In the wake of last week’s murder case in Ħal Millieri, allegedly carried out by two 18-year old youths, many persons were shocked that the crime was committed by youths and expressed concern on the present generation. However, crime historian and author of 43 books, Eddie Attard, told Television Malta that the case is not new and that there were worse shocking crimes by youths in the island’s history.
Last week, Leon Debono and Owen Schembri, both aged 18, were arraigned in Court accused with the murder of 27-year old Saviour Gaffarena and the attempted murder of his cousin, Vince Gaffarena aged 17 who is in hospital in critical but stable condition. Following the murder, questions were raised on youth delinquency, however author and crime historian Eddie Attard told TVM that these are no new crimes for the Maltese Society.
“I say we had worse cases; in the past we had cases of 13-year old children – a 13-year old boy who killed his headteacher and another boy of the same age who killed a girl. We had a 12-year old boy who committed rape and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. In the 19th Century, we even had 18-year old youths who were hanged”.
Mr Attard said that in 1882, a specific Court was established to deal with under-17 year old youths who committed theft, not murder and in the beginning of the 20th Century the Salvatur Fort in Kalkara was used as a juvenile prison.
“Many remember the reformatory in 1920, similar to a prison for youths who were separated from inmates of Kordin; it was in tas-Salvatur in Cottonera. Many persons used to frighten youths with ‘is-Salvatur'”.
Despite this history of youth delinquency, Mr Attard notes that a motive behind a considerable amount of today’s homicides and thefts is related to drug trafficking, as in fact the Police think was the reason for last week’s murder.