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The Gozo Murder Mystery must have Raised Quite a Commotion in a Church-run Island so long ago.
Her name was Cenca (pronounce: Chen cha), a beautiful girl of 13. Her murder was committed mysteriously one evening in the early 1900's (*see note below).
The crime was committed in Victoria, the town where the girl lived with her mother. One evening, her mother who like most of the women was a lace-maker (bizzilla in Maltese) sent her to her sister's (the girl's aunt) to borrow a reel of cotton thread.
Cenca never returned home. The general opinion was that she was kidnapped and carried to a house not far from her home where she was sexually assaulted and then killed.
In those days the streets of Victoria were lighted by a few kerosene lanterns which only produced a small circle of light directly beneath them. It was easy for a man to hide in a doorway and remain unseen as long as he wanted.
Furthermore the streets were deserted in the evenings since the locals were accustomed to stay in and sleep early so as to wake up with the lark to attend to their chores at home before going out to work. Life was hard in those days. For many the early morning chores comprised the feeding and caring for the few animals that they kept at home - - some chickens, rabbits and maybe a few goats and sheep.
The murderer had another factor in his favour. Up to about 80 years ago, the women-folk in Malta and Gozo still wore the 'ghonella' (on nel lah) whenever they went out. Also known as a 'faldetta', it was generally made of black satin and was a kind of a veil-cloak garment that covered the body from head to below the knee. It was open at the front but could be kept closed at will. It was very unwieldy especially in a breeze when it acted like a sail.
They wore it in the morning and in the evening, when they went to church and to the market and on special occasions such as a wedding or a baptism they wore a more elaborate silk 'ghonella'.
Courtesy Google Images: Faldetta (Ghonella in Maltese)
The man who committed the crime could have deceived Cenca, by putting on an 'ghonella' to make her think that she was approaching a woman.
Gozo murder - The kidnapper, who many believed was a man probably took her by surprise as she passed him, easily overpowered her and covering her mouth he ran to his house with her. What happened there one can only imagine but since her body was never found nothing is certain.
However, many are of the opinion that the man must have killed her in the end and buried her in his own house, maybe in a cellar or behind a wall.
The police were unable to solve the crime. What drove the man to murder? The motive was not vendetta or revenge since they were simple people and had no enemies. It was not for money either, because the family was poor like most of the other families, so many are of the opinion that the murder was in all probability a sex related crime.
Gozo murder mystery - Would the crime have been avoided if Cenca's mother had not sent her out alone that night? Or would the murderer have got her anyway another time?
* Note: There is another version that the kidnap and the murder took place in the early afternoon when the streets of Victoria used to be likewise deserted owing to the fact that people in those days were very poor and everybody, men and women and even children had to work continuously from dawn to dusk. The girl was walking along a quiet street In Victoria only a few paces behind her aunt and mysteriously disappeared.
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Rent a house or a Room in Gozo, Malta