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Body of national guardsman to be exhumed 15 years after his death

Andriana Nicolaou at a shrine that marks the spot where her son died

Fifteen years after he died, the Limassol district court has ordered the exhumation of the remains of a 26-year-old whose death while doing his military service had been ruled a suicide by authorities, a finding disputed by his family who have been fighting since to find the truth.

Thanasis Nicolaou was found under a bridge in Alassa on September 29, 2005, about 12 kilometres from his home and barracks. He was meant to report back to his unit after an overnight leave.

His death was quickly ruled a suicide by state pathologist at the time Panicos Stavrianos and based on that, police did not even entertain the possibility of foul play.

Nicolaou had moved from Australia with an architect’s degree from Melbourne University, to set up a new life and an office in Cyprus.

But first he had to complete six months of compulsory army service, during which, according to his parents, he was bullied for the first three months before his death.

The European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) ruled in February that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into his death.

On Wednesday, the Limassol district court granted the family’s request to exhume Nicolaou’s remains, which will be examined by Phillipos Koutsaftis, the former head of the Athens coroner’s service.

The ECHR said two police investigations, a military investigation, an investigation by two criminal investigators appointed by the Council of Ministers and two inquest proceedings were conducted.

“The overall investigation into Mr Nicolaou’s death, which spanned approximately 13 years, was brought to a close in September 2018 with the Attorney General’s decision that it had not been possible to secure evidence indicating that Mr Nicolaou’s death had been the result of a criminal act,” the ECHR said.

The initial verdict of suicide has been changed over the years to “not suicide” with “inadequate evidence for criminal activity and probable death as a result of a fall from a height.”

The family says they have gathered evidence that disputes this verdict and indicates foul play with probable drowning.

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