Marsa Docks in Valletta. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/ for the Guardian
At 2.55 pm, the Maya stopped, idling along a sheltered stretch of water beneath a neoclassical whe ar commemoration known as the Siege Bell. Minutes later, it is alleged, there were two phone calls to the boat, both from Bidnija. The first lasted 44 sec; the next, 1min 47 sec.
Arnaud’s testimony to the court explains:” If you look into why there were two calls, it matches perfectly with what Matthew Caruana Galizia said when he told us that when his mother left the house, she forgot the cheque book.
” In our opinion … the spotter assured the victim come out, he informed the person at sea to prepare himself, the victim went into the house again, the call ended, but two minutes later it has just taken place again .”
At 2.58 pm, a text message was sent to the” divinity device” containing a code designed to activate the circuit board in the bomb.
The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia: how police believe events unfolded
Within minutes of the explosions, Arnaud told the court, George was messaging his girlfriend:” Buy me wine, my love .” She replied: “OK.” At 4pm, CCTV shows the Maya cruising back towards its mooring.
The police case relies upon the evidence provided by the phones, and more information may be forthcoming.
The wider investigation
A sweep of the harbour floor by army scuba divers led to the recovery of eight phones said to have been used by the accused.
The Guardian understands that all the devices were sent to Europol in the Netherlands for analysis several weeks ago.
Alongside the examining magistrate hearing police evidence against the alleged bombers, another magistrate, Anthony Vella, is investigating the murder. Europol, the FBI and a Maltese telecoms expert are reporting directly to him.
The family’s hopes of discovering who ordered the killing rest with Vella, because they fear police will not pursue evidence that might lead to legislators. A source close to the investigation said police were focused on finding the bomb manufacturer, and tracing any possible links to organised crime.
Vella is” a very thorough, meticulous , no-nonsense person”, says the family’s lawyer, Jason Azzopardi.” The fact that these international experts are answerable to the magistrate is the way it should be because this case has reverberations that go beyond the coasts of Malta .”
The three suspects have said nothing since their arrest. George, known by the street name
ic-Ciniz ( the Chinese ), simply pulled out his identity card and placed it on the interrogation room table during police questioning. Alfred, or il-Fulu ( the Bean ), would not even corroborate his name.
The Guardian understands that sleuths suspect the men had been tipped off before their arrest. When policemen came for them in Marsa, the phones they had allegedly utilized were already on the seabed, and George had his partner’s mobile number written on his hand.
The Nationalist MP and former opposition leader Simon Busuttil is concerned that the raid seemed staged:” The assault was fully filmed and everything looked pre-set for maximum propaganda effect. Footage of the assault was quicky circulated on the media and looked like something out of a Marvel action film- theatrical .”
All three men entered not guilty pleas and accepted legal aid, but declined to speak to their lawyers.
They have yet to stand trial, and any suggestion they were acting on orders remains speculation.
Certainly, Caruana Galizia had many adversaries and many critics. She took aim at anyone she believed needed to be held to account- mobsters, business people, even the current leader of the Nationalist party, with which she had been closely aligned.
Caruana Galizia’s second son, Andrew, lays the blamed at the feet of the ruling Labour party.
” Maltese citizens are completely naked when they interact with their country ,” he said.” There’s no independent organization in between the citizen and the government. Her assassination became possible for that reason .”
In the aftermath of the attack, and without the consent of the family, the government
offered a EUR1m( PS870, 000) reward for info leading to the killers. Despite the arrests, it remains on the table.
In a statement emailed by his spokesman, the prime minister said:” An investigation is ongoing into those who ordered the killing. I trust the Maltese police will investigate this case with full professionalism, and without fear or favour .”
Muscat added that the murder had” shocked and outraged” him.
” No prime minister would want a journalist to be murdered under any circumstances. This was an attack on our society and such a senseless act particularly affects a country our sizing. This murder does not reflect on the Maltese people, who enjoy a liberal, open and democratic society. The government is clear that the police will have whatever resources they need to pursue and prosecute those responsible .”
‘Journalism was her life’: Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family was talking about – video
The stakes for both Malta and the EU remain high.
And for a family torn apart by the murder, there is anger, bewilderment, and an overwhelming feeling of loss.
Matthew’s brother Paul, 29, flew in from London on the night of the murder and was confronted by a sight he will never forget.
Their peaceful valley was, he says, unrecognisable: the familiar fields were floodlit, the road choked with police and television crews.
As Andrew puts it:” It felt like the world had collapsed and no one was safe any more. Apart from my mother being taken away I also felt that my country had been taken away .”
A book on freedom of expression hangs on a burnt tree at the scene of the murder. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/ Reuters Timeline
15 November 2016: Sim cards for mobile devices allegedly used to trigger the bomb are purchased.
10 January 2017 : The trigger sims are activated for the first time, in the area of Zebbug. One is placed inside a Nokia handset and used to send four text messages to the other, placed in a circuit board. After 20 minutes, the sims are switched off.
19 August: Three burner phones believed to have been used by the bombers are activated within 20 minutes of each other.
21 August : Trigger sims are switched on for the second time, and two text messages are sent between them. This appears to be a second test run.
End of September: White rental car assured for the first time in the vicinity of Bidnija. Over the coming weeks it is spotted many times, parked near a lookout point.
15 October : All three burner phones are located in Bidnija. Alfred Degiorgio’s personal phone and the device said to be his burner phone appear to remain there all night and most of the following day.
16 October :
1.41 am – Trigger sim is switched on. It signals from Bidnija, where Caruana Galizia’s car is parked outside her home.
8am – The Maya is filmed on CCTV leaving Valletta’s Grand Harbour. Phone data indicates only George Degiorgio was on board.
8.30 am – The Vodafone mast in Bidnija goes off grid and is closed for maintenance until 6pm.
2.55 pm – CCTV shows the Maya stopping in sheltered water beneath the Siege Bell war memorial.
2.58 pm- Text message is allegedly sent from the boat to the circuit board sim, detonating a bomb placed under the driver’s seat of Caruana Galizia’s car.
3.20 pm – Phone data shows the Maya heading back towards the harbour.
3.30 pm – George Degiorgio sends a message from his personal phone to his partner:” Buy me wine, my love .”