By Poly Pantelides
THE FACT that a man used an assault rifle to kill his estranged wife before taking his own life has overshadowed bigger questions to do with how state services respond to family violence reports, the child commissioner has said.
Commissioner for Children’s Rights Leda Koursoumba was speaking to the state broadcaster yesterday. She was weighing in on a discussion after a 32-year-old man shot and killed his estranged wife, 27, injured his 10-year-old daughter on her hand, and then took his own life on Monday night in Limassol.
The 10-year-old girl underwent surgery but her condition is not serious. She and her two siblings, a six-year-old and a 3-month-old baby are now under the care of social welfare services.
“What strikes me is that everyone has focused on the fact this person had a gun… [but] that is one aspect of the issue, another huge aspect that everyone must be concerned with is that we are facing a classic example of family violence,” Koursoumba said.
“I want to know… what did state services do? Did police notify welfare? Where did the failure of the system occur?”
The 32-year-old used his army assault rifle, issued by the National Guard to reservists along with ammunition and normally kept at home.
Police received a complaint by the victim on September 17 following an argument with her husband, but when officers visited the woman she did not file a written statement nor did she refer to any threats, a police spokesman Andreas Angelides said. There was another complaint on September 28 but again no written statement was filed, Angelides said. Police did seize a G3 rifle on September 17 but had to return it the following day because there was no warrant for its seizure, Angelides added. The spokesman was explaining why police could not have held on to the weapon.
It is understood that as of the moment police did not have a written complaint by the victim, they would not have forwarded the complaint to welfare services. But Koursoumba said that welfare should have been notified immediately, regardless of whether or not there was a written report on the case.
The couple’s three children are now under the protection of social welfare services who yesterday issued a brief announcement they were taking care of the family and taking steps to protect the children, including collaborating with other services to offer whatever support was necessary.
An official from Welfare told CyBC last night that her department spoke to the victim on a daily basis but she had never mentioned a gun.
Social welfare services asked the public and all bodies to forward any reports or complaints relating to family violence to them. The services did not comment further on the case but the law does allow the head of social welfare services to assume parental rights and place children who are at risk of neglect, abuse or abandonment in foster care, or less often, in residential care. Relatives who are able and willing to care for vulnerable children are given priority as foster parents, although there are state homes for children who have not found a foster family.