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Cyprus

Man shoots ex-wife, two children and then himself (updated)

The grandmother of the murdered child is taken to hospital in a state of shock

By Constantinos Psillides

A TROUBLED man who recently lost custody of his two children murdered his wife and young daughter on Wednesday before taking his own life, while his teenage son is struggling to survive after being shot in the back.

The 41-year old electrician, Andreas Pittis, shot and killed his estranged wife, Margarita, and his 9-year old daughter, while the 14-year old boy was rushed to the Nicosia General Hospital in critical condition. He sustained two gunshot wounds, one in the lung and the second in the leg.

The 35 year old kindergarten teacher had just arrived to drop off the children at Pittis’ parents home on Ariadnis street in Strovolos at around 4pm, when, according to eye witnesses, he rushed out with his army-issue G3 automatic rifle and started shooting, killing his wife as she sat in her car.

Nicosia police commissioner Kypros Michaelides said that the murder was probably due to a family dispute. The couple had recently gone through a custody battle, which was awarded to the wife.

According to the police, Pittis had recently moved back to his paternal home.

Eye witnesses said the couple got into a heated argument after which the husband went for his G3 rifle. He stood in front of the car and shot at his wife through the car’s windshield, killing her instantly.

The children – who were on the back seat – open the doors and tried to run. The father shot and killed the girl a few steps away from the car and ran after the boy who had manage to escape to a nearby empty plot.

The man shot his son in the back, then stood over the body and shot himself.

An eyewitness told the press that the teenage boy got up, sat cross-legged next to his father’s dead body and started crying.

According to neighbours, the man gave no indication of wanting to commit this crime.

“He kept to himself. He didn’t talk to us about his problems. He looked troubled but you know. I saw him last night when he went for his usual walk. He said ‘hi’, we chatted a bit but he didn’t say anything. I don’t know why he would do this,” said a neighbour.

The man’s father and mother were in shock upon seeing what happened and had to receive medical treatment.

The incident once again raised the debate about reservists’ rifles.

On December 16, a man fired warning shots outside a house using a G3 rifle and in September, 32-year old Pantelis Nicolaou from Limassol shot and killed his wife, Georgia Georgiou using his army rifle. Pantelis also shot and injured his 10-year old daughter and then turned the gun on himself.

The programme of issuing firearms to reservists was introduced in 1994.

House Defence Committee chairman, EDEK MP Giorgos Varnava had said last October – following the September 31 incident – that G3-related crimes are not a common occurrence so there was no reason to table a proposal to ban them.

“Would we be considering a ban on hunting shotguns if one had been used?” Varnavas had said at the time.

On October 19, then Defence minister Photis Photiou announced a number of steps to tackle the problem. Photiou had said that police would conduct surprise visits to reservists’ homes to make sure they were storing their guns properly – the National Guard advises that ammo is stored separately and that the gun is dismantled – and asked psychologists to break patient-doctor confidentiality and report violent behaviour of clients, if they suspected of a gun being in their house. Photiou also had asked local authorities and people to report any suspected violent behaviour if they thought the man had a gun in the house.

Photiou made clear that his goal was “to stop the practice of giving anyone an army-issue weapon.”

Criticism over the reservists’ rifles lit up the social media, with some blaming the National Guard and police for lax supervision, while others called for an outright ban. “It won’t be long till some kid takes his daddy’s army rifle to school and starts shooting at his classmates,” said a Facebook user.

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