Rosario Mizzi and Antonio Azzopardi were hanged for murder but was Mizzi framed and was Azzopardi buried alive.

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Domed Church of Our Lady in Old City. Valletta, Malta, Mediterranean Sea.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

The rise and fall of Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Abate Vella claimed to have ‘discovered’ ancient Arabic parchments.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

Vella also claimed to have ‘ discovered’ 17 lost books by Livy (Titus Livius).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

Vella’s fraudulent claims threw the Italian peninsula into confusion.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

Abate Vella died totally discredited in Palermo, Sicily.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

Lord Gerald Strickland was accused of complicity in Rosario Mizzi’s frame-up.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Gerald Strickland then suffered from a frame-up that deprived him of again becoming Prime Minister.

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

Masonic Lodges have always been seen as a scourge in Catholic Malta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

The Masonic Hall today in Marsamxett, Valletta, not so frowned upon nowadays.

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

This newspaper alleged that Ninu ‘Xkora’ Azzopardi was buried alive.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

‘Risorgimento’ was also sued for libel but won the case.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

Hamrun’s St Joseph High Road in the 1920s – said to have been haunted by the ghost of Ninu ‘Xkora’ – walking at night with a sack slung over his shoulder.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta Diary

 

Notorious characters – fascinating stories – Abate Giuseppe Vella; Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora”

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH 

 

TAGS: Malta Diary; Albert Fenech; Malta; Gozo; Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749; death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta Diary

 

Notorious characters – fascinating stories – Abate Giuseppe Vella; Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora”

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH 

 

TAGS: Malta Diary; Albert Fenech; Malta; Gozo; Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749; death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta Diary

 

Notorious characters – fascinating stories – Abate Giuseppe Vella; Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora”

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH 

 

TAGS: Malta Diary; Albert Fenech; Malta; Gozo; Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749; death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta Diary

 

Notorious characters – fascinating stories – Abate Giuseppe Vella; Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora”

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH 

 

TAGS: Malta Diary; Albert Fenech; Malta; Gozo; Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749; death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta Diary

 

Notorious characters – fascinating stories – Abate Giuseppe Vella; Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora”

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH 

 

TAGS: Malta Diary; Albert Fenech; Malta; Gozo; Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749; death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta Diary

 

Notorious characters – fascinating stories – Abate Giuseppe Vella; Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora”

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH 

 

TAGS: Malta Diary; Albert Fenech; Malta; Gozo; Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749; death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta Diary

 

Notorious characters – fascinating stories – Abate Giuseppe Vella; Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora”

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH 

 

TAGS: Malta Diary; Albert Fenech; Malta; Gozo; Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749; death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta Diary

 

Notorious characters – fascinating stories – Abate Giuseppe Vella; Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora”

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH 

 

TAGS: Malta Diary; Albert Fenech; Malta; Gozo; Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749; death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta Diary

 

Notorious characters – fascinating stories – Abate Giuseppe Vella; Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora”

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH 

 

TAGS: Malta Diary; Albert Fenech; Malta; Gozo; Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749; death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta Diary

 

Notorious characters – fascinating stories – Abate Giuseppe Vella; Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora”

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH 

 

TAGS: Malta Diary; Albert Fenech; Malta; Gozo; Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749; death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta Diary

 

Notorious characters – fascinating stories – Abate Giuseppe Vella; Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora”

As with all countries, Malta has its share of notorious characters. I will relate the stories of three of the most notorious but strangely enough little is known or nowadays heard of them unless one bothers to delve back in the annals of history. A cursory glance will reveal some terrible criminality, including ghastly murders – and miscarriages of justice…

One major episode concerns a major forger, a scholar of renown but later revealed to be a total fake who represented himself as a great researcher and historian.

Giuseppe Vella was born in Valletta, Malta in 1749. He died in Mezzomonreale in Palermo, Sicily in 1814. Sadly, he has not been given credit where credit is due – even though a highly negative and dubious credit. Academically he was accomplished and was highly fluent in Italian and claimed to be highly fluent in Arabic including the reading and writing of Arabic script.

Completing and continuing his studies in theology and the humanities he became a friar and was henceforth known as Abate (Abbot) Giuseppe Vella.

In 1780 he moved to Palermo in Sicily to follow a course of studies on the strength of a legacy which he inherited from his convent nun aunt from monies paid by the faithful for the hearing of Holy Masses for the souls of the dead.

His fame exploded towards the end of the 18th Century when he made some highly startling claims that shook the nearby Italian peninsula and reverberated throughout Europe. His claims shook the very foundations of all European history.

Out of the blue Abate Vella announced that in his researches he had discovered no less than seventeen hitherto “lost” books by the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) while simultaneously he claimed to have come across a number of Arabic parchments which he was translating.

