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OBITUARY



P.C. 949 - ROGER DEBATTISTA

09.07.1967 - 12.11.01



HERO'S FUNERAL FOR MURDERED POLICE CONSTABLE


The policeman fatally shot while on guard duty at a Bank of Valletta branch on Monday was given a hero`s funeral yesterday, with hundreds of policemen and thousands of people joining his grieving widow Simone and national leaders for funeral Mass at Hamrun.

PC Roger Debattista was shot twice as he tried to close the glass door of the bank branch at Ta` Farzina in Qormi when he noticed that a hold-up was about to take place. Four people have been accused of his murder.

Hamrun church was packed for the funeral Mass, with President Guido de Marco leading the congregation together with Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami and Opposition leader Alfred Sant.

Flags flew at half mast as a large crowd gathered outside the church half an hour before the Mass started. Some people carried flowers as they talked about the tragedy. In the homily, Fr Noel Grima, who had lived in the same street as the slain policeman, invited those who killed him to understand what they had done. He asked if they had a wife and children, like PC Debattista did.

"Evil exists. It is real and the only way to overcome it is to sacrifice oneself to overcome it," Fr Grima said. At the end of the Mass, Fr Ranier Zammit, the Police Corps Chaplain, read a letter to PC Debattista written by police historian Eddie Attard. Mr Attard`s letter reflected the thoughts of many of those inside and outside the church by saying that everyone was saddened by news of the death. "Up till recently, we were proud that the list of such killings was short. But crimes against society such as these have increased," Mr Attard wrote.

Lengthy applause saluted the coffin as it was carried out of the church. His inconsolable mother was heard shouting "they killed my son for nothing". The hearse was escorted to Addolorata Cemetery by police motorcyclists, and policemen in ceremonial uniform carried the coffin which was draped in the police flag, to the police grave where a Guard of Honour stood to attention, as a detachment fired three rounds in a final salute before the body was laid to rest.

PC Debattista`s murder again brought to the fore the issue of compensation that should be given to relatives of members of the force killed on duty. As things stand, the widow will only receive a sum of just over Lm1,000 and a small widows` pension. She has three daughters: Kelsey, 8, Shanice, 6 and 15-month-old Jezmine. "The flowers laid on his grave will soon whither. There should be adequate support, financial and otherwise, for the family. Whenever there are children, they should be 'adopted` by the police corps, which should pay for their education and reasonable needs until they find a job," Mr Attard said.

Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg said victims of crime could ask for compensation and he would ensure that the procedure to compensate PC Debattista`s widow would be speeded up. Also present for the funeral Mass were Ministers, Members of Parliament, Police Commissioner John Rizzo, Deputy Commissioner Joe Cachia, Assistant Commissioners: Michael Cassar, Andrew Seychell, Lawrence Cutajar, Josie Brincat and other senior officers and members of the AFM`s bomb disposal unit, who had often worked alongside with PC Debattista, who was stationed at the Dogs' Section and whose dog was trained to sniff for explosives. Bank of Valletta chairman Joseph Zahra was also present.


May he rest in peace.



NOTE:
Within hours from this homicide and after thorough investigations led by the newly appointed Police Commissioner himself, the Police have succeeded in bringing to justice the persons responsible for this murder.

Four men were charged with murder and armed robbery following Monday`s daring raid on the Qormi Bank of Valletta branch.

Mario Borg, 32, of Zebbug; Mark George Falzon, 25, of Hamrun; Andy Calleja, 21, of Zabbar and Ian Galdes, 19, of Qormi; pleaded not guilty to fatally shooting PC Roger Debattista at about 10.30 a.m.

They were also charged with:-

The men appeared before Magistrate Joseph Cassar amid tight security and were kept apart from each other. They were remanded in custody. Police Superintendent Pierre Calleja and Police Inspectors Angelo Caruana and Carmelo Bartolo prosecuted.



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