On the 5th July 1862 in a huge house opposite the Granaries in Floriana, the murder of Katerina Borg took place during the dead of the night. This house still stands today, and it is very close to the Parish Church of St. Publius.
Katerina worked as a servant for the opulent De Martino family. Mr De Martino was a very successful business man and used to keep money hidden away in his large house. Whenever the need arose for him to go out, he always told Katerina never to open the main door to anyone. He was always worrying that someone would rob him…
One day, Mr and Mrs De Martino were invited to Mrs De Martino’s sister for dinner at Balzan. Since they were very happy with the invitation, as they rarely met each other, they accepted and started making the necessary preparations for them to attend. Before they left the house, Mr De Martino repeated his instructions to Katerina and told her not to open the door to anyone, not even a familiar acquaintance. Katerina told her employer not to worry and go and enjoy themselves. Besides taking care of the house, she was also in charge of the De Martino’s two-year-old son.
The De Martinos had a wonderful time at the De Marcos. They had a lovely dinner and chatted the whole night through. When it was time to leave their hosts, they rode the “kaless” which was driven by a horse and a coachman and started their trip home.
As soon as they bid farewell to their coachman, as they had arrived at their home in Floriana, they were about to witness a frightful scene. Mr De Martino went up the four steps to their house and saw in horror that their main entrance door was open! Somebody had got inside their home! They quickly went indoors and discovered, that they had been robbed- all their money was taken and everywhere looked topsy turvy as the robbers had opened every single drawer and piece of furniture there was in the house.
As soon as Mr and Mrs De Martino fled upstairs to look for their son, they saw him unharmed crying on the floor. Katerina lay lifeless close to the bedroom. She had been mercilessly murdered and their son had witnessed the horrific events!
When the police inspector came to carry out the necessary interrogations, he asked the two-year-old who had hurt Katerina. The child kept repeating “Żeppi tat-Tuttu!” “Żeppi” in Maltese, is short for “Ġużeppi” meaning Joseph and “tutu” in baby language is “horse”.
After some time, the inspector realized that what the child was referring to was none other than the coachman himself. While the De Martinos were happily enjoying themselves at the De Marcos, he cunningly left the house of his employers and went to rob the De Martinos along with 2 friends.
Since the De Marco coachman was no stranger to Katerina, she had opened the door for him, as he had come up with the excuse that Mr De Martino had sent him to collect some stuff as they were going to sleep at their relatives’ house. Katerina had paid a very high price, as although she had tried hard to defend herself, she was killed in front of the child!
Almost immediately a proclamation was issued and whoever had any news of the killing would be given a sum of money in exchange for information. One of Żeppi’s friends went to the inspector and gave him all the details, as he had happened to have waited outside until his 2 friends committed the merciless deed.
Both men were sentenced to death by hanging and without going into whether it is humane to kill a man by hanging or not, we can say that justice was served.