The son of the investigative journalist killed in a car bombing on Monday has said his mother was killed because she stood up for the rule of law in Malta, which he described as a "mafia state".
Matthew Caruana Galizia, a data journalist with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), heard the explosion that killed his mother Daphne, who had just driven away from their home.
In a Facebook posting on Tuesday subsequently carried by the Times of Malta, Mr Caruana Galizia said his mother was "assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists".
“This is what happens when the institutions of the state are incapacitated: the last person left standing is often a journalist.”
“I am never going to forget, running around the inferno in the field, trying to figure out a way to open the door, the horn of the car still blaring, screaming at two policemen who turned up with a single fire extinguisher to use it.”
The murdered journalist, who wrote about graft across Malta’s political divide on her popular blog, died when explosives ripped through her car on Monday afternoon.
Maltese authorities were waiting for the arrival of Dutch forensic experts and American FBI agents to help the investigation.
On Tuesday afternoon, several hundred people demonstrated in front of the law courts in Valetta, the capital of Malta, demanding justice.
“The state did not defend Daphne,” shouted Andrew Borg Cardona, addressing the crowd. He said those who accused her of “going over the top” with her investigations “are all guilty”.
Ms Caruana Galizia used information in the Panama Papers, documents leaked from the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca, to trace alleged links between Maltese officialdom and offshore banks and companies based in tax havens.
Half an hour before the explosion that killed her, she wrote: “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”
The European Commission told journalists it was horrified by the murder in the bloc's smallest state.
“This is an outrageous act that happened and what matters now is that justice will be brought,” said spokesman Margaritis Schinas. “This is what we need to see.”
Prime minister Joseph Muscat and opposition leader Adrian Delia – who had both been criticised on Galizia's blog – both condemned the killing. "Everyone knows Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine, both politically and personally, but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way," said Mr Muscat, who had been suing her over some of her allegations.
Mr Delia called her killing an attack on democracy and freedom of expression and demanded an independent inquiry.
Describing the scene after he raced to his mother’s burning car, Matthew Caruana Galizia wrote: “I looked down and there were my mother’s body parts all around me. I realised [the police] were right, it was hopeless. ‘Who is in the car?’, they asked me. ‘My mother is in the car. She is dead. She is dead because of your incompetence.’”
Local media reported she had filed a complaint to the police two weeks ago to say she had received threats.
The ICIJ's Panama Papers project involved partner media groups around the globe, including The Irish Times, and created political crises in a number of countries, including Malta.
European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, who had received a letter from a Maltese MEP complaining of "intimidation" of journalists in Malta, tweeted that he was "shocked and outraged . . . . If journalists are silenced, our freedom is lost."
(Additional reporting AFP, Guardian)