Sept. 23, 2013
Greece’s criminal profile is one fitting to its Mediterranean temperament of boiling blood, twisted romance and redeemed honor.
As expected, Greece’s criminal profile is one fitting to its Mediterranean temperament of boiling blood, twisted romance and redeemed honor. Modern Greece did not even exist until the late 19th century. Very little survives from the early days of the newly independent state with regards to jurisprudence, and the little that does comes to us interwoven with a thick yarn of lore, exaggeration and heroics. What is clear is that between then and now little has changed in the way sensational crime affects society. Much like in the ancient Greek drama, the folk would invariably become emotionally involved with the storyline unfolding, as details of such crimes became public. They empathize with the protagonists – and, on occasion, with the perpetrators – they offer alternative views and they defend them with passion. The folk celebrates human nature, even if it is very shady, through songs, films and cautionary tales.
The Criminal Mother-in-Law
One of the earliest documented crimes that managed to capture the imagination of the public was the murder of Demetrios Athanasopoulos in 1931. A relatively well-to-do construction undertaker, Athanasopoulos was at the time of his demise married to a stunning 25-year-old named Foula. She was by all accounts beautiful and intensely sought after, yet she had obeyed her mother’s wishes and married Athanasopoulos, much to the detriment of everyone involved.
Far from being an ideal husband, Athanasopoulos continued to seek the company of prostitutes in order to satisfy his voracious, and somewhat kinky, sexual appetites. Rather unapologetic, he was in fact disillusioned by his wife’s reluctance to satisfy his specific cravings for anal intercourse, especially since none of his occasional mistresses had ever denied him the privilege; and that included his own mother-in-law. Artemis Castro was at the time of the murder 45 years old and ruthless. Already engaging in sexual relations with her son-in-law since before he wed her daughter, she continued to be his occasional lover even after the wedding that she herself had encouraged.
On the night between January 3 and 4, 1931, Athanasopoulos attacked and repeatedly raped his wife anally. His abuse was so brutal, that Foula barely survived his clutches. Terrified, she fled and went to her mother for protection. This would be the last time Athanasopoulos ever laid a finger on her –just a day later he would be dead.
Castro had already decided. Athanasopoulos had to die. Enlisting the help of a mentally challenged cousin named Moskio, they planed the murder. Moskio was one of the numerous young men hopelessly in love with the fair Foula and Castro convinced him that, with her abusive husband out of the way, there would be nothing standing in the way of his happiness together with her daughter.
On January 5, Moskio entered the family home and shot Athanasopoulos in his sleep as Foula watched apathetically. She did nothing to prevent or to assist with the murder. Castro, with the assistance of her daughter, Moskio and a housekeeper, proceeded to set the dead body on fire. The foul stench and thick smoke alarmed them and they put the fire out. Athanasopoulos was then cut into pieces small enough to fit in medium sized parcels and dumped into a river close by. Unluckily for the murderous family, the parcels failed to sink and were subsequently discovered by a passerby, leading to the relatively easy solution of the case by the authorities.
The ensuing trial was one of Greece’s biggest sensations, which was understandable as such cases had been previously unheard of. The trial lasted several months and it included several defendants. Finally, Castro and her daughter received the death sentence, while Moskio – mostly due to a demonstrated degree of mental retardation – was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was only 18.
However, the story of the murderous mother and daughter did not end there. Even behind bars, Foula’s allure proved to be a priceless asset. Soon, the director of the women’s prison where she was serving her sentence fell madly in love with her. The mother remained close to supervise the situation and was also reputedly able to use her own charms for her benefit.
Despite being sentenced to death, both mother and daughter were eventually – and really scandalously – pardoned. Foula was finally free to be with the prison director, yet she married a colonel instead. This time around she remained happily married until her death of a heart condition in 1971 and, even though Castro herself had been dead for years by that time, this was one crime Greek society was in no hurry to forget. A folk song, appropriately titled “Criminal Mother-in-Law” describing Athanasopoulos’s grim fate remains to this day the record holder for more sales in proportion to the gramophones available at the time. It is still a well known tune and is sung at folk festivals around the country.
A Dragon in the Suburbs
There is perhaps no other case which has given rise to quite as much controversy in the Greek history of criminal justice than that of the Thessaloniki serial murderer/rapist (aptly nicknamed by the press as the “Seych Sou Dragon”) who was active in the 1960s, terrorizing not just the city where he trolled for victims, but the entire country. Decades after the string of brutal attacks on clandestine couples seeking privacy in the thick forest of Seych Sou, the respective rapes and murders of those unlucky enough to cross the killer’s path, and the conspiracy theories are still going strong.
In fact, not only did vocal objections concerning the correct identity of the “beast” not become stifled with time, but they have recently re-emerged, posing the same pressing questions in a controversial episode of a series, suggesting what “Dragon truthers” have been suggesting all along: that the person apprehended, convicted for the crimes and executed was in fact an innocent scapegoat, and that the real “Dragon,” offspring of a posh family of the city – who nevertheless remains anonymous to this day – was essentially allowed to get away with numerous murders.
Aristeidis Paggratidis was the man arrested for the attacks. He was apprehended after sneaking into an orphanage and sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl resident. By that time, the whole country was already gripped with terror. The victims of the first assault survived, but only because the cold managed to stop their bleeding. The second couple was not so lucky. Then came the murder of a nurse. All in similar fashion. Panic ensued. Newspapers were reporting the crimes using emotionally charged, fear- inducing language, the nickname itself was an invention of the press. Young women never went anywhere unattended and still new incidents kept occurring.
