A 33-year-old man accused of killing a couple in Nicosia during a botched robbery in April pleaded guilty to premeditated murder on Wednesday, a charge that carries an automatic life sentence.
Loizos Tzionis admitted to seven out of eight charges, denying burglary, saying the house had been open.
His girlfriend Sarah Shams, 21, his half-brother Lefteris Solomou, 23, and 22-year-old friend Marios Hadjixenophontos, denied all the charges including premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit felony, burglary, robbery, and abduction.
Their trial will start on October 29.
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 had admitted their involvement in the crime, according to police, with Tzionis 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 appeared 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.
The hearing was held in a courtroom packed with relatives from both sides, reporters, and police officers who stood guard inside and outside.
One of the couple’s relatives shouted “murderer” when the defendants were brought in while others were in tears.
Tzionis was left with little choice as all of his co-defendants and the evidence pointed at him as being the mastermind of the scheme and the person who killed the couple.
Police previously told the court they had witness testimony saying Tzionis had told a relative two days before the murder ‘tomorrow I will be rich and I will buy all the houses here and I will kick you out of the house’.
Asked by the relative where the money would come from, the suspect allegedly said he was planning to do a ‘job’ that was certain to be a success ‘because we have an insider’.
The court heard that the defendant left his home on Wednesday, April 18, at around 9.30pm and returned at 4.40am on Thursday.
He then took his grandfather’s car and left.
Inside the car, officers found two notebooks in which he had written all the facts relating to the case, Nicosia CID chief Koumettos Koumettou told the court. His girlfriend also wrote in the notebooks.
Shams told police that they all met at their house on April 18 to organise the crime. According to investigators, the woman said Tzionis had told them he may have to kill the residents.
Police said he and Hadjixenophontos planned to go to the house, tie up the residents and then steal a safe which the suspect knew they had.
Tzionis had asked Shams and Solomou to stay at his house in Aglandjia and wait for his call. The plan was for them to drive to the house to pick up the stolen goods.
Authorities were alerted after the couple’s 15-year-old adopted son went to a neighbouring house at 1.35am saying his parents had been murdered and that he had been locked in the basement but managed to escape.
The boy told police he was in bed at 10.30pm when he heard his mum crying but was not sure whether he was dreaming.
A few minutes later, an unknown man, Tzionis, entered his room and told him he had killed his parents and asked him where the money was.
The man, who did not have his face covered, got the boy out of bed, covering his mouth and threatening him with a knife.
He led him downstairs to the kitchen and on the way told him not to be afraid.
“I will not hurt you. I also have a son,” the boy reported him saying.
The suspect asked the boy to open the kitchen door, which he did, and a second, hooded individual, came in.
He was then taken to the pantry where he was locked inside.
Police said the boy managed to escape half an hour later by removing the louvres from the aluminium door, hurting his hands in the process.
He then went upstairs to his parents’ room where he found them stabbed and then rushed outside to ask for help.
The perpetrators got away with nothing as the safe Tzionis had anticipated finding had been removed.
Tzionis initially appeared in court without a lawyer. His lawyer appeared later and after a brief consultation, the defendant informed the court that he would not be needing a lawyer during the hearing.
Solomou told the court that he had requested legal aid. The request will be examined on June 25.
Shams’ lawyer asked the court for permission to change the order by which they were listed on the charge sheet so that she would not stand next to Tzionis in the dock.
The court rejected the request saying there was no safety issue since police were present inside the courtroom.