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Third investigation into soldier’s 2005 death ‘points to murder’  

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The parents of Thanasis Nicolaou protesting for justice

The findings of the third investigation on the circumstances leading to the death of national guardsman Thanasis Nicolaou in 2005 will be handed to Attorney-general George Savvides by September 15, it emerged on Saturday.

Phileleftheros, citing well informed sources, said that the third investigation’s findings “clearly refer to the murder of Thanasis without any allusions or footnotes.”

Savvas Matsas, one of the two independent investigators, along with Antonis Alexopoulos, was asked about the report on Saturday. He told CNA that it would be ethically incorrect to say anything in relation to the findings “until the conclusion is submitted to the one who authorised us [the attorney-general] to investigate the causes of the death of Thanasis Nicolaou.”

“Then we will be able to give our comments. But it is the under the competence and responsibility of the attorney-general to comment on the matter,“ he added.

The third investigation was launched after coroners in Athens examined the 26-year-old’s exhumed remains and separately concluded that Thanasis was strangled, as his hyoid bone, initially recorded as undamaged, was found to have been broken.

Moreover, the coroners had found that his internal organs were ruptured and that he also had a fractured sternum. It is believed that these injuries could not have been the result of a fall but rather the outcome of a brutal beating believed to have taken place before strangulation.

After Attorney-general Giorgos Savvides studied the findings in October last year, the third investigation was then ordered.

This is also the first investigation that looked at the case in terms of murder rather than suicide but the family did not accept the findings and have been fighting ever since to find out the truth.

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 2020, the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) ruled that authorities had botched the investigation into the soldier’s death.

Thanasis was found dead September 9, 2005, under the Alassa bridge in Limassol. It was then thought that his death came about because of his fall from the bridge and suicide was not ruled out.

Phileleftheros, referring to the investigation’s content said that while the criminal investigators had uncovered foul play, the assailant or assailants would go unpunished as there were no witnesses or any evidence incriminating specific individuals.

And while the two investigators did interrogate two individuals, they both produced alibis. And in view of the lack of other evidence or testimonies, no case can be supported.

Crucially however, responsibilities against ex police officers involved in the initial investigation of the case do arise and the investigation’s findings assign blame to one specific individual whose role was decisive, the report said.

Moreover, it has been pointed out that the police investigation that took place back then was manifestly inadequate.

As Phileleftheros was told, “there could not be so many findings that point to a crime, and no one saw them.”

In addition, important elements in the investigation failed to take place, according to the report. This includes the taking of samples from the victim’s stomach for toxicology analysis and the cutting of his fingernails to see if any genetic material belonging to the perpetrators was present. In addition, no material samples were taken from the victim’s vehicle for scientific examination.

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