The third court session in the trial of the suspected killers of Anba Epiphanius (1954 – 2018), Abbot from 2013 to 2018 of the Monastery of St Macarius in Wadi al-Natroun in Egypt’s Western Desert, was held yesterday, 1 November 2018, by Damanhour Criminal Court in Beheira.
On trial was Wael Saad Tawadros, a defrocked monk who had previously been at St Macarius’s under the name Ishaia’ al-Maqari; also another St Macarius monk, Falta’os al-Maqari. They are both charged with premeditated murder of the late Abbot.
The two defendants had confessed to killing Anba Epiphanius as he left his cell in the early hours of 29 July and headed to the monastery church for Midnight Praise and Sunday Mass the following morning.
Mr Tawadros confessed to hitting Anba Epiphanius thrice on the head with an iron beam while the monk Falta’os checked that the coast was clear.
Falta’os al-Maqari later made a failed attempt at suicide, and still lies in a Cairo hospital, but was moved to the courthouse in Beheira in an ambulance vehicle to attend the trial.
During yesterday’s court session, the two defendants vehemently denied the charges against them, Mr Tawadros insisting his confession was extracted under nervous and psychological pressure.
In his testimony, General Khaled Abdel-Hamid, who headed the Interior Ministry’s team that investigated the crime, said that no pressure whatsoever had been applied, pointing out that, had there been any, Mr Tawadros could have reported it to the public prosecution, which he never did.
The investigation revealed, General Abdel-Hamid said, that the two defendants had attempted twice to kill the Abbot but had not succeeded. Once, the Abbot left his cell earlier than they had estimated so they missed him; the other time he woke up too late.
The differences between the two defendants and the Abbot, General Abdel-Hamid said, were deep and concerned serious financial breaches and violations of monastic tradition. He cited several such instances.
It was discovered, General Abdel-Hamid said, that Mr Tawadros had visited an Internet site that showed how to conceal fingerprints on a murder instrument. And it was he who guided the investigation team to the instrument used in the murder, the iron beam which he had hid in a scrap storeroom at the monastery.
Nagwa Zakariya Abdel-Aziz, head of the Tanta forensic medicine department, testified that the iron beam found could have caused the skull bruises that caused the death of the Abbot. Mr Tawadros, however, insisted he knew nothing about the beam, and that it was planted by the police. His lawyer asked to call as witness the senior forensic medicine head whose post mortem report had specified a sharp object as cause of death, which the iron beam allegedly used was not.
Three monks from St Macarius’s were called to testify for the defence. Their testimony focused on the differences between the Abbot and each of the defendants, insisting that the differences had not been serious. It was revealed that Falta’os al-Maqari contributed articles to the magazine “Mar Morqos” published monthly by the monastery, and has authored four books for which Anba Epiphanius had written the introduction.
The court adjourned to 24 November.
For full story on the murder of Anba Epiphanius, and the investigations:
2 November 2018