The trial of a Greek helicopter pilot accused of strangling his British wife as she slept next to their baby daughter is due to begin on Friday in Athens.
Nearly a year after Caroline Crouch was found dead in the couple’s maisonette, her husband, who had originally tried to blame the murder on ruthless “foreign thieves”, will appear before a mixed jury court in the Greek capital. It will be the first time Babis Anagnostopoulos, 33, has been seen in public since his alleged confession of him to a crime that has gripped the nation.
“We have been waiting for this moment,” the Crouch family’s lawyer, Thanassis Haramanis, told the Guardian. “We are confident that justice will prevail.”
In a trial that is likely to be as dramatic as it is long, the UK-trained aviator could take the stand within hours of the hearing getting under way.
For the first time in Greek legal history the defendant, who stands accused of pre-meditated murder and attempting to pervert the course of justice by lying to police, also faces the charge of killing an animal, under groundbreaking legislation passed last year. The pilot allegedly admitted using a leash to hang Crouch’s seven-month-old puppy, Roxy, from the banister of the couple’s home in suburban Athens to make the break-in seem more realistic. Investigators encountered the choked pet before finding Ella’s Caroline’s body next to her crying daughter, Lydia, on the upper level of the maisonette.
“He will do everything to reduce his sentence and convince the court that Caroline’s death wasn’t pre-meditated,” Haramanis said. “But he also faces the prospect of 10 years or more in prison for killing Caroline’s puppy.”
Roxy, a stray dog adopted only months before the 11 May murder, has been assigned separate legal representation, paid for by an animal welfare group that has urged members to protest outside the court alongside women’s organizations enraged at the killing – one of 17 femicides in Greece last year.
For 37 days, Anagnostopoulos claimed his wife’s death was the result of a botched burglary, during which time he gave a heart-rending eulogy at his funeral on the island of Alonissos, where 20-year-old Crouch was raised.
It was only after eight hours of police questioning – following his arrest at her memorial – that investigators allege he confessed to the crime. Police, who had encouraged the government to take the rare step of announcing a €300,000 (£250,000) reward for information that might lead to the assailants, said they had been fooled by a man they described as a “top-class actor”.
Anagnostopoulos, who is detained in Athens’ high-security Koyrdallos prison, has claimed, through his lawyers, that his wife’s “narcissistic and aggressive behaviour” were to blame for the fit of rage that prompted him to commit the crime.
But in a 24-page report, Giorgos Noulis, the public prosecutor assigned to the case, contended otherwise, saying the pilot was in a “calm state of mind” when he chose to kill the student. “He had no inhibition to go through with the act despite the fact that she was the mother of his child,” the magistrate was quoted as saying in the report, excerpts of which appeared in the Greek press. “The victim was just 20 years old, while he was 13 years older and should have been her protector of her.”
The daughter of a retired oil executive who settled on Alonissos, Crouch had been asleep for more than two hours before her murder. Investigators, piecing together the sequence of events based on a handwritten diary that spoke of an increasingly abusive relationship, believe she threatened the pilot with divorce during a heated altercation earlier that night. Her death de ella was depicted as “agonising” by a coroner, who estimated after examination of her body de ella that asphyxiation “took five to six minutes”.
Greek media reports describe Anagnostopoulos as having spent months poring over legal textbooks in an attempt to finesse his defence. At least four witnesses from the couple’s “broader social circle” will testify in his defense of him, his lawyer of him, Alexandros Papaioannidis, said before the trial.
Haramanis said it was unclear if Crouch’s parents, who now have custody of Lydia, would attend proceedings. “Her mother can still not believe that she was consoled by the man who took her beloved daughter away,” he said. “I don’t know if they could bear to be in the same room with him.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism