Man accused of setting ex-girlfriend's shared flat on fire

The woman was inside the apartment at the time the door of her Msida residence was set on fire 

A man has been remanded in custody on charges of having set fire to his ex-girlfriend's residence, while the woman was still inside. 

35- year old Boris Kotsev from Bulgaria, a factory employee residing in Marsaskala appeared in the dock before magistrate Rachel Montebello on Wednesday, accused of arson and voluntary damage to private property.

Police Inspector Mario Xiberras told the court that the man had been arrested following an investigation into an incident on 13 November, where a door to an Msida residence had been set alight.

Police discovered that the three-storey house belonged to a Maltese man who had rented it out to several foreign nationals.

Investigators reviewing CCTV footage of the unidentified arsonist noted that a man of similar stature and carrying a familiar shoulder bag as the arsonist had been arrested in the past in connection with a separate offence. The owner of the building informed the police that one of the tenants had been in a relationship with Kotsev which had broken up.

Call profiles, bodycam footage and other evidence were analysed, culminating in Kotsev’s arrest. The accused had admitted his guilt to the police during questioning.

The court was also told that the man’s ex-girlfriend had been inside the apartment at the time the door was set on fire.

Kotsev’s lawyer, Daniel Attard, entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf during the arraignment, also requesting bail.

The prosecution objected to the request, pointing to the grave nature of the charges, the accused’s lack of ties to Malta and the risk of him suborning one of the 15 witnesses who are due to testify in the proceedings.

Attard said the man had worked in Malta for three years before returning to Bulgaria during the Covid-19 pandemic. He returned to Malta six months ago and was employed, had a fixed place of residence, as well as a clean criminal record, said the lawyer.

The magistrate, noting the gravity of the alleged offences, the fact that the man had only been in Malta continuously for six months and because there appears to have been several people inside the building he set alight, said that in this case she felt that bail ought to be denied.

The court, however, urged the prosecution to present its witnesses without delay to allow the bail request to be reconsidered.

Inspector Jeffrey Scicluna also prosecuted, assisted by lawyers Daniel Tabone and Joseph Camilleri Azarov from the Office of the Attorney General.