The Trial of David Gatt – why wasn’t the testimony of star witness Mario Portelli regarding the doctor believed?

As I have written in another blog, during his testimony, star witness PC99 Mario Portelli had stated that on meeting David Gatt in a restaurant in Sliema, “Gatt looked very worried as Darren Debono had been injured by a bullet fired by the police who returned fire in the shootout that ensued.”

According to the witness, David Gatt was particularly worried at the prospect that a doctor with whom he [Gatt] contacted, might mention his name in court.”

“The witness added that Gatt explained to him that during his conversation with the doctor he said: ‘you’re a doctor; I’m a lawyer.’

The doctor – identified by his nickname ‘Goofy’ – was approached by Gatt to examine Darren Debono soon after the foiled heist on the HSBC headquarters, but could not assist at that time, as an X-Ray was necessary and any haphazard intervention could permanently disfigure the injured man.

During his evidence, PC99 Mario Portelli told the court that David Gatt had shown him the doctor’s clinic in Balzan when they had once driven close to it.”

We all know that the doctor who testified in this matter is Dr Zammit Montebello, a doctor by profession, and the Balzan Mayor. So, the town that PC99 Mario Portelli mentioned as pertaining to the doctor’s clinic in Balzan, which Gatt had allegedly pointed at when they once drove close to it, match, don’t you think?

But presiding magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona had clarified to the court “that this PC Portelli’s evidence was based on things the accused had told him and not because the witness was actually present during the events he mentioned.” But wasn’t Portelli physically present when Gatt pointed to him the clinic in Balzan? And why didn’t the magistrate take into consideration the facts that the testimonies matched and the town matched? What about the testimony of Dr Zammit Montebello itself?

“Defence counsel Joseph Giglio complained that most of the evidence being presented by the prosecution was irrelevant to the case asked for the “true evidence” to be speeded up, so that witnesses “more relevant to the case” give their testimony.” How can it be irrelvant to the case? Didn’t Dr Zammit Montebello testify so? If Gatt had made a phone call to Dr Zammit Montebello asking him to help Darren Debono, who was one of the robbers involved in the heist and even in the Attard jewellery robbery, then what is there which does not make it relevant? Had Darren Debono or Peppi tal-Kantuniera made the call, I would have understood it. No wonder the mind boggles when it comes to reading about matters that happen inside the building with the stairs. Since when is the law turned into a chewing gum? And why wasn’t there any documentation of the treatment that this Debono got? If there was any, was it presented to the courts?

Pardon me but this is a personal experience I had in a court case. I am aware, of course, that the context is very different. Yet, I ponder. I was the main witness, back when I was 13-years-old, in a court case after my dad had filed a report and taken to court a supporter and committee member of a football club. The accusation was bribery. This supporter had come personally home, alone, on a wintery evening, asking to talk to my dad. When the bell rang, I looked at the clock as it wasn’t a usual thing to have someone coming, at that time. I remember it was very close to 8pm. I was the one who opened the door and when this man asked for my dad, I told him dad is not home. He persisted wanting to know when dad will be home and since I didn’t want to give personal information to a stranger, I called mum to see to him. When mum came down, I went back to the room where I was studying but which was close to the front door, so I could overhear everything. In the meantime, dad came and asked my mum to go upstairs. This man tried to bribe him for an upcoming game so that this football club wins the game and gets promoted to a higher division. Dad continued to refuse but this man became persistent. Dad then decided to take the matter to court as he didn’t want his career as a referee to be tarnished. Since I had opened the door and had overheard everything, I was the only one to testify. Needless to say, I remember the defence’s tricks of varied questions in the hope, that my version changes. It did not succeed. Dad won the case. The accused was fined and jailed for one month. Obviously, we did not have any tangible evidence except what I had overheard. It was my dad’s word and mine against his. And yet, this was not the same in Gatt’s trial. Since when are the laws turned into a chewing gum?

So, Lady Justice, pardon my inquisitive mind – but, didn’t Dr Zammit Montebello testify during the proceedings against Debono, to having received a phone call explaining the nature of the problem and had given an appointment at St. Anne’s Clinic during which the police had raided the premises and arrested the men?” Didn’t we read that “testifying again in these proceedings, he added that David Gatt had made this phone call? Asked why he had not mentioned Gatt before, he had replied that Gatt had “asked him to not mention him if he could.” Isn’t this one big huge revelation?

So, Lady Justice, doesn’t the testimony of Dr Zammit Montebello, a doctor and a Balzan Mayor, coincide with the testimony of Mario Portelli and the fact that Gatt had pointed to him a clinic in Balzan?

So, Lady Justice, doesn’t the statement of Dr Zammit Montebello that Gatt had “asked him to not mention him if he could” coincide with Mario Portelli’s statement that Gatt “was particularly worried at the prospect that a doctor with whom he [Gatt] contacted, might mention his name in court”?

Is all this just coincidence or a product of a fertile imagination of two individuals who did not even know each other?

Malta is so small. Same crimes. Same Darren Debono. Same building with the stairs. Same riddles. Same bubble gum laws. Same village lawyer. Same David Gatt.

And yet he was acquitted from our courts, and the mind continues to boggle.

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