Having set the background for his intended rise to fame, Abate Vella published the theory that the Arabic documents he had translated showed clearly that the people of Sicily and some parts of Europe were in fact Arabian and not Sicilian at all. He titled his document ‘Storia della Sicilia Islamica” (The History of Islamic Sicily).

His “revelations” took Europe by storm because they threatened the very proud Latin and Roman and later Christian foundation of the peninsula and many other parts of Europe. Suddenly, the ongoing glamour of a Latin and Christian Europe began to founder. It was like being told abruptly that the people you knew as your parents were not your parents at all because your actual parents were somebody else.

A hot debate spread throughout European literary and historic circles because on these “facts” it seemed the whole history of Europe had to be re-written.

However, doubts began to set in solidly about his literary ability and indeed his knowledge of Arabic begun to be questioned soundly as the debate continued to rage.

The poet Giovanni Meli published harsh criticism that Vella had falsified everything and that all his claims were a pack of lies. Divisions ran deep but cracks in his suppositions and theories were soon outed. It was pointed out that Vella was Maltese and his native language was a dialect of Arabic and that although he did have knowledge of Arabic, it was at best sketchy and improvised. This led to claims that because the Arabs had dominated Malta for some centuries, he had improvised this to claim that prior to this Sicily had already had Arabic foundations.

The brunt of his theories finally collapsed. The Arabic parchments he had boasted of did not exist nor were Livy’s seventeen “lost” books.

Vella died discredited in Palermo in 1814 and went down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious falsifiers.

However, he may emerge as a new Nostradamus because his invented suppositions are actually gaining flesh as Europe has been “invaded” by mainly Muslim immigrants whose influence is becoming more and more widespread!

The scene now moves forward to the late 19th and early 20th Century and two very controversial death penalty executions of Rosario Mizzi known as “Il-Lajs” and Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” in 1894 and 1908 respectively. 

Mizzi had been sentenced to death by hanging, for murder. However, shortly after his execution doubts began to emerge as to whether he had actually been guilty as charged, for murder. At the time Lord Gerald Strickland was Secretary to the Government and he was soundly criticised for a miscarriage of justice. When later he became Malta’s Prime Minister he called the whole affair “a dirty business” to confirm there had been a complete miscarriage of justice and that Mizzi had been framed for a murder he did not commit.

Ironically, later, Strickland was himself the victim of a frame-up. He was the leader of the Constitutional Party (pro-British) in heated rivalry with the Partito Nazzionale (pro-Italian) during the build-up to the Second World War. Nearing the eve of the General Election (which Strickland was expected to win), the PN produced a “witness” named Terrinu Bono who swore an oath that he had seen Strickland wearing the robes of a freemason and entering the freemasons’ lodge in lower Valletta.

In highly Roman Catholic Malta, this was an enormous scandal, a bombshell. The Church (always in collusion with the PN) immediately stepped in and pronounced an “interdict” on Strickland, his party and his newspapers which meant that anybody who voted for his party (which was then in coalition with the Malta Labour Party) or read his newspapers would be guilty of mortal sin.

Subsequently, Strickland lost the election but it later emerged that Terrinu Bono, who worked as a waiter, was a known drunkard and a liar and had been paid by the Partito Nazzionale to fabricate the story!

Hence, Terrinu’s name became part of Maltese parlance because ever after the term “Terrinata” signified a frame-up i.e. being framed – and this perpetuated his notoriety!

However, our concern here is with Antonio Azzopardi known as “Ninu Xkora” who was born in Valletta but resided in Hamrun. “Xkora” means sack and his nickname came about as a result of his being constantly seen carrying a sack slung over his shoulder, a trait which was commonplace in those days, the sack being used to collect all useful bits and pieces that others had thrown away.

Azzopardi was found guilty of murdering his daughter’s fiancé’, sentenced to death and duly hung. As was the custom in those days, burial had to take place just one hour after the execution and thus Azzopardi was hastily buried.

Shortly after doubts began to creep in as to whether he had actually died on the gallows or whether he had been buried alive. Azzopardi was a tall man and some doctors said the length of rope was too short for a man of Azzopardi’s stature. This meant he had probably not completely broken his atlas vertebrae and was therefore still alive although unconscious.

The newspapers “In-Nahla” and “Risorgimento” took up the story and the doctors that had pronounced him dead took libel proceedings against the newspapers. Surprisingly, they lost the case as the media lawyers cited the story of a girl who fell from a balcony and although her head and neck were badly twisted she was still alive.

This reinforced the probability that Antonio “Ninu Xkora” Azzopardi had in fact been buried alive.

As a boy I remember stories of Ninu’s ghost being “seen” woefully plodding through Hamrun’s main road at night and bad boys (like yours truly) were very often threatened with being taken away by Ninu in his sack unless they sharply mended their ways!

 

ALBERT FENECH