Head bowed, his hands handcuffed behind his back and wearing a black face mask and bullet-proof vest, Greek pilot Charalambos Anagnostopoulos was led into court yesterday surrounded by armed police.
What a contrast to other times we have seen the 33-year-old widower of young British wife, Caroline Crouch.
Who could fail to have been moved when, cradling their 11-month-old baby daughter Lydia in his arms, he was photographed gently placing a flower on her coffin at her funeral on the island of Alonissos last month? Or when he hugged her distraught mother at a memorial service on Wednesday — just hours before he finally confessed to murdering her at their home in Athens on May 11 and hatching an elaborate plot to evade justice.
Charalambos Anagnostopoulos, pictured with his wife Caroline Crouch and their daughter Lydia, 11 months, staged the elaborate murder of the 20-year-old who had threatened to leave him and take their daughter with her
Charalambos (Babis) Anagnostopoulos was led to court in Athens yesterday surrounded by heavily armed police
The scenes at court, with so many armed officers, was an illustration of how high emotions are running in Greece following the sensational development.
The motive? It was as old as time itself. Caroline, who was 20, had threatened to leave him and take baby Lydia with her.
‘I did not want to go to prison because I wanted to raise my daughter,’ he is said to have told officers after being interrogated for eight hours at the central police station in the Greek capital on Thursday. He is understood to have suffocated Caroline.
So momentous was the development that Greek TV interrupted broadcasts of Euro 2020 to break the news. Passers-by stopped at cafes to watch updates.
In court, Anagnostopoulos was officially charged with murder and, if convicted, faces life in prison.
With good looks and a glamorous job, he led an outwardly idyllic life in an impressive balconied villa in the affluent suburb of Glyka Nera.
To their neighbours they seemed like the perfect family; an impression reinforced by snaps of them on holiday, in such locations as Dubai, on social media. Their happiness was perhaps epitomised by a loving message posted on Caroline’s birthday. ‘My awesome wife, closest friend, and best mum in the world,’ Mr Anagnostopoulos wrote touchingly.
For the past five weeks, ever since Caroline was killed, he’s continued to play the role of the heartbroken widower; in public, at least, his mask never slipped; but it was all an act; a performance, we now know.
Shortly before his arrest on suspicion of murdering his wife Caroline, he was seen consoling her mother at a memorial service on June 17
Behind the image of a blessed family life, Anagnostopoulos, known as Babis, was a jealous and controlling husband, friends revealed today.
And extracts from Caroline’s diary published on a Greek website reveal the truth about their often violent and unhappy relationship. ‘I had a fight with Babis again,’ she wrote in 2019. ‘I hit him, cursed him and broke the door.’
In another extract, she said: ‘I’m thinking of leaving to go to my sister,’ she wrote. ‘I do not know if I can continue with Babis.’
Anagnostopoulos is the latest in a long line of killers to have cried crocodile tears for the cameras. Statistics might tell us most murders are committed by people known to the victim but even two weeks into the investigation police insisted Anagnostopoulos ‘is not and has never been a suspect’.
The authorities are now telling a different story; that they suspected him all along. The more cynical view is that this is just a face-saving exercise to avoid awkward questions about why it took so long to arrest him.
Either way, few culprits have concocted such an elaborate tissue of lies to cover their tracks.
The story he spun was this: three men — with foreign accents — broke into the house around 5am, tied him up and put insulating tape over his eyes. They had pointed a gun at his daughter’s head, he said. They then killed his wife and family dog, he said, before escaping with £10,000 in banknotes and £20,000 of jewellery.
It was a chain of events akin to a movie or TV plot. Anagnostopoulos, who trained as a helicopter pilot in the UK, told how he only managed to raise the alarm by using his nose to dial the number of the police and call a neighbour.
He couldn’t possibly have made all this up, could he? Even now, it beggars belief. ‘On the night of May 11 we quarrelled yet again,’ Anagnostopoulos is quoted as saying in his new testimony, parts of which were released by the police. ‘She threw me out of our bed and I saw her taking the baby out of the cot. I lost my mind … when I realised she was dead, I sought means of covering things up because there is an 11-month-old baby to consider.’
Ahead of yesterday’s hearing, it emerged he had accused his wife of being jealous and obsessed, saying he was worried about his daughter’s safety after the infant was thrown roughly in her crib.
Describing their relationship as having ‘very good and very bad days’, on the night of the murder he admitted his wife had screamed to him to leave the house and accused him of being a bad father.
A detailed transcript of his confession has been published on a Greek news website. ‘I could not stand the fights any more,’ he said. She was obsessed and jealous.
‘We had another intense fight early that afternoon [of May 11]. When I went to the attic, she told me to leave the room and the house. She pushed me and then left the child abruptly and forcefully in the crib. The baby started to cry. I got annoyed, attacked her and pressed her face against the pillow or mattress.
‘I do not know how much time it took. I had no accomplice. When I realised she was dead, I started thinking about the baby and did not know what to do.
‘I decided to cover it up and made everything up.
‘I tied her hands to her back and put the blouse around her neck, close to her mouth.’ During his interrogation, he told detectives: ‘I am sorry that I lied to you.
