By George Psyllides
Four suspects held for the brutal killing of a couple in Nicosia last month were on Friday referred to the criminal court for trial where they will be facing charges including premeditated murder, which carries an automatic life sentence.
The first hearing before the Nicosia criminal court was set for June 13, when the four are expected to be formally charged.
Loizos Tzionis, 33, his girlfriend Sarah Shams, 21, his half-brother Lefteris Solomou, 23, and 22-year-old friend Marios Hadjixenophontos, face 14 charges including premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit felony, burglary, robbery, and abduction.
Judge Nicolas Georgiades said the charges “were among the harshest in the penal code.”
The suspects are accused of killing Giorgos Hadjigeorgiou, 60, and his wife Dina Sergiou, 59, in what appears to be a botched robbery on the night of April 18-19.
The couple were found in their bedroom stabbed multiple times.
All four have admitted their involvement in the crime, according to police, with Tzionis allegedly being the mastermind and the person who killed the couple.
The couple’s son, 15, was inside the house at the time but the perpetrators didn’t hurt him. Their target appears to be a safe the 33-year-old had spotted in 2012 while doing some work at the house on Zalongou Street in the suburb of Strovolos.
During the hearing, Shams’ (2nd defendant) lawyer Sotos Argyrou raised an issue regarding the safety of his client and asked that she did not stand next to Tzionis (1st defendant).
The court rejected the request.
Argyrou also told the court that his client had been given promises by prosecutors, a statement that was rejected by the state.
Argyrou said the prosecution was trying to link his client with offences she had not committed and use her statements against her.
He cited Solomou’s statement to police in which he said that Shams was afraid of the 33-year-old.
“The 23-year-old half-brother said that the 21-year-old was very scared of the 33-year-old and that she wants to leave him. There is a handwritten note by the 23-year-old who wrote that she told him: ‘I told him I don’t want but he glared at me. I was afraid he would beat me,’” Argyrou said.
He also told the court that Solomou was also scared of Tzionis who “did not like no for an answer.”
Argyrou claimed his client knew nothing of the murder and that she thought it was a robbery.
Quoting her statement to police, Argyrou said she “understood that they would get into a house to steal but not that they would hurt someone.”
The prosecution rejected the defence’s claims, telling the court they had a statement from Shams saying she heard Tzionis saying “they would enter the house and kill if necessary.”
The 21-year-old’s genetic material was found on a pair of headphones recovered from the scene, as well as a sword and a pair of shoes allegedly belonging to Tzionis, also found at the scene.
The court heard that Shams had also admitted that the robbery had been planned in her presence. She also told police where to find a mirror which was used by Tzionis and Hadjixenophontos to sniff cocaine before the crime.
Prosecutors said Solomou was the one who helped Tzionis hide the clothes he wore that night and the knife used to stab the couple. Together with Shams, Solomou was tasked to drive to the house after the robbery and pick up the loot.
DNA tests also linked Hadjixenophontos with a club found at the scene. He was also named by Shams who gave him a Bob Marley scarf he used to cover his face.