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Femicide suspect Roderick Cassar denied bail again

A man who stands accused of murdering his estranged wife, Roderick Cassar, will continue to be held in preventive custody after a court once again denied his request for bail.

Mr Justice Neville Camilleri rejected Cassar’s third request for bail after expressing doubts about whether he would abide by the bail conditions imposed on him.

Cassar stands accused of stalking then shooting his wife Bernice in the head and chest in Triq il-Baċir, Paola on November 22 last year.

It is the first case of murder with femicidal intent in Maltese criminal history.

Prosecutors say that apart from murdering his wife and fleeing to his house in Qrendi, Cassar also used violence against her, stole her mobile phone and car keys, breached a protection order and harassed her. Cassar, they add, did not have a permit to use the shotgun he allegedly shot her with.

The 42-year-old is pleading not guilty to all those charges.

According to doctors, her cause of death was a gunshot to her face. Witnesses told police that the mother-of-two was dragged from her car by her estranged husband who then allegedly took a shotgun from his own vehicle and shot her twice in the chest and face.

In a fresh application for bail, filed on Wednesday, his defence lawyers argued that the compilation of evidence against their client had now reached an advanced stage and only secondary witnesses still had to testify.

They argued that their client satisfied the legal requirements to be granted bail and that although the public outcry caused by the alleged crime should be taken into consideration, it should not be the only element on which the court ought to decide on bail.

The public outcry is something that will never change but this did not automatically mean that Cassar should never be released from preventive custody.

They said the accused’s elderly father, John Cassar, was willing to step in as third-party guarantor.

In their reply, prosecuting lawyers Angele Vella, Darlene Grima and Anthony Vella, from the Attorney General’s office, said that although he was presumed innocent until proven guilty, the crime with which he was accused was allegedly committed in breach of a protection order.

This and the fact that he spent 17 hours disobeying police orders until he was eventually arrested on the day of the murder shows that he is not trustworthy and does not offer the necessary guarantees that he will respect the bail conditions.

The lawyers said he also fled the scene of the crime so there was nothing stopping him from absconding.

The prosecution reminded the court that the accused had threatened his wife's family and had posted on social media that “revenge is a must”.

“All of you will pay for it, from Żebbuġ to Santa Luċija,” Cassar had allegedly menaced.

It said there was a real fear that the accused would commit another crime and that this alone led to public alarm and disquiet.

At a bail hearing on Thursday, the court also heard lawyers representing Bernice Cassar’s relatives about their fear of Cassar being granted bail.

After hearing submissions and considering the presumption of innocence on one hand and the public interest and public outcry caused by the crime on the other hand, the court turned down the request since it was not convinced that the accused would abide by bail conditions.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi, Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Jacob Magri are defence counsel. Lawyers Marita Pace Dimech and Ann Marie Cutajar appeared parte civile.