KEY testimony by a suspect arrested in Nicosia on Monday for harbouring one of the shooters in last week’s contract killing in Ayia Napa, led to the arrest of four more people on Friday, including the victim’s bodyguard who may have been in on it.
The four suspects, believed to have facilitated the gunmen involved in the bloody June 23 contract killing of businessman Phanos Kalapsidiotis, which claimed three other lives, were remanded for eight days in Larnaca.
Tight security surrounded the transfer of the four with Marios Christodoulou, aka ‘Bennis’ 38, arriving sporting a bullet-proof vest, together with Ayia Napa cabaret owner Panayiotis Pentafkas, 39, Sophia Gregoriou, 29 and one of the dead businessman’s bodyguards, Serbian national, Loy Dejan 42 following closely behind.
The four were apprehended following testimony police secured after the arrest in Nicosia earlier in the week of 30-year-old Sotiria Neophitou and her neighbour Charalambos Andreou. The two were suspected of harbouring, or may have assisted in the escape of the prime suspect in the gangland-style shooting, Albanian Aleks Burreli, who is still at large and may have fled to the occupied north soon after the murders.
Requesting the remand order, CID Inspector Loizos Ionas told Judge Maria Loizou that the subjects had directed, armed and transported two Albanian hitmen, Burreli and his sidekick Jani Vogli, who was shot dead at the scene.
According to police the first of the four suspects was responsible for bringing the gunmen to the island, and supplying the weapons used for the hit. On his arrest and cautioning, he lawyered up without assisting the police in their investigation.
Police said the second suspect planned the escape, choosing an unguarded route and avoiding closed circuit cameras. Upon his arrest, he told to police he had no idea before also seeking legal counsel.
The court was told that the third suspect, Christodoulou’s girlfriend, had arranged to meet with him and wait for the gunmen in order to facilitate their getaway. She told police on being apprehended that she had nothing to say. Her car was confiscated and has been taken for forensic examination.
According to the police the fourth suspect, who was in the employ of Kalopsidiotis, had been in contact with one of the two hired guns, receiving a “strange and suspicious call” moments before the hit. He answered uttering the phrase “We are here” in English, after which he came up with an excuse and went to the toilet. He told the arresting officers he had nothing to do with the case.
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 at The Stone Garden restaurant, said to have been owned by the businessman, when two or three gunmen stormed in with pistols and automatic weapons, showering the scene with bullets. Kalopsidiotis, the police officer, his wife and suspected shooter Vogli were all killed in the attack that took place in the heart of the popular resort that is bustling with tourists at this time of the year.
Meanwhile, police are carrying out investigations in a Limassol apartment located in the coastal Ayios Tychonas area where, following information received, gunman Burreli, who is considered armed and dangerous, may have been hiding.
Personal items believed to belong to the 48 year-old killer were taken away for forensic and DNA testing.
Police urge anyone who may have information that can help detectives in the case to call the CID Headquarters, their nearest police station or the citizen’s hotline at 1460.