British MP Gareth Johnson is travelling to Cyprus in September in the quest for answers about the murder of a young constituent in Ayia Napa in 2016 and the attempted murder of his friend, his office announced on Wednesday.
Despite there being many witnesses and two suspects for the killing of George Low and the attempted murder of Ben Barker, no one has ever been charged or even arrested for these crimes.
At issue is the lack of cooperation between the Turkish Cypriot administration, the Turkish military and the Republic of Cyprus as the two suspects quickly escaped to the north. While authorities there captured the two men, they refused to hand them over, eventually setting them free though they reportedly admitted to their involvement in the killing.
“I am travelling to Cyprus to find answers for the families of George and Ben. These crimes have had a devastating impact on the lives of two families and their friends and the fact the suspects are free is only adding to their heartache,” Johnson, the MP for Dartford, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We know that the two suspects in the case, Sali Ahmet and Mehmet Akpinar, both fled to northern Cyprus after the attack and were arrested there for unrelated offences. Both men are now free.”
Low was killed near a nightclub in Ayia Napa on August 14, 2016.
At about 3.30am on the night of the murder, 22-year-old estate agent Low from Dartford in Kent, and his friend Barker were walking along Grigori Afxentiou Street when they were attacked by two men armed with knives who then fled.
A stab to his throat which severed his carotid artery killed Low, while Barker, who was stabbed in the back four times, survived.
Neither of the two suspects are Turkish Cypriots. One is a Turk of Kurdish origin, the other a Bulgarian Turk.
After they fled to the north, the suspects were brought before a north Nicosia court for a remand hearing which centred not on the murder, but their illegal violation of a military area, a charge levelled at people crossing into the north by means other than a checkpoint.
Akpinar was arrested for a second time trying to enter the north and was sentenced to three weeks and released back into Turkey again.
Sali Ahmet was tried for trespassing and travelling on false ID, and after serving a 10-month sentence was also taken to Turkey and released instead of being deported to Bulgaria.
At the time of the murder Cyprus police issued arrest warrants for the two, but the suspects were not handed over by authorities in the north.
“I have regular meetings with the families of George and Ben, but whilst they are in contact with the UK government, they have limited information and all progress in catching the suspects seems to have stalled,” Johnson said.
“As their parliamentary representative, I have now decided to travel to Cyprus on behalf of them and I will be meeting with senior police officers and government officials to ascertain what is happening with the investigation.
The MP will be in Cyprus from September 17 until September 19 and said he was eager to talk to anyone with information about the case.
“I hope this visit will highlight the case in Cyprus and the UK and go some way to getting justice for George and Ben,” he concluded.
In an emailed statement to the Cyprus Mail in June, George’s parents Martyn and Helen Low described the depth of their disappointment over the lack of progress in bringing their son’s suspected killers to justice and the inability of the two communities to work together.
“The mediator bodies such as the bicommunal committee have failed to even discuss the case. The families and their MP have emailed MPs in Famagusta and did not receive so much as an acknowledgement let alone a reply. We have not had any contact from the investigation team or any help from our own UK police force,” the couple wrote.
“We are all so truly heartbroken and devastated. We miss George so very much, our lives have changed forever. Losing George feels like our hearts have been ripped out of our chest, nothing is going to take this pain away ever, we have to learn to deal with it, but where do you start?
The family had issued a petition to the UK and EU parliaments as well as UK Prime Minister Theresa May and then foreign secretary Boris Johnson, urging them to exert pressure on Turkey to hand over the two accused men to stand trial for murder and attempted murder.