Cyprus Mail

Pathologist says soldier killed in 2005 died as result of foul play (Updated)

Thanasis' parents and other demonstrate outside the supreme court in 2018

A pathologist hired by the family of a national guardsman who died 16 years said Thursday his death was the result of strangulation and not suicide.

Demetra Karayianni said she had found that his hyoid – a U shaped bone that supports the tongue — was fractured and it had been caused before his death.

It “cannot be caused by any other cause, e.g. a traffic collision”, she told Alpha television.

Karayianni was adamant that the fracture had been caused ante mortem and could only be caused by strangulation or hanging.

“It is beyond reasonable doubt,” she said.

Injuries to the hyoid bone are rare. The most commonly reported injury is fracture and it is often a post-mortem finding with a high incidence in victims of strangulation and hanging.

Thanasis Nicolaou died in September 2005, aged 26.

He was found dead under a bridge in Alassa, Limassol, about 12 kilometres from his home and barracks. He was meant to report back to his unit after an overnight leave.

His death had been ruled a suicide by authorities, a finding fiercely disputed by his family who have been fighting ever since to find out the truth.

Last year, a court ordered Nicolaou’s exhumation and his bones were sent to Greece for examination.

A pathologist representing the state has also examined the remains, but his findings have not been made public.

In a statement, the Legal Service said it had received the expert’s report and convened a meeting on Thursday morning with the participation of the attorney-general and his deputy, senior state attorneys, the chief of police and other members of the force’s leadership.

“All the evidence from the exhumation of the bones will be submitted to the coroner. At the same time, the evidence is being evaluated and decisions will be made accordingly.”

His  mother Andriana, said her son had been bullied but had misgivings about reporting it to his superiors. After finally having papers thrown in his face by fellow soldiers, Thanasis filed a complaint to his commanding officer.

Although the bullying claims were examined by the police during the initial investigation, statements had not been taken from all the soldiers serving in his unit.

In February last year, the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) ruled that authorities had botched the investigation into Nicolaou’s death.

“The court finds that the foregoing considerations are sufficient to establish that the domestic authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr Nicolaou’s death and accordingly that there has been a violation of the procedural aspect of Article 2 of the Convention,” the ECHR said.

According to the ECHR ruling, the root of the problem lay in the initial police investigation which “was marred by a number of significant shortcomings”.

A fact acknowledged both by the investigators appointed by the cabinet and the attorney-general later on.

“The court observes that it emerges from the case-file that the entire initial police investigation was from the very beginning conducted on the premise that this was a simple case of an unnatural death and that Mr Nicolaou had most likely taken his own life, never seriously questioning this premise or endeavouring to verify any other possible scenario. As a consequence, the investigation was not carried out by experienced criminal police investigators with forensic experience and the line of investigation was limited, leading to oversights and, as many questions were left unanswered, a tenuous conclusion.”



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