By George Psyllides
FUGITIVE former convict Andreas Onoufriou was locked away in a Larnaca jail cell on Tuesday night pending his court appearance on Wednesday morning after he fired shots at police, tried to run but was finally captured, six days after he went on the run
Onoufriou, 63, opened fire at police officers outside his hideaway in Lagia village in rural Larnaca while holding his five-year-old son with one hand and a G3 assault rifle in the other before he made a run for it but was captured minutes later, police said.
He was finally arrested at around 11am by members of the counter-terrorism unit close to the cottage, which belonged to a friend of his who was also detained. Police said Onoufriou was spotted outside with his son close by.
“The members of the counter-terrorism squad asked him repeatedly to surrender but instead, the 63-year-old fired against the officers while he was holding his underage son in his arms,” police spokesman Andreas Angelides said.
He was using a G3 assault rifle like the ones used by the National Guard.
The head of the police unit fired warning shots in the air after which Onoufriou left the child on the ground and tried to escape.
He was chased by the officers and finally arrested in a nearby ravine, police said. Reports said his first words to the police officers to apprehended him were: “Okay, okay”. He then reportedly asked if his son was all right.
The child was transferred to Larnaca and put under the care of the welfare office.
However, police have not yet provided a satisfactory explanation on how Onoufriou managed to get hold of his son. The fugitive had managed to get his son from his mother’s home in Limassol on Monday night.
A police source said the child was picked up by a close associate of Onoufriou but could not say why there was no guard posted at the Mesa Yitonia home.
Subsequently a quick search of the house found a pistol, a hunting shotgun, an airgun, and other items.
“Police also arrested the owner of the house in Lagia, aged, 63, from Limassol,” Angelides said.
Later in the day police placed under arrest a third person, a 57-year-old man from Xylotymbou village, suspected of aiding and abetting Onoufriou. Police said the man is the owner of the hunting shotgun recovered in the house.
Following his arrest, a handcuffed Onoufriou was on Tuesday night driven to Larnaca general hospital for a check-up after he reportedly complained of feeling ill. The former convict was then taken to a detention cell in Larnaca. He will be appearing before a judge for his remand hearing Wednesday morning.
Thick foliage and trees fronted the country house in which Onoufriou had taken to hiding. Speaking to camera crews that descended on Lagia, elderly residents of the sleepy village spoke of how they were rattled by the morning gunfire. None of those interviewed had any inkling the ex convict was hiding in their village, they said.
Authorities had received several tips as to the fugitive’s whereabouts during the five days he was on the lam. Angelides said the genuine information leading to Onoufriou’s discovery was received early on Tuesday.
State broadcaster CyBC reported that police were able to locate the former convict after he placed a call from Lagia on his mobile phone, which police were tracking. This was combined with information provided by acquaintances of Onoufriou’s who reportedly suggested Lagia village as a possible hideout.
Onoufriou was on the run since last Thursday, when police officers tried to search his residence on suspicion that he was stashing weapons.
That day, according to police, Onoufriou, armed with an assault rifle, fired shots in the air and fled.
Back in 1996 Onoufriou was sentenced to 18 years in jail for the attempted murder of a judge in Limassol.
In 2012 he was named in a plot to murder then Attorney-general Petros Clerides but the charges were later dropped.