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Sole eyewitness to teen’s road death ‘couldn’t sleep for a year afterwards’ court hears

Victim Emilios Ioannou

The sole eyewitness to the fatal road accident in December 2007 in Limassol where a 17-year-old boy was killed, told the court on Thursday that the driver accused of causing his death, Efi Irodotou, 29, told her not to tell police she had failed to stop at a red light.

Irodotou, who had been wanted by police since 2011 over the hit-and-run, and was apparently living in Greece with her parents since, had been acquitted in the first trial in 2009, but state prosecutors preparing for an appeal discovered that evidence submitted in her trial had been forged and tampered with, and at least one defence witness had perjured himself.

She was extradited to Cyprus late last year to stand trial anew. Irodotou pleaded not guilty to causing Emilios Ioannou’s death on December 27, 2007, through reckless driving and failure to stop at a red light.

The eyewitness, Stella Panayiotou, who took the stand on Thursday testified that Irodotou had caused the crash by running a red light, and then fled the scene.

She told the court she had set out in her car at around 4.50am that day, to go to work and had stopped at the red light at the intersection of Spyros Kyprianos Avenue and Grigoris Afxentiou Street.

“A boy on a motorcycle passed through the green light at the intersection at low speed. Right across, I saw the light of another car which did not slow down. I said ‘Holy Mother of God, it’s going to hit him’. It entered the intersection while the red light was on and crashed into the motorcycle. It was a tremendous collision. The young man was hurled onto the road like a ragdoll,” Panayiotou told the court.

She added that the car that caused the accident didn’t even stop and that she began chasing after it into a cul-de-sac.

Panayiotou told the court that inside the car were two women, one of them Irodotou, who was in the driver’s seat.

The witness said Irodotou could not open the driver’s door as it appeared to be jammed; when Irodotou finally exited the car, it was through the front passenger door. She was distraught and kept yelling that if the motorcycle driver was dead, she would die too.

Panayiotou said that Irodotou asked her that night, before police officers arrived on the scene, to not tell the police that she had failed to stop at the red light.

The witness was cross-examined by the defence lawyer, Chris Triantafyllides, who attempted to get her to admit that she could not remember in detail what had happened after so many years had passed.

“That accident is so vivid inside me and I remember everything exactly as it happened,” Panayiotou said. She added that she couldn’t sleep for a year after the accident.

Seeking to discredit the witness, Triantafyllides put it to her that the statement she gave police on the night of the accident was not the same as to what she was now saying in court.

In her statement to police, Panayiotou had stated that Irodotou had asked her then to not tell police that she – Irodotou – ran the traffic lights when they were not flashing green.

Responding, the witness did not deny this, but suggested the lawyer was playing a semantics game, and that the meanings of her statement to police and that of her statement in court were identical.

“In my statement to the police, I just put it in my own words,” she said.

Asked why she herself did not call the police after witnessing the accident but had another person do so, Panayiotou said she was too shook up that she could not even recall the number for the police at the time.

The hearing was adjourned for March 22, where three new witnesses are to take the stand.

 


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