A lawyer representing the Greek pilot who smothered wife Caroline Crouch to death in front of their baby daughter has quit just moments before his first court hearing.
Vassilis Spyrou, one of two defence attorneys assigned to represent Babis Anagnostopoulos in his murder trial, said today that he is quitting the case for ‘personal reasons’, without elaborating further.
He spoke just moments before 33-year-old Anagnostopoulos was due in court to recount a confession that he gave to police last week in front of a judge.
Anagnostopoulos has initially claimed that Caroline died in the early hours of May 11 in a burglary-gone-wrong, but last week dramatically admitted to having killed her himself and then invented the break-in so he could raise their infant daughter.
Prosecutors will argue today that Caroline’s murder was premeditated, pointing to a CCTV camera that had its memory card removed hours before she died and smartwatch data suggesting she was asleep when she was smothered as evidence.
But Anagnostopoulos is expected to argue the killing took place in the heat of the moment, amid a bitter argument in which Caroline had threatened to leave him and take their daughter while roughly throwing the child into her crib, as he seeks a lighter sentence.
Babis Anagnostopoulos pictured arriving at court today where he is expected to recount a confession he gave to police last week that he smothered wife Caroline Crouch to death
His defence team has said he will not dispute the main allegation – that he is responsible for Caroline’s death – but will instead present new information not included in his police testimony that will add context to the events.
‘This information will shed light on the circumstances of the crime and will enrich his pre-trial testimony,’ his legal team said.
At the same time in a separate hearing within the same complex, a juvenile court will sit to decide the fate of the couple’s 11-month-old daughter Lydia, who is currently being looked after by Anagnostopoulos’s parents: Father Constantinos and mother Georgia at their Athens home who want to retain custody of the child.
Caroline’s distraught parents Susan and David Crouch, who live in their retirement home on the island of Alonnisos, also demanding custody of her.
Anagnostopoulos is currently being held in solitary confinement on the 7th floor of Athens Police Headquarters.
After visiting him, his lawyer Alexandros Papaioannidis told MailOnline: ‘My client is in a rough psychological state, the court hearing will be a very difficult day.
‘Now, fully conscious of the act, we are discussing his plea. He is ready to face the magistrate and give answers. He is fully aware of the situation and of what is ahead of him.’
Referring to Lydia’s future, the lawyer added: ‘He (Anagnostopoulos) wishes custody to be shared between the two families.
‘As his lawyer – apart from the criminal part- I am instructed to take any action before the prosecutor’s office in the child’s best interest.’
Mr Papaioannidis revealed that he will ask for some more time this morning to consider the digital evidence that was uncovered by police, which led to Anagnostopoulos’s confession last week.
Prosecutors are expected to say Caroline’s murder was premeditated, while her husband’s attorneys will argue it happened in the heat of the moment as they seek a lighter sentence
This consists of data from Caroline’s fitness tracker which recorded that her pulse had stopped an hour before Anagnostopoulos claimed robbers had burst in; movements recorded by an app on his mobile phone which showed that he was up and walking around during the time he stated he was tied down by intruders; and evidence that he removed the memory card from the CCTV cameras, hours before he alleged, they had killed Caroline.
Mr Papaioannidis said that his defence would be based on Anagnostopoulos’s claim that he did not plan to kill Caroline and that he staged a cover-up to make it appear as though she had died in a botched burglary, because he did not want Lydia to be brought up without at least one parent.
According to reports in Greece, both sets of her grandparents are communicating with the child’s best interest in mind.
The juvenile court will also hear from a social worker on who should raise Lydia but if an agreement cannot be reached between the two families, the issue will be decided by a judge at a later hearing.
Following today’s hearing before an investigative magistrate, Anagnostopoulos is expected to be remanded in custody at Korydallos prison, which is located on the outskirts of Athens and is Greece’s main maximum-security facility.
His trial is not expected to take place for at least 18 months, with Anagnostopoulos set to languish in what has been described as one of Europe’s worst prisons.
A number of reports have found that it is controlled by violent gangs with prison wardens too afraid to patrol inside. Drugs are freely available with shipments organised by prisoners openly using mobile phones.
A delegation from the Council of Europe that visited the prison last year found that up to seven people were crammed into mould-infested cells measuring just 9.5 square metres and that many slept on mattresses on the floor.
The delegation also said buildings at Korydallos holding between 230 to 430 people each were often overseen by just one prison officer ‘who clearly was not in a position to exert any authority or control.’
The court is also expected to make a preliminary ruling on the custody of the couple’s child (pictured together) as both sets of the girl’s grandparents want to take care of her
It described conditions inside the prison as ‘inhuman’ with prisoners subjected to ‘degrading treatment.’
Conditions in Korydallos are so bad in the prison that the country’s Government has vowed to shut it down.
The prison was opened in 1967 with a capacity for around 8,000 inmates but it is now estimated that it houses almost 13,000 prisoners.
Caroline’s killing has caused widespread shock in Greece with public anger running high against Anagnostopoulos and his attempts to play the grieving husband.
He appeared in court last week wearing a bullet proof vest and surrounded by police after confessing to his crime to officers.
Just hours before, astonishing images revealed the moment Anagnostopoulos hugged Caroline’s distraught mother at her memorial service last Wednesday before confessing to her killing shortly afterwards.
The embrace took place as detectives arrived to call him away from the service – claiming they had arrested a new suspect and needed his help to identify him.
In fact, the suspect that police wanted Anagnostopoulos to identify was himself – which he is said to have done during eight hours of interrogations.
Police announced late last Thursday that he had confessed to smothering Caroline during a fight at their home in the early hours of May 11.
Anagnostopoulos is said to have told officers that he threw her down on the bed and pressed her face into a pillow until she passed out, before realising he had killed her.
He then drowned the family dog in an area outside the home and removed the CCTV memory card which he snapped and flushed down the toilet.
After his confession was over, police left Anagnostopoulos
in the company of two psychologists and then announced his guilt to the world in a statement at 9.36pm local time last Thursday evening.