Cyprus Mail
Crime

Suspect in double murder says he was coerced into confessing

The scene of the double murder in Strovolos (Christos Theodorides)

Loizos Tzionis, 33, one of the defendants in the murder of a couple in Strovolos in April, told Nicosia criminal court on Wednesday that he was coerced into signing documents and providing information to police at a time when his mental state was deteriorating because he was suffering from cocaine withdrawal.

The defendant was called by his lawyer, Andreas Anastassiou, to take the stand and testify as a witness in the trial within a trial that is currently underway, after Tzionis’ lawyer argued that the testimony and information his client gave to police officers on April 27 should be ruled inadmissible as it was given under coercion.

Tzioni’s lawyer claims that his client was also coerced when he had led police to his father’s house in Aglanjia, Nicosia, where the murder weapon (a knife) and the clothes that the suspects were wearing on the night of the murder were hidden, again because he was suffering from drug withdrawal symptoms.

The main case, being tried at the Nicosia criminal court, relates to the murder of Giorgos Hadjigeorgiou, 60, and his wife Dina Sergiou, 59. The defendants are accused of killing the couple 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.

The defendants are Loizos Tzionis, 33, believed to be the mastermind of the crime; his half-brother Lefteris Solomou, 23; Sarah Shams, 21; and Marios Hadjixenophontos, 22.

On Wednesday, Tzionis read out to the court a written statement where he listed all instances of alleged maltreatment on behalf of the police, beginning with the morning he was transferred from the Ayios Dometios police station to the crime prevention unit premises for interrogation, when he was not offered breakfast, nor was he told where he was being taken.

In the police car, he was informed of the police line-up that would follow, but not of his rights.

Tzionis went on to testify regarding the aggressive behaviour of one of the lead investigators, Giorgos Themistocleous, who had last Thursday denied to the court that any form of coercion was exerted on Tzionis.

He stated that Themistocleous was “especially nerve-wracking”, and would hit the table with his fist when he wouldn’t respond to the questions posed.

Tzionis added that they had asked him many questions, which he “responded to with nonsense so that what was happening could end”.

The defendant also claimed that during his verbal and written statement, he was shaking and panic-stricken, and undergoing tremendous stress, while officers would pressure him and tell him that they did not believe him.

“From the day of my arrest, (the police officers) would always aggressively tell me ‘sign’ and I would sign,” Tzionis said, adding that he was not given time to read what he was signing, nor was he informed of his right to talk to a lawyer.

Tzionis alleged that from the day of his arrest, police officers were constantly aggressive against him, and this made him too scared to speak freely regarding the fact that he had taken cocaine a few hours before his arrest on April 25.

The trial within a trial is set to continue on Friday.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Initially Tzionis pleaded guilty to all charges save for that of breaking and entering into the victims’ home. He later changed his mind, entering a new plea of not guilty to all charges.