By Angelos Anastasiou
Former convict Andreas Onoufriou, who remains on the lam for the third day despite an ongoing islandwide search operation by the police, has come forth with denials of any wrongdoing and accusations that the police are trying to murder him.
Early on Thursday, police claimed that on trying to execute a search warrant at Onoufriou’s house, a ten-strong team of armed officers had come under threat by the suspect who they said was armed with an army-issue G3 assault rifle, which he fired into the air before physically subduing one of the officers and making his escape.
But in a telephone interview with local daily Politis, published on Saturday, Onoufriou claimed the person who fled his house on Thursday morning was not him but a friend of his who had been protecting him after he was tipped off about a plan to murder him.
“A few days ago I was informed of a plan to assassinate me,” he said. “One of my friends got angry and told me he would come and stay at my house to guard me.”
According to Onoufriou, the friend spent the night of Wednesday in his living room while the family slept in the bedroom.
“On Thursday morning, I was preparing my kid’s sandwich for school when the police rang our doorbell,” he was quoted as saying.
He went on to describe his friend’s gun-in-hand exit, painting the policemen as bumbling cowards who ran frightened at the sight of the gun.
“One of them tried to disarm my friend and the gun went off,” he said. “I think they are still running.”
Once the friend had made his successful escape, Onoufriou said he was left with no choice but to follow suit, but categorically denied that he wore a mask as claimed by police immediately after the incident.
“Why would I wear a mask?” he wondered. “For fear of being recognised? But they knew who I am – they had come for me,” he said.
He also denied carrying two bags of cash when he left his house, saying he only had a black handbag that contained his tablet computer, some documents and his cheque book.
Onoufriou also denied being involved in any armed robberies or other crimes, and wondered why he hadn’t been arrested if he was a suspect. But with regard to some bullets found at his house, he was unable to offer any explanation, saying they could belong to his friend.
He went on to accuse the police of wanting to have him murdered, possibly because he has filed lawsuits against certain prison officers.
“I think it may be because I’ve gone after them in court,” he guessed. “Policemen have friends who do their dirty work for them, so it seems that in order to please someone in prison or the police, they have engaged someone to kill me.”
While police spokesman Andreas Angelides confirmed that policemen have been authorised to shoot him if he resists arrest, Onoufriou lashed out at what he considered an exaggerated response by police that served as pretence.
“Is possession of a gun punishable by death?” he said. “They sent shooters after me, to execute me.”
In line with the ‘police are lying’ theme, he also attempted to logically discredit the claim that he overpowered one officer before escaping.
“I am 63 years old,” he said. “Even if I could have wrestled and escaped a burly cop, there were ten of them.”
But in the end, Onoufriou offered no hard evidence or convincing answers. He would not reveal the identity of his gun-bearing friend, nor did he explain why he remains in hiding. Instead, he complained that the arrest of his 35-year-old girlfriend – an illegal Vietnamese immigrant – left their child parentless.
“They left our child without a father and mother,” he said. “They have arrested my girlfriend, with whom I was planning to get married.”