The parents of murder victim George Low, who was fatally stabbed in Ayia Napa two years ago, are left with more questions than answers as another Christmas holiday goes by without any sign of a criminal trial.
Martyn and Helen Low flew to Cyprus in November to attend an inquest into the death of their son. They also have been mounting pressure on law enforcement authorities and calling for the extradition of two men who have been identified as suspects in George’s murder.
Low, a 22-year-old real estate agent with business connections in Ayia Napa, was killed in a knife attack back in August 2016, outside a nightclub in the resort town, while his 24-year-old friend Ben Barker was stabbed multiple times but survived the attack.
The murder reportedly took place following a public urination incident and a brief physical altercation the two friends had with two other men, Sali Ahmet, a 46-year-old Bulgarian Turk and 26-year-old Turkish national Mehmet “Memos” Akpinar of Kurdish origins.
'It’s barbaric they will walk free this Christmas while we lay a place at the table for our dead son'
According to police, the two suspects -initially misidentified as Turkish Cypriots- attacked the two Britons with knives and then fled the scene. They were later arrested in the north and served time in a Turkish Cypriot prison, but their offences were related to illegal entry violations, not murder charges.
Akpinar was reportedly living in the south with a Greek Cypriot woman, who was arrested and later accused of helping the two men flee authorities in the south. Two years ago, the now 50-year-old from Larnaca admitted to investigators that she got into a taxi to meet her boyfriend just after the murder. She said she received a call from Akpinar who asked her to bring a change of clothes. She also drove to Ayia Napa to retrieve a hidden phone that Memos left behind, according to court documents.
Turkish Cypriot officials in the north say they asked for the evidence against Akpinar and Sali to be handed over, so that the two suspects could be tried in a Turkish Cypriot court in the north.
But Greek Cypriot officials insisted the two suspects be handed over to face trial in the Republic of Cyprus, as the crime took place in the south. According to media reports in the south, Akpinar and Sali admitted to officials in the north that they took part in the attack but had no intention of killing anyone.
The situation is made more complicated as there are no extradition agreements between north and south or between Cyprus and Turkey, the country where the suspects are believed to reside currently.
“It’s barbaric they will walk free this Christmas while we lay a place at the table for our dead son,” George’s mother told the Daily Mirror earlier this month.
Law enforcement across the divide
A similar situation is currently taking place in another case with murder suspect Muhammad Salman, a 23-year-old male from Pakistan. He was apprehended in Limassol back in October after his photograph was released by Turkish Cypriot media that raised the possibility he might have fled south.
Salman is facing immigration violation charges in the Republic of Cyprus, while he is also wanted by Turkish Cypriot police in connection with the brutal murder of 53-year-old arts educator Hasan Isik Ozgocmen. The local artist was beaten and strangled to death in late September in a forested area in Trikomo/Iskele.
Officials in the south told Knews that Salman's detention on illegal entry violations will run through 26 January 2019, unless immigration officials deport him to his native country earlier or a political decision is taken sooner.
Bicommunal crime committee
In both murder cases, law enforcement authorities on either side say they have compelling evidence but neither case drew cooperation despite efforts through the bicommunal crime committee and through the UN. The committee was set up in 2008 during boosted prospects of UN-led talks to build cooperation in addressing criminal matters including money laundering, illegal immigration, human trafficking, terrorism and road safety.
Recent activity with the committee involved another murder case, when a UK murder suspect fled London and ended up in the northern part of Cyprus under a false name. He was arrested in the north in August and handed over to the south in October through the UN in order to be extradited to the UK.
British MP Gareth Johnson, who flew to Cyprus in September, met with officials on both sides of the divided island, hoping to help kickstart a new effort to bring George’s killers to justice. He also said his actions were aimed at raising the profile of the case.
Police in the south have been treating the George Low case as premeditated murder and attempted murder, with Akpinar and Sali as the main suspects, while initial reports back in August 2016 of a third suspect were flatly denied by Cyprus Police Spokesman Andreas Angelides.
Delays in the prosecution of the case so far were deemed “normal” with Greek Cypriot officials reportedly saying initial time had to be given so that suspects could be apprehend. But during the inquest proceedings last month, no date was set for the issuing of findings from the judicial inquiry into George’s death.