BUSINESSMAN Phanos Kalopsidiotis, 51, a police officer and his wife, and a foreign national, were killed in what appears to be a gangland-related shootout on Thursday night in an Ayia Napa restaurant.
Kalopsidiotis along with five other people, officer Elias Hadjiefthimiou, 46, his wife Skevi, 39, their two children, and police officer — MMAD (rapid reaction force) member Giorgos Charalambous, were having dinner when two or three gunmen stormed The Stone Garden restaurant at around 10pm and opened fire with pistols and automatic weapons. Three of Kalopsidiotis’ bodyguards were eating at an adjacent table. Hadjiefthimiou served at the crime information gathering and processing department. Charalambous is reportedly Kalopsidiotis’ close family friend.
The shooters killed Kalopsidiotis and the couple, before one of them was shot dead. Charalambous, who was injured, along with one of Kalopsidiotis’ bodyguards, reportedly shot the perpetrator. The couple’s children, 13 and 14, escaped without injury. The restaurant was reportedly owned by Kalopsidiotis.
The dead shooter is believed to be an Albanian national aged 41. Reports claimed he arrived in Cyprus through the Turkish occupied north of the island. Police announced that another Albanian national, Aleks Burrelli, 48, is being wanted in relation to the investigations.
Charalambous was in critical condition in hospital. State broadcaster CyBC reported that he was shot in the arm, chest, neck and leg, and underwent surgery.
Police said both officers were off duty at the time. They were, however, carrying their service weapons.
Three pistols were found at the scene — the two belonged to the police officers.
“There are questions which we expect will be answered,” police spokesman Andreas Angelides said, when asked about the presence of the two officers at the scene.
Angelides said the law allowed members of the police to carry their service weapons at all times. This applies particularly to members serving in important departments dealing with organised crime, drugs, and other duties.
“It is usual to carry their weapons, depending on the nature and risk of their duties,” he said.
President Nicos Anastasiades said he has called for a report as to the involvement of the police officers in the incident.
Police believe one of the shooters was also injured.
According to the post mortems conducted on Friday, Kalopsidiotis received 12 gunshots, Hadjiefthimiou between six and eight, his wife was shot in the head and the assailant in the chest.
A car was later found burning in a field outside Ayia Napa. Inside, officers found a Kalashnikov assault rifle believed to be linked to the shooting.
Police said they received information later on Thursday night about an injured person at a petrol station in Ayia Napa. Officers went to the scene, but did not find anyone.
The scene around the restaurant was cordoned off but it was chaos in the immediate aftermath, as a large crowd of tourists and locals had gathered outside, with police – described as being very jittery – trying to push them back.
As of Friday lunchtime, a yellow tape police cordon remained in place around the restaurant, which is on a junction with the main Nissi Avenue tourist spot.
The Cyprus Mail was informed that police were requesting CCTV footage from business owners in the area and taking statements from residents and other members of the public.
A private ambulance transferred the bodies to Nicosia hospital on Friday morning; they had remained under white sheets at the restaurant during the night.
There is a heavy police presence thrughout the resort, which is currently enjoying a spike in tourism.
The news has been greeted with horror by tourists, many posting comments on social media.
“Can’t believe there was a shooting on Ayia Napa strip last night. Actually happy to be going home today,” a user named ‘TY’ commented on Twitter.
“4 people shot dead in a restaurant literally 2-minute walk from our hotel in Ayia Napa,” anoher tourist, Matt, tweeted.
The shootout came four years to the day when five men were gunned down a couple of hundred metres down the same street in the heart of the resort’s nightclub scene, near the popular Red Square bar.
In connection with the June 23, 2012 multiple murder, two Greek nationals, Demetris Mamalikopoulos, 29, and Tsehilides, 41, received five life sentences each in 2014, one for each of their victims, the longest sentence ever handed out in Cyprus.
The two men had originally pleaded not guilty to the murder of the five men – three Greek Cypriots and two Romanians.
Four of the victims were working for Kalopsidiotis, whom Famagusta police believed had been the target. Kalopsidiotis was not in the car with the other five.
On June 20, 2014, Kalopsidiotis’ father, Ioannis Theophanous, was shot dead outside his home in Paralimni.
At the time, police said Theophanous was in his house with his wife when at around 9.30pm, he went out to switch off the lights.
On walking outside, he was shot and killed.
In 1996, a bomb blast killed Phanos’ brother Andros, 25, at the apartment of his friend Petros Yiannaki in Ayia Napa.
The family believed the bomb had been placed to kill Andros but reports suggested he had been preparing the device when it blew up.
George Psyllides contributed to this report