Two new witnesses were called to the stand on Friday in the homicide trial dubbed the ‘Yeroskipou dog mauling case’ where the court heard about an old incident involving children in the area.
A 27-year-old defendant is facing homicide and criminal negligence charges in the death of Petruna Milchova Nikolova, a 46-year-old Bulgarian national who was found fatally injured in a rural field in Yeroskipou on 22 February 2018.
Officials initially said they were dealing with a death resulting from multiple injuries possibly caused by farming equipment. Subsequent autopsies pointed to dog bites after police investigators said they were tipped off about two Rottweiler dogs from the area that might have mauled the victim to death.
On Friday, prosecutors called Yiorgos Polyviou, owner and manager of Athletic Center Olympico, to take the witness stand. Polyviou testified under oath about an incident that took place about a year prior to Petruna’s death.
The witness went on to speculate that it would be plausible that Petruna’s injuries could have been caused by the Rottweiler dogs owned by the defendant
Polyviou said he saw two dogs approaching the fence at the field where children were playing soccer, some 200 metres from the death scene. The witness said the dogs seemed friendly and the kids opened the gate so the canines could come in and play.
The prosecutor then asked about a bite incident involving one of the dogs that injured a child on the leg, with the witness confirming the identity of the two dogs through a photograph presented by state prosecutor Andreas Hadjikyriacou.
Defence attorney Elias Stephanou then proceeded to cross examine the witness, saying the dog that bit the child did not belong to his client. He added that the defendant had been looking after another person’s dog for five days at that time. He also submitted to the court that the boy was seen kicking the fence prior to the biting incident.
Stephanou told the court that the owner of the dog went to the futsal premises following the incident and offered money to the boy’s mother to cover medical costs, which included a number of stitches. The court then heard that the mother told the dog owner there was no problem, citing the fact that she knew her son could get hyperactive.
A second witness, Giorgos Demetriou who is an administrator at the Veterinary Services department, was then called to the witness stand. Demetriou, who has been working for the state since 2010, told the court he was present during several tests on the defendant’s dogs following the incident as well as the area where the canines were being kept.
The prosecutor then asked Demetriou whether he could tell based on his professional expertise, whle also taking into consideration a number of scientific findings in the case, whether the Rottweiler dogs owned by the defendant could have caused fatal injuries to Petruna.
The witness went on to speculate that it would be plausible that Petruna’s injuries could have been caused by the Rottweiler dogs owned by the defendant.
Defendant dialed emergency
In a previous hearing, the court heard that private phone records showed the defendant called for an ambulance within 2-3 minutes of Petruna being injured.
The defendant, who pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges, remains free on a €100,000 bail and has surrendered his passport and identification documents. He is also required to report to a police station every day while his dogs, despite not belonging to a dangerous breed, must wear a dog mouthpiece and remain on leash, according to the bail terms.
The case has been controversial from the very beginning, with some experts and media criticising crime investigators and state pathologists after a total of five autopsies during the initial stages of the investigation.
The next hearing has been set for March 22, when Stephanou will cross examine Demetriou.