The 35-year-old man who abducted two 11-year-old school boys last September from their school in Larnaca was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Wednesday for what the court ruled was a particularly heinous, unprecedented crime.
Giorgos Nicolaou from Larnaca pleaded guilty to four charges concerning abduction of a minor with the intention of unjustly detaining them and drugging a person with the intention of committing a felony.
His sentence was announced by the Larnaca criminal court during a very brief hearing, behind closed doors.
Nicolaou had abducted the pupils on September 25 by pretending to be a new teacher at the school and asking a group of boys for help to carry some books. The two boys, who are friends, volunteered.
Acting on a tip from a member of the public, police later found the two children in the residence of a 35-year-old man, not far from their school.
It later emerged that the boys had been given sedatives in lemonade to keep them quiet. They were examined by doctors who did not find any signs of abuse.
In an announcement the court said that the offence of drugging a person is punishable up to life imprisonment while abduction up to seven years in prison.
It said that it has not come across a similar case in Cyprus’ case law concerning abduction and drugging of the victim. Prosecution told court the intention of the accused was to demand €30,000 in ransom and presented relevant handwritten notes.
This was a case without any precedent to provide some guidance as to the weight of the penalty, court said.
“There are multiple and extremely serious aggravating factors that classify the offences committed by the accused as particularly heinous and outrageous by way of his insidious mode of action … against two minors.”
The accused was not acting spontaneously; instead, the evidence indicated that he had planned the abduction, court said, adding it did not accept that the 35-year-old was acting under the influence of medication.
“Everything the accused thought of, organised and did demanded clarity of thought, programming but also putting together and assessing various data,” the court said. This was neither a frivolous act, nor a drug-led crime since he admitted he had planned the crime a few days prior to the incident.
The court also said that the actions of the accused, were “ terrible, abominable and abhorrent criminal behaviour”.
The court said it was particularly concerned that Nicolaou had administered a drug that was extremely dangerous to children with such severe reactions as narcosis, while overdose in people over 18 can cause coma, even death.
The risks concerning the drug administration also consisted of potential ingestion, with the risk of leakage into the lungs, it said. The children risked losing their lives.
With regard to drugging children and the ensuing consequences, court said that it “constitutes an extreme measure of humiliation of the worst kind that could happen to a person, let alone young minors.”
Another factor was that he had kept the children for seven hours which cannot be considered a short period of time given the concern of the children’s parents but also the time the children had been drugged.
“Drugging children constitutes a form of violence, abuse but also torture,” it said.
The fact that he did not or was not able to ask for ransom was not a mitigating factor, court said, since he did drug the children and held them as hostages aiming to demand ransom.
“The offences the accused committed were especially brutal and unlawful and completely socially unacceptable and condemnable,” it said, adding that his actions shocked the entire island.
The incident, the court said, alerted the public, the media and emergency services and the public’s help was extremely valuable in solving the case.
The imposition of a rigorous and deterrent penalty was inevitable and imperative, it said.
This case is one of the first, if not the first of its kind tried before Cypriot courts, the announcement said, and the sentence ought to reflect the weight of the accused’s actions, the multiple consequences suffered by the children and their families and the impact on society in general.