from The Times of Malta, January 21, 2002
Swans massacred at St Thomas Bay
Police to arraign hunters
By Jesmond Bonello
Three hunters on a white speedboat yesterday callously shot dead seven large mute swans as the birds glided in the water, their graceful movements attracting the admiration of onlookers at St Thomas Bay.
The incident, which took place at around 2 p.m., was witnessed by Maltese and tourists who were enjoying the sunny afternoon in the area, and who expressed shock and horror at the shooters' callousness.
The swans, rarely seen in Malta, would have been seeking protection from the cold spell in Northern Europe.
There was great confusion in the bay as the shooting was taking place, leaving people in utter disbelief. The police arrived at the scene within minutes and quickly asked the Armed Forces of Malta for assistance. The AFM immediately dispatched a helicopter and patrol boat to intercept the speedboat.
Eyewitnesses of the massacre who spoke with The Times described how they were enjoying the rare presence of nine swans which had been in the bay for not more than 20 minutes when a speed boat rushed into the bay.
The three men on board, who were, appropriately enough, wearing black, then started shooting at the swans.
One eyewitness said that at that particular time, there was one fisherman on board his boat, very close to where the shots were being fired.
Another eyewitness described how she saw the three men repeatedly shooting at the swans, then taking four of them on board, quickly to escape from the scene. She said that as the speedboat was leaving, she saw the men throwing the swans' carcasses back into the water.
Another eyewitness, who was accompanied by her young girl, said they could not believe what they were seeing: "If they manage to arrest those who killed the birds, they should execute them in public...," she remarked angrily.
Sources close to the police said the police and AFM managed to apprehend the culprits. The men, from Zejtun, are expected to be arraigned in court soon and charged with killing protected birds.
The sources said the police were in possession of a video tape and photographs which showed the actual shooting of the swans. The video was taken by a woman tourist who passed on the tape to the authorities.
The sources said the police, who have confiscated the speedboat, found various cartridges in the craft.
Police investigations are being conducted by Inspector Morgan Azzopardi from the Administrative Law Enforcement unit.