, qed thawwad. Do you need time to recall?' the magistrate says.
Vella tells the court that his brother mentioned rockets, submarines, etc, adding that unfortunately they do not know his brother so would not understand the context.
Vella says that Fenech has two boats. The court asks why did he suggest using a boat when Fenech already had his own.
The magistrate asks why he suggested a boat when they could have traveled comfortably using a private jet.
Galea Farrugia stands up and says that before he declares Vella as a hostile witness, he reminds the witness that he is testifying under oath.
Court says that he may not. The magistrate turns at the witness and asks him for the umpteenth time about the conversation.
The witness asks to consult his lawyer. The court says no.
Vella says that he thinks that his brother wanted to take him abroad on a jet. He says he suggested that he should travel out by boat. That was when he suggested that I had a friend who had a boat. It was bluff, he reiterates.
'What did you see on the media?' the court asks.
Asked by the Court, Vella says that it was most probably asked by Franco, Yorgen's Fenech. 'But you need to know who Franco is,' he reiterates.
Asked when was that? Vella says that he is not sure. 'There are so many things in the media that I begin to get confused,' he adds.
'Hazin!' remarks the Magistrate as she takes over the questioning.
Vella says that he might have picked it up from the media.
Going back to the conversations on Saturday after a question by Arnaud, Vella says that he bluffed, saying that a friend had a boat.
After that day, Vella had visited Yorgen Fenech at the Police HQ in Floriana following a call. At the time, Fenech was once again agitated.
Vella says that he was offended that they did not go up together to Gozo.
On Sunday, he got a call from Franco Fenech saying that he would go for Yorgen Fenech himself. Vella says that a driver had taken the keys to him.
Vella says that they left at around 4pm. They agreed that they would go up to Gozo the next day.
He says that then he saw Fenech in a call and he left the room while the brothers were discussing work-related issues and signing work related papers.
Asked why the word 'legally' was used, Vella says that if he recalled correctly it was used.
Vella says that it was about legally leaving Malta.
He recalls Yorgen Fenech saying that if he wanted to he'd leave the country on a private jet.
He says he did not understand the context except that Yorgen Fenech's brother was panicking about the accused.
Once again, Arnaud asks about the conversations on Saturday when Fenech, his brother and Vella were in Gozo.
Asked whether he heard conversations between the Fenech brothers, he recalls Yorgen Fenech's brother asking the murder suspect whether he could legally leave the country. He added that Yorgen Fenech had told his brother that he would not leave but would remain in Malta.
On his own initiative, Vella says that Fenech never wanted to absconded.
Asked whether Fenech was still agitated, Vella says no adding that he had given him pills used to treat anxiety.
"Tinsiex ippakkjajtu Ativan," Vella says.
On Saturday morning, Vella got a call from Fenech's brother saying that he would go to see Yorgen Fenech because he needs to sign some papers. Vella joined Fenech's brother.
Vella explains that Fenech trusts his brother, and that the next day his brother went to bring him over from Gozo.
'His brother is an expert of the subject we have mentioned behind closed doors,' Vella says.
The witness is asked about the plan.
Before the trip, Vella had given him some pills to calm down. He adds that is why he slept.
Vella replies that maybe Fenech had been there two years before, maybe twice.
Once at the Ghajnsielem home, Vella showed Fenech around and left. Fenech did not want to eat. He then left to Malta.
Upon their arrival in Gozo, he gave Fenech his house keys and went to a Kazin in Ghajnsielem to buy four packets of cigarettes for Fenech.
Fenech slept in the car during the crossing while Vella remained with him.
Vella stopped at his house and got him another 'brand new phone' which was unwanted Christmas gift.
Asked by Arnaud, whether they went straight from Portomaso to Cirkewwa, Vella says that on the way, Fenech realised that he forgot his mobile phone.
Initially, Fenech did not accept Vella's suggestion. Then they left off to Gozo using Vella's car at around 9.30pm.
Vella says that this happened on Friday before Fenech was arrested.
"I had assumed it was the effect of the narcotics he had had," he tells the court.
Dr Vella said that he had suggested to Fenech's wife to go to Gozo until he calms down. He describes Gozo as a place to calm down.
We're back inside the courtroom.
The court orders the public out.
He says that he would like to say some things but behind closed doors.
He said that he had gone to his house in Portomaso around 8pm where he found him very agitated.
Dr Vella says that in November 2019, Fenech had called him telling him that he is very agitated.
Apart from having a private practice he also works with companies – including Tumas Group.
Fenech's lawyers make a point on health related questions. The court will direct accordingly.
Arnaud starts questioning.
Dr Vella has been Fenech's family doctor for four generations.
The court exonerates the doctor from professional secrecy.
His lawyer points out that since he is a doctor, he has to be released from professional secrecy and possibly testify behind closed doors.
Magistrate Montebello points out that he did not understand the warning. She adds that as a witness he is bound to answer any questions which do not risk self-incrimination.
He nods in understanding.
Dr Vella says that since the 'proceedings' against him haven't been concluded, he will answer at a later stage.
Magistrate Montebello cautions the witness. She warns the witness that he has no right to a lawyer as a witness.
Police Inspector Arnaud tells the court that the investigation is still ongoing. At present, Dr Vella does not seem criminally liable, however the investigation is yet to be concluded, he explains.
Magistrate Montebello asks if she has to caution the witness.
Dr Adrian Vella takes the stand. He is being assisted by Dr Mario Mifsud, who stands besides him.
A court official wipes the stand with disinfectant before the next witness takes the stand.
Cardona asks the parties not to work on the pen drive but make a copy of the data.
The witness says that the hard drive contained various recordings. He also found that three types of software were used to extract these recordings.
The court expert also exhibited a report.
He explains that there are more voice recordings than the eight recordings which were mentioned during the last sitting.
The court expert presents five pen drives containing the recordings.
He says that he looked out for various formats of voice recordings present in the hard drive.
Alvin Cardona takes the witness. Cardona was appointed as a court witness and was tasked to identify voice recordings in the hard drive.
The court issues a decree upholding the defence request for the appointment of a psychiatrist to assess state witness Melvin Theuma. Dr Joe Cassar has been appointed as a court expert.
Magistrate Rachel Montebello walks in. We're in session.
We're now waiting for Magistrate Rachel Montebello.
Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech has just been escorted into the courtroom.
Good morning and welcome to Newsbook Live Blog. We're live from Hall 22.
Police Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are leading the prosecution.
Lawyers Marion Camilleri, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Charles Mercieca are appearing for the accused.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia and Eve Borg Costanzi are appearing as parte civile.
Lawyers Philip Galea Farrugia and Nadia Attard are appearing on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office.
Magistrate Rachel Montebello is presiding over the court.