By Angelos Anastasiou
A British wind-surfing instructor, David Hughes, 48, was remanded for two days on Saturday by the Famagusta District Court in connection with the death of British UNFICYP soldier Jamie Lee Sawyer, 21, last March, in which Ayia Napa police allege Hughes exhibited criminally negligent behaviour.
The incident had taken place at sea off Cavo Greco, Famagusta, when five UNFICYP men, on instructions from the United Nations’ peacekeeping force command, went to Cavo Greco on the morning of March 12, 2015, for a training exercise.
According to the lead police investigator, strong winds in the area created waves as high as two or three metres, and Hughes, he said, exhibited negligent behaviour in that he failed to assess the risk to the trainees, commissioned no lifeboat, and had no plan for the training exercise, the court heard.
As a result, two of the three Britons who took part in the exercise made it to the predetermined location on their surfboards, but the third – Sawyer – was found floating unconscious in the turbulent sea area.
Port police were called to the scene, picked up Sawyer and rushed him to the Famagusta General’s emergency room, where he was pronounced dead on arrival due to pulmonary asphyxiation.
The lead investigator told the court that their probe initially looked into the drowning incident as such, but quickly found evidence of involuntary manslaughter against Hughes, who had meanwhile left Cyprus for Slovakia with his wife – a Slovak national.
A European arrest warrant was issued and forwarded to Slovakia, where he was picked up by local police and held in custody for three months, pending an appeal he filed with the Slovak Supreme Court.
When his appeal was denied, Hughes was extradited to Cyprus on Thursday, and was arrested at the Glafcos Clerides Larnaca airport at around 2:15am on Friday.
Sawyer was a chef with the Royal Logistics Corps, attached to the 2nd Battalion Battlegroup.
He had been part of a group conducting adventure training when he died.
Known as Jay, he joined the army in April 2013 and had taken part in several training exercises in the UK before being deployed to Cyprus for a six-month tour.
His commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Shove Gilby, described the soldier as a “deeply talented young chef, full of life and with a keen sense of humour”.