It was a true line of duty story that led to her murder.
The investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, scourge of corrupt politicians in Malta, was murdered by a car bomb in October 2017.
Her death provoked nationwide grief and anger, and ultimately toppled a government that was widely believed to be implicated in the conspiracy.
The murder of a 53-year-old mother of three whose only crime was shedding light on high-altitude misconduct sparked shock waves across Europe.
And today she is the inspiration for the story of the murder of a journalist in the latest series of Line Of Duty, the hit television drama.
The tragic real-life story begins in Sliema, the popular resort in the then British Crown Colony of Malta, the Mediterranean island that won a George Cross for its heroic role in World War II.
Daphne Anna Vella was born there on August 26, 1964 as the eldest of four daughters of businessman Michael Vella and his wife Rosie Marie. She was trained in the monastery and drawn into politics at an early age. She was arrested as a teenager for participating in anti-government protests.
She married the lawyer Peter Caruana Galizia when she was young in 1985, before moving to the Sunday Times of Malta as a reporter and then as a columnist.
Her investigative journalism, which exposed corruption in high positions, brought her into conflict with powerful politicians and their businessmen.
The retaliation was quick. Hirelings from the Maltese underworld set fire to the front of their house and cut the throat of the family dog on their doorstep. A neighbor’s car was likely accidentally set on fire. The family’s home was set on fire while they slept.
The intimidation heightened after Daphne started a popular blog called Running Commentary in 2008, which focused on the island’s notoriously narrow public life.
Her revelations enraged the political elite and resulted in numerous libel and defamation cases, none of which were successful. Worse still, mafia-style threats have become more common. Her dog Zulu was poisoned and her collie Rufus had to be dropped after the shot.
She was arrested in March 2013 and released a few hours on the eve of a general election after posting mocking videos of Labor leader Joseph Muscat. New controversies followed her exposure of a leading politician Chris Cardona to a brothel about government business in Germany and allegations against opposition leader Adrian Delia for money laundering in connection with a prostitution ring in the London borough of Soho.
After the release of the explosive Panama Papers in 2016, another scandal broke out, exposing global links between leading Maltese politicians and secret offshore money accounts in the South American tax haven.
Daphne blogged that Minister Konrad Mizzi had ties to this seedy international network, forcing him to approve a secret trust fund. It also announced that Keith Schembri, chief of staff of Labor Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, had a similar situation due to tax evasion in Panama.
The following year she claimed that Michelle Muscat, the Prime Minister’s wife, also had a finger in the cake, along with another Panama company, Egrant.
Her merciless appetite for disclosure earned Daphne the international title “One-Woman WikiLeaks, Crusade Against Opacity and Corruption in Malta”, which shaped, shook and moved Europe.
On October 16, just hours before she was murdered in 2017, she stated on her blog: “This crook Schembri was in court today, pleading that he is not a crook.” She added, “Everywhere you now look, there are crooks. The situation is desperate. “
How desperate her family would soon find out. A huge car bomb, probably Semtex, exploded under her hired Peugeot as Daphne drove home. She was killed instantly. The explosion was so violent that parts of the vehicle were thrown over nearby fields.
What was left of Daphne’s body was found by her son Matthew more than fifty yards from the site of the atrocity. He said to Facebook friends, “I looked down and my mother’s body parts were all over the place.”
Her funeral in the capital Valletta on November 3rd drew thousands of mourners, many of whom shouted “Justice!” but not the top Maltese politicians, whose filthy lifestyles had exposed them to a public gaze that was at great and ultimately fatal personal risk.
At the funeral mass, the Archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna, urged Daphne’s fellow journalists: “Do not be afraid. I encourage you to be the eyes, ears and mouth of people in your mission, never to get tired. Do this without fear and with full respect for the truth. Dear journalists, we need you. “
It was two days before the police chiefs held a press conference at which they revealed almost nothing and dismissed public doubts about their integrity. A petition demanding their removal quickly garnered 10,000 signatures.
Six weeks after her murder, investigators have not yet made arrests of the case, despite the help of the FBI, Europol and Dutch experts used to identify forensic evidence at the scene.
A mafia-style “omerta” – silence – had descended. The frustrated Caruana family accused the Maltese authorities of the island’s “culture of impunity”.
Ten suspects were not arrested until December 4, seven of whom were released. Two brothers, George and Alfred Degorgio and their accomplice Vince Muscat [no relation to the premier] were charged with bombing.
It was later alleged that they had been informed of their impending arrest by a police sergeant and had thrown their cell phones in the sea. By mid-2019, none had been tried, and none of Mr. Big’s conspirators had been named.
A year-long investigation by the Council of Europe, criticizing the authorities’ failure to find the killers, concluded that the rule of law in Malta was being undermined by a dysfunctional judicial and police system, and accused Prime Minister Muscat of improperly investigating members his own government.
Mass street protests demanding the Prime Minister’s resignation over alleged links to the assassination plunged Malta into a political and constitutional crisis. Visits to Euro MPs said the integrity of the judicial investigation was in jeopardy while Muscat remained in office.
In December 2019, more than two years after the murder, Joseph Muscat went on television to announce his resignation. He expressed “deep regret” for Daphne’s murder and called for a “new page”.
It was only in February of this year that assassin Vince Muscat pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bomb attacks and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He will probably serve less than that.
He had made a deal – a plea – with the prosecutors to obtain information about the conspiracy in exchange for a mild sentence.
In a statement in court, the Caruana family expressed hope that the conviction would serve as a step towards full justice for Daphne.
These steps look stalled. In court, Vince Muscat named top people allegedly involved in the crime: former minister Chris Cardona, his associate David Gatt and the former office of Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri. He said they had connections with the men wanted for murder. All three dismissed his claims as “pure trash”.
Cardona said the evidence was hearsay and “pure lies”. He had never met the alleged conspirators.
“I was never aware of a project in which someone was supposed to be killed. This is pure bad fiction. “Schembri vehemently denied the allegations and Gatt, a lawyer and former police inspector, asked,” What did Daphne Caruana Galizia ever do to me? I’m just a village attorney and I haven’t been involved in any of these things. “
Muscat said in the testimony that he received his information from Alfred Degriogio, who is still on trial with his brother George for planting the bomb. Local media reported that he “gave no indication of who the mastermind might have been”.
More curious and curious.
Maltese human rights activist Tim Diacomo commented: “If [Vince] Muscat’s reduced sentence leads to the persecution and eventual conviction of people further up the food chain. This might make sense in the larger scheme of things. “
So far, however, these connections have proven to be stronger than the forces of law and order. A prime minister has left office with several of his ministers and top aides, but no one above the rank of foot soldier in the media murder conspiracy of the century has been convicted of anything.
The same celebrity names keep coming up with monotonous regularity, but only the bottom hem of Omerta has been raised. The punishment for informing is clearly more feared than the Maltese judiciary.
In death, Daphne was immortalized in abundance with a foundation, awards, and monuments. Perhaps she was the only investigator who could get to the bottom of this Maltese crime thriller.
That’s why they killed her.