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Strovolos murders ‘not just a botched robbery’, court hears

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

The murder of a couple in their home in Strovolos last year was not the result of a botched robbery but the following through of ready-made plans by main defendant Loizos Tzionis, prosecution witness Sarah Shams told the Nicosia criminal court on Monday.

The testimony of Shams, the former partner of 33-year-old old Tzionis and one of the four persons involved in the crime that left Giorgos Hadjigeorgiou, 60, and his wife Dina Sergiou, 59, dead in April 2018, has for months been expected to shed light on details particularly relating to Tzionis, the mastermind of the crime.

Shams, 21, was sentenced in February to four years in jail on a single charge of conspiracy to commit robbery when she also agreed to cooperate with the prosecution of the remaining defendants.

She testified before the court hidden from the view of the other defendants. She described in detail her experiences before and after the double murder, her relationship to Tzionis, the abuse he inflicted on her during that time, including how he lured her into using hard drugs.

According to her testimony on Monday, on a day following the murders during the period when Shams accompanied Tzionis into hiding, she asked him if he had been planning the robbery for a while and he replied “for about a month.”

“And I asked ‘and to kill them?’,” Shams said, to which she said Tzionis replied by nodding his head.

Responding to whether Tzionis had ever told he how he felt after killing two people, Shams said “he told me that killing those two people made him overcome his fears.”

“He told me that now he does not fear anyone or anything, because no one could harm him and that ‘the good Loizos’ was dead and if he needed to kill him again, he would.”

Shams said that on the night of the murders she and defendant Lefteris Solomou had remained behind at the family home of Tzionis, who took his friend Marios Hadjixeneophontos, also a defendant in the case, with him to the Strovolos house.

When Tzionis returned, Shams said he went down on his blood-stained knees and apologised to her, and though she said she understood he had done something bad, she “did not want to accept that he had killed.”

Once the two were on the highway heading for Ayia Napa, Tzionis told Shams “you are a fugitive with a murderer,” though she said she was too scared to get out of the car on the highway alone and remained in the car with Tzionis.

Adding a new twist to the trial, Sham’s testimony on Monday triggered the 23-year-old defendant and half-brother of Tzionis, Lefteris Solomou, to change his plea to guilty of charges relating to conspiracy to commit felony and armed robbery.

As per the instructions of the attorney general, the remaining charges against Solomou relating to premeditated murder were dropped by the prosecution.

“I can’t take these proceedings anymore, I’m psychologically exhausted,” Solomou told the court. “I’m sick of trying to prove my innocence,” he added.

Solomou was also asked by the prosecution whether he would be willing to cooperate with the state in prosecuting the two remaining defendants, though Solomou has yet to decide.

Tzionis and Hadjixenophontos remain defendants in the trial.

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