A man who reported the cliff death of his girlfriend but became suspect based on a controversial forensic report walked free on Friday, after official results of a second autopsy rejected the investigators’ premeditated murder theory and stirred up debate on how Cyprus Police investigate cases.
Police Spokesperson Christos Andreou told state radio on Friday morning that crime investigators from Paphos were heading to the Legal Department in Nicosia, where they would discuss the cliff death of 28-year-old Ukrainian national Lesia Bykova, who fell from a height of 100 meters at a scenic coastal location in Paphos.
The woman’s death was initially handled as a premeditated murder case, with police arresting Bykova’s boyfriend after state forensic examiners Angeliki Papetta and Orthodoxos Orthodoxou suggested there were signs of sexual molestation and strangulation.
No suspected motive was made known at the time of the arrest but the initial report suggested there was a need to investigate sexual crimes in relation to Bykova’s death, after the experts found injuries in the area between her anus and vulva, saying they could not rule out completely that those injuries might not have been caused by the fall.
Spiliopoulou accused Matsakis of not being impartial in the case, saying he came to the morgue to defend the suspect while 'our role was completely different'
Neck injuries noted in the initial forensic report were also described as fitting the pattern of strangulation, with the experts pointing out that the wounds might also be consistent with a fall but only in rare cases.
But both rape and murder accusations were vehemently rejected by the suspect, described as a 30-year-old Ukrainian national who holds a Greek passport and lives permanently in the Republic of Cyprus.
The suspect had insisted all along that Bykova died after a tragic fall as she was trying to take a selfie near Petra tou Romiou.
Private forensic pathologist Marios Matsakis, who was tasked by the suspect’s lawyers to weigh in, had determined that his client’s version of events about a tragic accident checked out after visiting the site and also attending a second postmortem.
Matsakis, who was not allowed to conduct a defense autopsy after publicly criticizing state forensics, was invited to attend a second post mortem conducted by Greek forensic expert Chara Spiliopoulou, who later criticized the private pathologist for speaking to the media.
“I find such behavior to be very bad and very unethical,” Spiliopoulou said according to Reporter.
Spiliopoulou accused Matsakis of not being impartial in the case, saying he came to the morgue to defend the suspect while “our role was completely different.”
“He was there just as an autopsy technician with no effect on the outcome,” Spiliopoulou said, adding that Matsakis as a private forensic expert “can say whatever he wants.”
“I cannot say whatever I want, the forensic pathologists of the Republic of Cyprus cannot say whatever they please," Spiliopoulou said.
But Matsakis reportedly denied accusations of bias towards his client, saying as a forensic examiner he would not hesitate to state his findings.
“If I saw signs of strangulation, I would have said there were signs of strangulation,” Matsakis reportedly said.
The private expert has been saying all along that the suspect’s version of events provided to police checked out, with injuries on the man being consistent with his efforts to climb down to save Bykova before she lost her grip.
Matsakis previously criticized officials for denying him access to articles of clothing that also corroborated the suspect’s account.
Bone fracture taken out of context
Media pundits who spoke on Spiliopoulou’s findings suggested the Greek expert had in fact corroborated Matsakis’ claims that their state colleagues took a broken hyoid bone out of context.
Spiliopoulou has refused to speak publicly about her findings but local reporter and Alpha Cyprus correspondent Costas Nanos said the Greek expert did in fact confirm there was an injury in the neck.
“We have received information that Ms Spiliopoulou, who confirms there is a fracture in the hyoid bone, believes the injury alone cannot lead to the conclusion that this was caused by strangulation because there ought to have been additional evidence, such as traces of strangulation in the neck and other evidence in the body and face,” Nanos said.
Plenty of evidence and no motive
According to police, the case was still under investigation but spokesperson Andreou also clarified there was additional information under scrutiny.
“There are forensic reports and other evidence, statements, phone data, and other findings that still need to be assessed,” Andreou told state radio.
Knews understands additional evidence include articles of clothing for both the suspect and Bykova, as well as photos in her phone that show images had been taken on site before her death.
Andreou went on to clarify that the state examiners had only pointed to “signs that should be investigated,” adding that all three experts -Spilopoulou, Papetta, and Orthodoxou- had signed off on the second autopsy.
Police have declined to state any grounds for suspicion when a murder investigation was launched after the initial forensic report “warranted an investigation into a sexual crime in relation to the death in this case.”
On Friday reports said police had no legal grounds to hold the suspect in custody as they could not identify any crimes against him. He was jailed initially for 8 days, which is the maximum remand period according to the Constitution, but a local judge had extended his detention for 3 more days following a request by the police prosecutor.