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Couple charged after viral attack say video does not tell the whole story

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The dispute between the couple and the asylum seeker dates back to April

The elderly Briton, who was caught on video, beating an Iranian woman outside a house in Kato Polemidhia in Limassol was reacting to an attack by the woman against his wife, she told the Sunday Mail this week.

The British pensioner’s Greek Cypriot wife, Maroulla Constantinides, claimed she had been going up the steps to their flat when she was pulled down by the woman and attacked as she lay on the ground. Hearing the shouting, the husband, who was at the front of the house, arrived and started hitting the woman, their tenant. This was caught on video.

“We had not even gone there to see her but were going to our own flat and were on the steps leading to it,” said Constantinides. The couple do not live permanently in the flat but use it when Constantinides has to be in Limassol for chemotherapy sessions.

The first part of the incident was not filmed even though the 40-year-old asylum seeker who has been living in the couple’s lower-floor flat with her four-year-old son since April, gave a completely different version of events to police and to the media.

She claimed the 76-year-old woman had entered her house and allegedly hit her on the back with a pair of scissors, a version repeated by all the media as it was included in the police charges against the elderly couple.

The couple were charged with assault and causing actual bodily harm, possession of an assault weapon public insult and released on €10,000 bail and will appear in court on September 29.

“I never attacked her and had no scissors,” stressed Constantinides, adding that “the police searched the house and our car and found no scissors.”

Limassol police confirmed that the assault weapon – the pair of scissors – was not found even though the scene and the car of the couple were searched by officers. Police spokesman Christos Andreou told the Sunday Mail that the attack with the scissors was an allegation and if it was used “it was not with its sharp side.”

Only the man appeared in court on Thursday morning, as his wife who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, felt unwell after the incident and spent Wednesday night in hospital. That a 76-year-old cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy could have attacked a 40-year-old was also at odds with the allegations of an attack indoors and off-camera.

The video of the 76-year-old British pensioner repeatedly hitting the Iranian woman was posted on social media by migrant support group Kisa, and went viral, provoking a public outcry, and was universally condemned.

The attack victim, according to reports, had scratches and bruises and was kept in hospital for treatment.

The dispute between the couple and the asylum seeker dates back. Last April she moved into the couple’s semi-basement flat in Kato Polemidhia temporarily as she was homeless and had a young child. The couple was asked to house her for a month by an Iranian mutual acquaintance and they agreed, said Constantinides.

When the month was over, she paid a deposit and a month’s rent, for which she received receipts. Since then, Constantinides said, she has not paid them rent. Initially, the CyBC reported that she was not paying the rent because she had no water and electricity.

But, in an interview she gave, while seated in a hospital wheelchair to Alpha TV on Thursday, the asylum seeker alleged that she was in fact paying the rent but that the landlord was not issuing receipts because he did not want to declare the income.

“This is a blatant lie,” said the owner of the flat. “We had drafted a rental contract, and she refused to sign it while insisting that she could not leave as she had nowhere to go.” By signing a rental contract the woman would have been entitled to a rent allowance from the welfare department, which she was missing out on by not signing a lease.

At one point Constantinides said, she received a phone call from the tenant asking her to go to the flat and remove all her belongings and place them in the garden as she had decided to move out because there were a lot of mosquitoes and she was afraid for her child’s health. She told the landlady that she could not do it herself because she was at work.

“I was so naïve,” said Constantinides, who did as she was asked. The Iranian then called the police to the house and accused the landlady of unlawfully entering the flat and removing all her belongings. The police told her she was entitled to change the locks for her protection, and she did.

“After this, she told me ‘I am not paying, I am not leaving and I will stay for as long as I want because I have a baby,’” Constantinides said.

The couple later sent two estate agents to look at the flat so they could rent it and the tenant allegedly frightened them away, claiming she had a baby and could not be moved out, according to Constantinides.

In the meantime, there was another incident involving Constantinides and the tenant, when an elderly electrician had gone to the flat to fix something. He was allegedly attacked by the woman and Constantinides husband had to intervene. Meanwhile Constantindes said, he was chased into the garden by the tenant, allegedly brandishing a shovel.

The case was reported to the police and a statement was taken about the incident. The electrician, however, did not want to get involved by filing a complaint.

Another mystery in the dispute was that the tenant had managed to put the electricity bills in her name, without having a rental agreement, which is a condition set by the EAC for transferring a bill to a tenant of a house.

The spokesperson of the EAC, Christina Papadopoulou, confirmed that no transfer to the name of a tenant could be made without a rental agreement. Asked how it was possible for this to happen in the case of the Iranian tenant, Papadopoulou said EAC was given written certification from the Polemidhia police that the woman lived in the specific premises even though there was no rental contract.

There is only one electricity meter for the two flats, so when the couple went to stay in their section of the building at one point, they discovered they had no electricity because their tenant had cut off the supply to the upstairs and that the account was in the tenant’s name, not theirs.

At present the semi-basement flat has no electricity either, not because of any fault of the owners as the supply is in the name of the tenant. Reportedly the EAC had cut off supply because they found the meter had been tampered with. The tenant has said she had refused to pay rent because the owners cut off the electricity, but it was not in their name.

The flat-owners had tried everything to have the woman move out of their premises over the past few months, going to the police and the social welfare department to seek their help. The police said they did not get involved in rental disputes while the welfare services told the tenant they could find her alternative accommodation and give her rent allowance, but she refused. For the department to provide rent allowance, a rental contract is needed.

An announcement issued by the social welfare department on Thursday said: “Officers of the social welfare department during their on-site visits and by telephone, had repeatedly urged her to find another place and to present a lease document in order to be able to receive the rent allowance. In both cases (temporary movement to accommodation and moving to another place), she refused, stating that she had received legal advice for staying in the premises in question,” the statement said.

This appeared to have changed on Friday, when welfare department employees visited the asylum seeker at the hospital and suggested she was moved to a hospitality centre temporarily until a permanent home was found for her. She would also be granted rent allowance if she produced a rental contract, plus other benefits, she was told. She reportedly agreed.

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