The year’s most shocking stories

The year’s most shocking stories

From bus crashes to explosions and gruesome murders, these were the jaw-droppers

The news reports about the double-decker sightseeing bus tragedy were among the most read on this year. Photos: Jonathan Borg

The news reports about the double-decker sightseeing bus tragedy were among the most read on this year. Photos: Jonathan Borg

From a mysterious bomb explosion along a quiet rural lane, to a gruesome murder in suburbia, and the police victim of a violent hit-and-run, throughout 2018 the Times of Malta newsroom covered stories that shocked readers. Ivan Martin looks back at some of the reports that dropped Malta’s jaw this year.

Double decker disaster

Times of Malta readers were captivated by the news that two tourists lost their lives when a double-decker sightseeing bus hit low-lying tree branches in Żurrieq back in April. 

The news reports were among the most read on the Times of Malta website this year, with the first report breaking the news of the accident, topping the website overall this year.

Tourists sitting on the bus’s open-air top deck were hurt when they were hit at speed by branches from a large tree on Valletta Road.

Two of those struck – a Belgian man, 62 and a Spanish woman, 37 – died on the spot.

Six others were critically injured, and 44 were treated for various injuries and shock as a result of the horrific accident. 

The bus was being driven by a 24-year-old, and while the cause of the incident is still not certain, industry sources have said it was likely the bus was being driven dangerously close to the curb. 

A magisterial inquiry was launched but the investigations remain shrouded in mystery and no one has yet been charged in court.

Simon SchembriSimon Schembri

‘Hero’ policeman almost killed by underage joy rider

Readers could hardly believe their eyes as they followed coverage of a 48-year-old police officer being dragged underneath a speeding car by a troublesome underage driver. 

PC Simon Schembri lost his arm in the horrific hit-and-run incident in May, suffering a 66 per cent disability which included injuries to his other limbs and lungs.

Liam Debono, 17, was charged with attempted murder, but has so far shown no remorse.

It wasn’t just the initial report, but also extensive live coverage of the subsequent court proceedings which went viral throughout the second half of 2018. 

Bloody end for Paceville icon

It seemed like a scene straight out of a Hollywood movie: the well-known nightclub owner at the height of his game is embraced by an employee who pulls out a knife and fatally stabs him.

The murder of entrepreneur Hugo Chetcuti, shocked the nation and was among the most widely read stories of the year. 

Mr Chetcuti, 52, was stabbed by a former employee on a busy Friday night outside one of his own establishments. The attack was witnessed by several individuals.

The  initial report of the attack and subsequent updates with exclusive details and live court coverage saw a surge in readership.

The man who shaped Paceville died after post-operation infections, inflicted by the three stab wounds to the stomach. 

Bojan Cmelik, 35, a Serbian national, was charged with the attack after the police chased him all the way from Paceville to Sliema.

The August blaze at the Wasteserv plant in Magħtab prompted a health hazard alarm.The August blaze at the Wasteserv plant in Magħtab prompted a health hazard alarm.

Garbage goes up in smoke

Regularly updated coverage of a major fire that broke out at the Wasteserv plant in Magħtab drew thousands and thousands of readers.

The August blaze had prompted a health hazard alarm, and the Times of Malta newsroom had been inundated with calls and tips from readers who were shocked by the large plume of smoke which covered parts of the island. 

Follow up reports on the cause of the fire as well as inquiries into the environmental and health impact of the incident had also proved to be some of the most widely read in 2018.  

‘Beheading’ in Santa Venera

The gruesome story of a woman who had her throat cut so deep that she was almost beheaded shocked and disgusted readers this summer.

The reports covered how the blood-covered cadaver of Shannon Mak, a 30-year-old Dutch woman had been found murdered on a Sta Venera street in August.

Jelle Rijpma, 22, an iGaming employee from the Netherlands, was charged with the murder. 

The victim was found with her throat slashed, lying on the ground between two cars in Triq il-Mastrudaxxi at around 6.15am by a resident when on their way to work.

Details of the investigation and subsequent court proceedings drew droves of readers.   

Mystery bomb explosion

News reports about a bomb explosion in Għargħur piqued readers’ curiosity, as police investigators tried to figure out whether the device had been planted or went off by mistake.

Għargħur was rocked on a sunny May afternoon when a loud bomb went off inside a small agricultural storeroom on a rural road.

No one died but a 42-year-old man was hospitalised as a result of the explosion.

Shortly after news of the explosion broke, follow up reports revealed how another man who had been on the scene of the incident had fled, and was later tracked down by police.

The story kept readers coming back for more.  

Investigations into the explosion have so far not yielded any results, but police sources had told The Sunday Times of Malta that the explosion was believed to be linked to drug trafficking.   

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