No evidence of criminal wrongdoing has come up in the case of the 2005 death of national guardsman Thanasis Nicolaou, and therefore the state will be taking no more action, the attorney-general said on Tuesday.
“The final report has been done and unfortunately no witness testimony came up connecting any persons which may have been responsible for causing the death of the unlucky soldier,” AG Giorgos Savvides told reporters.
He said the current leadership of the attorney-general’s office did all it could – and under the difficult conditions of investigating the event 18 years later – to get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding the death of Nicolaou and, if possible, identify any culprits.
According to Savvides, his office appointed the criminal investigators which the Nicolaou family wanted, gave them the extensions they wanted, and when the investigators reported that they did all they could and it was now up to the police to pursue further, he personally instructed that a special team be established consisting of police officers who had no previous ties to the case.
This team, Savvides said, were given a timeframe to investigate and to clear up any ‘gray areas’.
Now, their final report has found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in connection to the national guardsman’s death.
The AG added that they have handed over to the deceased’s family all the information – the report and the witness testimony gathered.
“We were in constant contact with the family’s attorney and, after we informed them of our position, I understand they intend to file a private criminal case.”
A private criminal case is a process provided for by the constitution, although the attorney-general has the discretion to decide whether to allow it to proceed.
Responding to a journalist’s question as to whether he thinks the family are doing the right thing, Savvides said: “It’s not up to me to comment on whether they’re doing the right thing or the wrong thing. We decided not to proceed with a prosecution. They, as I understand it, are considering going ahead with filing a private criminal case. We will see how it turns out.”
In 2005 Thanasis’ body was found under a bridge in Alassa; police and the army at the time ruled his death as a suicide.
But after his remains were exhumed two years ago over suspicions of foul play, further autopsies showed he had been beaten and strangled.
One of the investigators tasked with carrying out the third inquiry into his death said last year that criminal acts had been committed.
That raised questions, such as if a Greek pathologist found evidence of strangulation 15 years later, how did a Cypriot pathologist not find the same within hours of Thanasis’ body being discovered.
In April this year, a glimmer of hope appeared to be opening up for Thanasis’ mother Andriana – who has been demanding justice since his death – when the attorney-general’s office handed over the material of police investigations which it had previously refused to.
The family has a pending lawsuit against the Republic of Cyprus for damages in connection with an alleged incomplete investigation and human rights violations at the Nicosia district court.