'My mother was assassinated': Son of Maltese journalist recalls horror of car bomb scene

'My mother was assassinated': Son of Maltese journalist recalls horror of car bomb scene

The son of Malta's most famous investigative journalist, who was killed in a car bomb close to her home, has accused the country's Prime Minister of complicity in her death.


Key points:

  • Journalist had accused Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his wife of taking kickbacks
  • Police sergeant tweeted he was happy she had died
  • Dutch forensic teams and FBI agents will lead the investigation

Matthew Caruana Galizia described in detail on Facebook the horror of seeing the burning wreck of his mother's car.

"I am never going to forget, running around the inferno in the field, trying to figure out a way to open the door, the horn of the car still blaring, screaming at two policemen who turned up with a single fire extinguisher to use it," he wrote.

Daphne Caruana Galizia had just left her home in a rented Peugeot when a bomb ripped it apart.

"My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists," her son wrote.

"But she was also targeted because she was the only person doing so.

"This is what happens when the institutions of the state are incapacitated: the last person left standing is often a journalist. Which makes her the first person left dead."

The journalist had accused Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of filling his office with crooks and his wife of taking kickbacks and hiding it in a secret Panama bank account.

The 53-year-old ran a popular blog targeting corruption on all sides of politics.

A police sergeant who tweeted that he was happy she had died and that "everyone gets what they deserve" was suspended.

But there is little faith or trust in the Maltese police.

Dutch forensic teams have already arrives and FBI agents will be in Malta by the end of the week to lead the investigation.

Caruana Galizia's death has also sent shockwaves through Europe.

"She knew she was in danger and she didn't get the protection she deserved," German member of the European Parliament Sven Giegold said.

"The consequence of her courage is now her death and it is really shocking that this is possible in the European Union in 2017.

"It sounds to me like Italy in the 1980s or Russia's Putin of today."

Mr Giegold was a leading figure in the parliament's inquiry into the Panama Papers — an expose into tax havens and money laundering.

He said Malta — the smallest nation in the EU — could now face legal action.

"The anti-money laundering authority was silenced on key accusations," he said.

"And this silencing has to stop and the European commission has to start the treaty violation procedures against Malta for the inability to police a European law.

"Malta is now the test case to whether the European commission is serious to enforce European law."

Fear of being targeted

The journalist's death has also spread fear among her colleagues and friends.

"We don't feel safe any longer as people who, in a way, share her views and share her approach towards unmasking and unveiling scandals and problems," human rights activist Neil Falzon said.

"We're feeling a bit afraid that if we speak too loudly, if we say things people don't like that there is a possibility of being targeted and it's a horrible feeling."

Mr Falzon, the director of the NGO Aditus Foundation, said one of the major problems in Malta was that governments essentially appointed top public officials like police commissioners and members of the judiciary.

"So what we're saying effectively that Malta is entirely run by a couple of people who use public offices to further their personal interests by putting family members and close friends in close positions, lowering the quality because we're having friends over quality and also hiding shady deals that might have implications beyond that immediate situation," he said.

He described the situation in Malta as volatile but also admitted a large number of people would be "comfortable" with Caruana Galizia's death because of her pursuit of corruption.

"I think that's a reality we need to come to terms with and find a way of dealing with it as a nation and we don't have that public outcry that we'd have in every other democratic state," he said.

Intimidation of journalists

Earlier this year Roberta Metsola, a Maltese opposition figure and member of the European Parliament sent a letter to the European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans urging him to take action against the intimidation of journalists in Malta.

But the level of violence has shocked her.

"None of us would ever have expected this to happen in a member state, in a young democracy in the European union where freedom of expression is so highly prized," Dr Metsola said.

"The consequences on the political situation of our country is huge, let that not ever be underestimated.

"The implication of what the government tried to do, and is still trying to do, notwithstanding any grandstanding to the contrary, is very shocking in a democratic country that mine is supposed to be."

Thousands of people have taken to the streets, holding vigils and demanding justice for the journalist.

"This has brought people out onto the streets more than any other political event would and this time we are talking about a political murder," Dr Metsola said.