Police believe a man remanded for eight days along with his girlfriend on Tuesday by the Larnaca court was the driver of the car which took the contract killers to and from the scene of the bloody June 23, Ayia Napa murders of businessman Phanos Kalopsidiotis, 51, and three others.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said the arrests were an “Important development” and that further investigations centering around the car used in the killing were being carried out.
The couple, 32-year-old part time Game Warden Charalambos Andreou and his neighbour 30-year-old Sotiria Neophitou live opposite each other in the Nicosia apartments that officers had searched Sunday following a tip-off that one of the alleged shooters, Albanian national Aleks Burrelli, 48, who is still being hunted by police, had been in hiding there.
Requesting the remand, the CID Inspector in charge of the investigation, Loizos Ionas told Judge Maria Loizou at the Famagusta district court, in Larnaca that the suspects had hosted, both in Nicosia and Ayia Napa, the two Albanians who had come to Cyprus to carry out the contract killing of Phanos Kalopsidiotis.
Ionas said that Andreou had told police following Sunday’s search of his flat that he had rented the villa in Ayia Napa on two occasions for five days between 13-17 and 20-25 June paying €500 with his bank card on the first rental and €700 in cash on the second. Andreou had said he had psychological problems due to pressure from his parents and that he wanted to relax saying he went to the holiday house alone in the afternoons, returning in the evenings.
The day after the shootings Andreou did not go to work as he was sick, and spent the night at the villa with Neophitou, returning to Nicosia the next morning. Both deny hosting any guests, either in the villa or her Aglandjia flat.
They couple were arrested Monday after police put the flat under surveillance following testimony implicating the couple. On being arrested and read her rights Neophitou, according to police, had she had “Not slept all night, was thinking all day and want to tell you the truth.” while Andreou told police to “Do your job” and has, after consulting with his lawyers, refused to make a statement or answer any questions.
The two face charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, premeditated murder, conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, illegal possession and transportation of a firearm and ammunition, possession, transport and use of explosives without permission, theft, arson and being accessories after the fact.
According to Ionas, investigations carried out at the villa confirm that Burrelli had stayed there on both occasions Andreou had rented it.
Police say they also had testimony that the car used for the hit, which had been reported stolen in Nicosia on June 20, and subsequently set alight, was seen parked outside the villa.
Wrapping up his six-page sworn testimony for the remand request, Ionas told the court he also had statements that Andreou and Neophitou had met with the wanted Albanian after the murder and had transported him to a specific place, that is Neophitou’s flat, where he had also stayed before the killings.
Top priority at the moment is finding Burrelli whose life is possibly in danger from the person or group that took out the contract on Kalopsidiotis’ life.
One of the businessman’s bodyguards who was injured in the shooting, and who was only well enough to speak to police on Monday, said that there were three shooters who opened fire in the restaurant, not two as originally thought.
Kalopsidiotis along with police officer Elias Hadjiefthimiou, 46, his wife Skevi, 39 and the couple’s two children, Charalambos 15, and Andreas 12, were having dinner when two or three gunmen stormed The Stone Garden restaurant, said to have been owned by the businessman, spraying bullets with pistols and automatic weapons. Kalopsidiotis, the police officer, his wife and another suspected shooter, Jani Vogli, were all killed.
Three of Kalopsidiotis’ bodyguards were eating at an adjacent table. Hadjiefthimiou served at the crime intelligence gathering and processing department.
The condition of MMAD (rapid reaction force) member Giorgos Charalambous who was also shot at the scene is said to be improving.
Charalambous, close family friend and godfather to one of Kalipsidiotis’ four children, is credited with saving the children’s lives through his quick reaction in overturning a table giving the children cover from the assassins’ bullets.
Investigations at the scene seem to indicate that apart from the shots fired by the gunmen’s weapons another, as yet unaccounted for weapon was the one responsible for firing the fatal shot at Vogli.