A woman in Cyprus is accusing the state of a cover-up in her son’s death, saying a recent ECHR judgment reprimanding the Republic over an “inadequate investigation” was not enough and she was demanding to know the whole truth.
The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday found the Republic of Cyprus in violation of human rights in the case of Thanasis Nicolaou, a 26-year-old conscript who was found dead under a bridge in 2005.
A police investigation, which took about a year, had concluded that Nicolaou had fallen from the bridge and died, ruling out foul play. Cypriot state forensic pathologist Panicos Stavrianos, who conducted the initial autopsy at the scene, had determined that the cause of death was a free fall and the manner of death was suicide.
But his mother did not accept the findings and kept on trying to learn about the facts in her son’s death.
'I don’t care about ECHR or the money or the judges. I want to know the truth behind my son’s death'
An appeal with the Supreme Court was filed, while a second investigation took place and was officially concluded years later along with a military probe, with the attorney general concluding in 2014 that it had been “impossible to secure evidence nine years later that would show the death was the result of a criminal act.”
A case was then filed with ECHR, with a judgment on Tuesday finding that the Republic of Cyprus failed to uphold Article 2 of the Convention on the Right to Life and awarding the family €32,000 in damages.
“I don’t care about ECHR or the money or the judges. I want to know the truth behind my son’s death,” Nicolaou’s mother told daily Reporter.
Andriana Nicolaou said state authorities acted “dishonestly” and did not investigate the death properly.
Thanasis, an aspiring architect known by the nickname “Aussie” during his compulsory military service, was found dead under the Alassa bridge in Limassol. His car was found nearby.
But his mother had been suspicious of army and police findings from the very beginning, insisting that things were not adding up after her son's body was found intact under the 30-metre bridge.
Mothers cannot be fooled by anyone
“A mother cannot be fooled by anyone, absolutely no one,” she said.
She also remembered she felt something was amiss after she was notified by the army commander about her son not showing up at first call in the morning, with the military officer trying to calm her down saying he was probably somewhere with his friends.
But the mother said her son, who had spent the night at home, was not the kind of person who would simply not show up on time.
Thanasis, who grew up in Australia and had a foreign accent, was bullied according to his mother and was often referred to as “kangaroo” by the younger local soldiers.
The mother says she is determined to have her son’s body exhumed for a new autopsy, with reports saying a forensic pathologist who met with her in Athens advised her that only a new post mortem would shed light on the cause of death.
A team of forensic pathologists, expected to arrive on the island from Athens, will examine the body, Nicolaou said.
“There is no chance the court would reject an exhumation request this time because I have the report by Mr. Koutsaftis right here who asked me if I wanted to know the truth,” the mother said.
She went on to say that she was told an exhumation would reveal whether there were broken bones on the body, as documented in the state forensic pathologist’s report.
“If there are indeed bone fractures, it would be easy to determine how they were caused because the bones would be protruding from the body as a result of a fall,” the mother said.
“Let the truth to shine so we can be at peace,” she added, saying the case was “obviously a cover-up.”
“If I remain silent, just imagine what would happen in other cases,” Nicolaou said.