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Murder suspect blames drug withdrawal for initial guilty plea

Police officers at the scene of the double murder in Nicosia on April 19

The criminal court trying the double murder of a Nicosia couple ordered a trial within a trial on Wednesday after one of the defendants claimed he gave police statements while suffering from drug withdrawal symptoms.

Loizos Tzionis, 33, considered the mastermind of the botched robbery that led to the brutal murder of the couple last April, claimed his rights had been violated by the police during the investigation of the case.

Tzionis had pleaded guilty to the main charges initially and appeared in court without a lawyer but later changed his plea and then asked for legal representation.

On Wednesday, and while prosecutors were in the process of submitting evidence, his defence raised objections regarding the statements the defendant had given to police on April 27, the crime scene walkthrough, and the collection of exhibits from his house on the same day.

His lawyer said Tzionis was pressured to sign the documents concerning his rights and the statements he had given because he had been suffering from withdrawal symptoms and wanted to get rid of the distress.

The defence also claimed that everything the defendant had admitted to was hearsay and that police had no search warrant when they visited his home in Aglandjia. It was also claimed that Tzionis had not been cautioned before he was taken to the crime scene.

Tzionis’ girlfriend Sarah Shams, 21, his half-brother Lefteris Solomou, 23, and 22-year-old Marios Hadjixenophontos, who are also on trial for the same case, have also denied all the charges including premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit felony, burglary, robbery and abduction.

The suspects are accused of killing Giorgos Hadjigeorgiou, 60, and his wife Dina Sergiou, 59, in what appeared to be a botched robbery in Strovolos, Nicosia on the night of April 18-19.

The couple were found in their bedroom stabbed multiple times.

All four had initially admitted their involvement in the crime, according to police, with Tzionis being the mastermind and the person who killed the couple.

Police sergeant Savvas Sammoutis testified on Wednesday that the defendant’s rights had been explained to him and were supplied in written form. The officer said Tzionis refused legal counsel at the beginning but in general he had been calm, polite, and cooperative and “answered all our questions”.

At that stage the defendant had not requested medical treatment, according to the sergeant, who added that he had been examined by a psychiatrist the previous day.

The only thing he asked for were certain vitamins he was taking due to a spine problem, which were supplied, the court heard.

Sammoutis said Tzionis initially implicated two brothers in the case, alleging they had threatened him with a gun to learn which house to break into. He claimed one of the brothers was the killer.

The defendant then changed his tune and named one of his codefendants, Marios Hadjixenophontos, as the perpetrator.

When investigators asked why he had not given them Hadjixenophontos from the start, Tzionis claimed the latter worked for an underworld figure and he was afraid.

“What do you want, give him to you and get myself killed?” Tzionis was quoted as saying.

After that, Tzionis named his half-brother and codefendant, Lefteris Solomou, as the perpetrator while, according to Sammoutis, he started to get agitated.

The court adjourned until Friday.


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