Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It Happened in Gozo 2 - Murder for Money

The story of Salvu ta' Grabiela (grah-bee-lah), poor guy a victim of greed. It happened many years ago. 'Ta' Grah bee lah' was his nickname. Many of the families in Gozo and Malta were more commonly known by their nickname than by their surname. This is part of the folklore of the Maltese Islands and is still in some use to this day. The nicknames sometimes generated from the trade of a particular family like 'Tony of the blacksmith' or 'George of the Sailor'. Other nicknames were derived, strangely enough from colours, 'of the yellow', or 'of the black', others from nationalities such as 'of the Italian', 'of the English', 'of the Russian', 'of the Turk' while others ring with a sense of humour like a nickname of 'Fred the Giant' for a man of very short stature.

This man Salvu (Sal-voo) lived in Victoria, in an open terraced house a few meters down from the city centre. His house like many of the houses in those days had an open central courtyard with rooms opening onto it. He used to frequent a certain wine-shop in the evening after work, where he used to sit for hours with his friends munching peanuts and drinking a glass of Gozo wine or two. This was a common habit among low-class labourers who after dinner made their way to one of these wine taverns to spend time with their friends. Some people even took their food with them wrapped in a piece of cloth to eat in the shop. As we know, wine loosens the tongue and in his happy moods, Salvu used to brag a little bit about how much money he had stashed away. He even carried some gold coins in his belt and it was not the first time that he showed the gold to the men in the shop. Well the sight of gold is a temptation for some and it proved more so in those hard times.

It so happened that one dark night two men planned to rob Salvu. They broke into his house by climbing a low wall and waited for him in an upstairs terrace overlooking the courtyard. When the poor man arrived home somewhat late and a little tipsy, the two men murdered him in cold blood by dropping a stone slab on his head. He was killed instantly and was found in the morning by his neighbour in a pool of blood. Tragic and very sad. Nobody knows how much money the murderers stole. Was it true that he had a hoard of money or was Salvu only bragging about his wealth? One thing is certain, that his murder remained unsolved because the police could not prove anything. Poor Salvu, may God rest his soul in Peace.


  1. Frank Galea (Cikku)June 16, 2010 at 7:22 PM

    As far as I know there were five brigands not two and the Murder was unsolved only for 30 years according to a man nicknamed "Toni tal Gradenz" from Rabat I heard him narrate the story many times in my younger years in Gozo, till a new police superintendent was installed in Gozo. He was wa determined to solve the cold case, and so he did..He had his suspissions and laid a trap for them. He spread the rumour that the bandits were going to be arrested and if any of them came forward with information, he will receive a deal on his sentense, so one of them did and exposed the others.As a matter of fact a rhyme was made up by the old folks. This is it.
    Hamsa kienu l-bgandi
    Tlieta minnhom hallelin
    Biex qatlu lil ta' Grabiela
    U sequlu l-flus tac-cintorin

    Also the thiefs had a go at making counterfeit money and this was well known in my time Thanks and hope that this information helps you in your quest
    Frank Galea (Cikku) mir Rabat

  2. thanks Frank. I related the story as I remembered it, but now that you memtion it, I remember that rhyme too.

    5 were the brigands
    3 of them were thieves
    they killed S ta' Grabiela
    his money-belt to steal

    The final part I did not know about, but I knew Toni l-Gradenz and I heard him tell many a story when I was a boy.

    SO I will correct the story in another page: