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Main defendant in double murder to change plea (updated)

File photo: Double murder suspect covers his face as he leaves the court in a police car Christos Theodorides

The main defendant in the brutal double murder of a husband and wife in April in Nicosia informed the court on Monday that he planned to change his plea in some of the charges he had previously pleaded guilty to.

Loizos Tzionis, 33, had admitted to seven out of eight charges including premeditated murder, but denied 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, have denied all the charges including premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit felony, burglary, robbery and abduction.

At the start of the proceedings, Tzionis’ new lawyer, Andreas Anastasiou, informed the court that he will now be assuming the defendant’s representation following the latter’s request for legal aid. Anastasiou said his client wanted to file a request to change his plea to charges he judged required such a change, after studying the evidence.

On June 13, during his arraignment, Tzionis had dismissed his original lawyer and informed the court that would not be requiring legal representation until the completion of the trial. He later hired Anastasiou.

In another dispute over legal representation, Solomou on Monday requested legal aid because he too had fired his lawyer over disagreements over defence strategy. The court granted the request.

Solomou’s lawyer, Evangelos Himonas, told the court that he would be withdrawing due to a disagreement with his client.

Solomou then requested a three-week period to file a request for legal aid and appoint a new lawyer. He was granted a week.

The defendant clarified that the disagreement with his lawyer occurred last Friday, when the lawyer had asked him to plead guilty to some offences he said he had not committed.

The case was adjourned until November 5.

The suspects are accused of killing Giorgos Hadjigeorgiou, 60, and his wife Dina Sergiou, 59, in what appeared 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.

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, 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 claimed 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 1.35 am 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.

 

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