‘You all treated me well and I lied to you but I had to make sure that I stayed out of jail to be with my child.’ Anagnostopoulos went to the extraordinary length of strangling their puppy, Bruno, who was strung up from the stairwell after reportedly being drowned, brutality intended to point the finger of suspicion at a violent criminal gang.
It seems to have worked, whatever the police might be saying publicly now. An Albanian crime group comprising of Roma and other nationalities were being sought in connection with the murderous home invasion in Glyka Nera, it was reported at the time.
A ‘near-perfect murder’, officers called it, because forensic specialists found no signs of a break-in; no fingerprints; no DNA; nothing.
It was as if the ‘burglars had bleached the entire house’ before leaving.
But the real killer had made several, fundamental mistakes: during the interrogation, he was presented with electronic evidence that contradicted his harrowing account.
The details which have now emerged really did resemble something from television’s CSI.
According to Babis’s initial version of events, burglars broke into his house near Athens around 5am on May 11, tied him up alongside wife Caroline, robbed them, strangled her and then fled before he was able to call police at 6am.
But detectives say it was an elaborate fiction, and have laid out in detail what they believe happened inside the house on that night.
According to the police version of events, he broke a latch on a downstairs window, then ransacked hiding places where valuables were kept to make it look like a burglary. In a sick twist, he then drowned the couple’s seven-month-old husky puppy and hanged its body from a bannister, later telling police robbers must have killed it on their way in so it didn’t wake them up.
Officers say Babis then blindfolded himself, tied himself to the bed, and called to a neighbour who alerted them to the ‘burglary’.
George Kalliakmanis, president of police in Attica, which covers Athens, told Greek news site Protothema detectives were struck by his ‘coldness’ the very morning they arrived at his home and discovered his wife dead upstairs. His men had compared him to Oscar Pistorius, the South African Paralympian, who protested his innocence like Anagnostopoulos — at least to start with.
They kept their suspicions hidden, the police chief said, and pursued his burglary claim to avoid ‘spooking’ him and risk panicking him into fleeing. Why did they suspect the break-in had been staged? He says because few of the cupboards and wardrobes had been searched, when intruders normally search everywhere, but in this case they appeared to have looked only in places that Anagnostopoulos had stored valuables.
Nevertheless, he led police on a merry dance, telling them the intruders were armed with a silver Colt and black pistol, weapons rarely found in Greece.
He was shown dozens of mugshots of criminals and played tapes to see if he could recognise the foreign language he claimed he heard one of the culprits speaking.
At one stage, a 36-year-old Georgian suspect was arrested and officers were planning to put him in an identity parade to see if Anagnostopoulos picked him out.
Who could have ever have imagined that their seemingly happy marriage would end in such a tragic way?
‘Greek public opinion shocked by vicious crime’ is how the state broadcaster summed up the country’s response to the atrocity on its website.
Caroline’s funeral was held on the island of Alonissos, just across the sparkling water from Skopelos, where Mamma Mia! was filmed.
It is where she spent much of childhood. Her mother runs a cleaning firm on the island, her father, who was born in Liverpool, had retired to Alonissos after a career in the armed forces and oil industry.
After graduating from the University of Piraeus in Athens, where she studied statistics, Caroline worked as a high school teacher.
It was four years ago that met her future husband. They married in May 2018.
But behind the smiling photographs, behind the lovely house and enviable lifestyle, friends who knew the couple say Babis was a jealous and controlling husband and that Caroline was deeply unhappy.
‘She could not have the time she wanted with her friends and she was constantly expressing her complaints about his behaviour,’ one friend told another Greek news site.
Both she and her husband, it has now transpired, had been in therapy at the time of the murder, speaking to the same psychologist but during separate sessions.
During his brief court appearance on Thursday, his lawyer Vasilis Spyrou said his client had told him he regretted his action and wants to be punished.
He was remanded in custody ahead of a hearing next Tuesday when it is understood he will present a formal apology and enter pleas to the charges of murder, abuse of an animal and making false statements to police.
For those who loved Caroline, surely his punishment can’t come too soon.
Countdown to murder and a sick cover up
0.35am: A CCTV camera on the ground floor of the couple’s home captures its last image of Babis sitting on the sofa with his infant daughter. He’s texting Caroline, upstairs, as they argue bitterly.
1.20am: Babis removes the memory card from the camera. He will later admit to snapping it in half and flushing it down the toilet. Evidence, police say, that Caroline’s murder was premeditated.
1.35am-4am: Babis and Caroline continue to exchange ‘particularly hard and sharp’ text messages. Caroline messages a friend to say she is leaving her husband and attempts to book a hotel. The argument ends with Caroline ordering Babis out of the house and saying she wants a divorce.
4.01am: A fitness tracker attached to Caroline’s wrist shows a sudden burst of heart activity. Detectives believe this is the moment a physical fight broke out between the bitterly divided couple.
4.11am: Caroline’s fitness tracker shows that her heartbeat has stopped, she is dead.
4.11am-6am: Babis stages an elaborate break-in before dawn.