“Unexplained” tear in a bag containing a clone of the Caruana Galizia phone

A forensic expert will be summoned by the end of the month to help explain a torn bag of evidence containing a cloned copy of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s cellphone.

The bag has been the subject of questions raised by Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers in the proceedings leading up to the businessman’s murder trial.

Fenech, who is charged with complicity in the assassination of Caruana Galizia, was back in court on Friday, nearly three years after his arraignment in November 2019, where his lawyers are currently arguing pre-trial issues.

One of the issues reported by the defense involved a torn evidence bag that was part of the case files and appeared to contain a cloned copy of the murdered journalist’s cellphone.

In previous sessions, the court heard how some 85% of the phone data had been digitally reconstructed using advanced data recovery techniques and a copy was later presented in the inquest files.

The remains of the original phone, destroyed in the car bomb explosion that killed Caruana Galizia, have been recovered from the wreckage and the SIM card has been sent abroad for analysis by experts.

During Friday’s session, attorney and forensic expert Martin Bajada was called in to shed light on a particular bag of evidence and the dates handwritten on the cover envelope.

A note appeared to indicate that the coin was retired on September 18, 2018, but the date scribbled next to the “returned” note apparently did not match.

“I remember taking it [the clone] at Europol,” Bajada said.

“It’s the cloned cell phone, the same one I gave to Europol,” confirmed the expert.

Then, on September 18, 2018, he removed the exhibit from his evidence bag to perform WhatsApp extractions, turning it over and resealing that bag on September 21.

“Now I realize the bag has been opened again,” Bajada said, as he checked the brown envelope and clear plastic evidence bag inside, under the watchful eyes of the court.

A second bag contained a hard drive but the witness said he never “touched it”.

“Do you remember if the bag of evidence was torn like it is today?” asked Madam Justice Edwina Grima.

“Definitely not. I would have reported it,” Bajada replied.

“So it must have happened after,” defense attorney Charles Mercieca said.

Court expert says he was not called to testify on all reports

The documents having been processed by another legal expert responsible for making copies, the court indicated that this expert would be summoned to the next session to shed light on the state of this bag of evidence.

“Let’s not forget that this is an important exhibition,” remarked Mercieca.

When asked if he had completed his duties as a forensic expert, Bajada gave an overview of the various stages of the investigation into the murder, which began under magistrate Anthony Vella and was later taken over by magistrate Neville Camilleri.

When Camilleri was appointed judge, the investigation was entrusted to magistrate Victor George Axiak.

Bajada had carried out the tasks entrusted to him by the Chief Magistrate.

However, subsequent tasks had not been fully completed simply because he had not been called to testify about his reports.

AG: all the experts testified

It was then that Mercieca was quick to point out that the defense had filed a motion during the compilation of the murders, specifically asking the prosecution to summon particular experts to present their reports.

But the Attorney General replied that all the experts who were to testify had done so.

In light of the issues raised on Friday, the court adjourned the case until later this month for the other expert to testify and possibly help resolve the unexplained tear in the evidence bag.

New deposit request

In the meantime, at the request of the defense itself, a new request for bail was to remain pending until the next session.

“Perhaps there could be a development that could lead to a change in circumstances,” Mercieca remarked as the session drew to a close.

Attorneys Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri were also defense attorneys.

Deputy AG Philip Galea Farrugia sued.

Lawyer Jason Azzopardi appeared civil party.

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About Laura J. Bell

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