Police are still trying to identify a number of suspects in an animal cruelty case in Paralimni, while at least 20 students reportedly have admitted they played a role in the school prank.
Viewer discretion advised – videos below show animal cruelty and/or death
According to local media, police investigators believe a group of students who took part in a back-to-school prank in Paralimni High School had received support from outside, with reported stories alluding to a small group of instigators that may include both high school seniors as well as non-students.
Authorities are looking into a number of criminal offences in connection with last week’s Paralimni school prank that involved the torturing and/or death of animals. A group of high school seniors were captured on video throwing smoke bombs, firecrackers, and flares in the main courtyard, along with live animals as well as injured or dead birds.
Reports last week cited police sources saying students were uncooperative during the investigation, but tips later began trickling in with approximately ten students purportedly admitting they took part in the events.
It was not immediately clear whether any or all admissions were given through statements directly to police or retrieved and obtained otherwise by investigators.
According to Philenews, a total of at least 20 students enrolled at the school, including 12th grade seniors but also 11th graders, have admitted some role in the incidents but the nature of their alleged offences was not specified.
Police look at online activity
Media sources said police had been tracking down some 25 suspects based on video and other possible evidence, while some outlets reported efforts by unnamed groups to block segments of the investigation.
It was not immediately clear whether any or all admissions were given directly to police or obtained otherwise by investigators
Police said they were taking statements from students, school staff, and others, including teachers, while the investigation involves multiple alleged offences including possible charges over rioting, unlawful assembly, trespassing, theft, and animal abuse, as well as illegal possession of explosives.
An animal abuse conviction could land a person of legal age to prison for up to 12 months, impose a €1700 fine, or any combination of both. Charges of illegal possession of explosives can carry prison sentences for up to 18 years.
Enrolled students may also face disciplinary action by school authorities for violating rules against consorting with non-students during school hours without permission, graffiti, malicious destruction of property, and bullying that includes abusive, racist or sexist behaviour whether verbal or non-verbal while not precluding online activity on and off school premises.
Investigators have not shared further details while media sources said it was not clear whether police believe they have identified the instigators in the case.
The Education Ministry has issued a statement reassuring the public that students in a number of high schools, who are found to have violated the school code during so-called back-to-school pranks, will face consequences.
High schools in Nicosia and Limassol also made headline news on first day of classes after smoke bombs and firecrackers were used, along with reported damages to nearby vehicles.
Using smoke bombs and flares, along with graffiti and other pranks to start the school year, has been a tradition for high school seniors in the last decade.
Local residents near schools have been complaining to police over explosions in their neighbourhoods, often taking place after midnight and in the wee hours days and weeks before first day of classes.