By the time Paggratidis was arrested for assaulting the young girl at the orphanage, the police had been under heavy criticism for failing to apprehend the culprit. Until that moment nothing had proven to be effective, not even the considerable monetary reward offered by the government.
Based upon a hunch and initial similarities between the attempted rape and the Dragon’s modus operandi, Paggratidis was arrested. He fit the profile: a drunkard standing on the sidelines, an outcast, an obvious sociopath. Paggratidis immediately confessed. He was, however, to withdraw his confession and insist until the very last moment of his life – in front of a firing squad – that he was the innocent victim of a conspiracy and that his confession was coerced. Even the public prosecutor suggested life in prison instead of death, in case new evidence arose, but the judges disagreed and sentenced him four times to death. He was executed on February 6, 1968.
A great number of books have been written on the subject. The investigating reporters, both his contemporaries and their followers, are still split in two. Forensic science was virtually non-existent in Greece of the 1960s and, while some very strong evidence existed, a lot of it was indeed circumstantial. The timing of Paggratidis’s arrest is also deemed suspect by many, as it coincided with the turmoil and political instability following the political murder of left wing politician, Gregory Lambrakis, also in the city of Thessaloniki. Even now speculation remains rife and opinions just as forceful as they had been 50 years ago.
Another “Dragon” Roams Northern Greece
The nickname “Dragon” has also become a synonym for serial killer/rapist and is still widely used by media. Another case of a notorious “Dragon,” this time committing crimes mostly in a smaller, sleepier town in Northern Greece ironically called Drama, involved a young and valiant cadet named Kyriakos Papachronis some 20 years later.
“I sold my soul to the Devil,” he told the court. “We all did. Just like Faust.”
The absolute terror following his attacks could almost be considered a copycat emotion stemming from the “original” “Dragon” and his legacy. Nevertheless, the terror his actions inspired was also very real and tangible. What made everything even worse was that the perpetrator – as a distinguished soldier – was at a point involved in the investigations conducted to discover his own identity.
Finally, Papachronis was arrested and convicted of the rape and murder of a prostitute in 1981, the attempted murder of M. Postiadou in Drama, also in 1981, the attempted rape and murder on E. Papadopoulou, a student in Drama in 1982, the rape and brutal murder of A. Alexandridou in Thessaloniki in 1982, two more attempted rapes and murders of nurses A. Teza and V. Lazaridou in Drama, two more attempted rapes and murders against prostitutes in Drama, arson at the Kavala Airport and five bombing attacks on various banks and against the army.
His excuse: He was ridiculed during his first ever sexual experience with a prostitute who mocked his manhood and instilled a deep resentment of women within him. Since his arrest, handsome Papachronis has been inundated by love letters from female fans all over the country. His death sentence was eventually converted into life imprisonment when the death penalty was finally abolished in Greece in December 1993, and he was released on probation in 2004. Recently he became engaged, making headlines once again.
For No Reason at All
Some of the worst tragedies in Greece’s criminal history are extremely difficult to comprehend. No clear motive can be found, other than excessive cruelty or, indeed mental illness. In this fashion, two of the worst massacres in the history of the country can only be described as pointless.
One of those tragedies unravelled in the island of Thasos. The perpetrator was a quirky weird law student Theophilos Sechidis. The victims: his entire family, including his mother, father, sister, uncle and grandmother. Even though Sechidis was clearly mentally ill, he still managed to take all necessary precautions in order to conceal his crime and avoid detection for several months. When a relative of the family expressed concerns about his family’s well being, he tried to reassure her and constructed an elaborate alibi to throw her off tracks. However, when the police got involved, he soon became the prime suspect, falling into the inconsistency trap many times over. Finally, he confessed that on the night between May 19 and 20, 1998 he had slaughtered his entire family (except for his grandmother who was to follow suit), then proceeded to dismember the bodies and dispose of them on various locations.
“They were sick and I wanted to save them,” he said, “They were conspiring to get rid of me because I was not a genuine offspring of the family. I had to get rid of them before they got rid of me.”
He claimed he had been abused. When asked about the elderly grandmother he slaughtered all he had to say was: “I had already killed four. Why should a fifth bother me?”
Having remained more than a day with the dead bodies of his family, Sechidis decided to remove the brains of the cadavers and place them in the fridge. When asked why he had done so his answer was (more or less):
In 2006 Greece was once again shaken by a seemingly meaningless massacre. Five young hunters, aged between 17 and 33, hunters were shot dead by farmer Dionysis Foukas in the rural city of Agrinio. As the media struggled to understand what the motive behind those killings was the farmer’s father confessed in an attempt to save his son. Nobody was fooled. They were both arrested. The reason behind it: “They were stepping on the cloves and frightening the animals.”
Perhaps the best known crime of sexual passion was the murder of Zoe Frantzi. On the evening of June 24, 1987 a homeless man made a gruesome discovery. He found the chopped remains of a young woman, later to be identified as 18-year-old Zoe Frantzi, the unfortunate spouse of pathologically jealous Panagiotis Frantzi. The case is, of course, better known for the leaked mortifying pictures of the dismembered young woman, still circulating on the Internet.
Her husband/killer has maintained his innocence throughout court proceedings and conviction, claiming that her death was a grotesque accident during one of their monumental fights. The coroner’s report, however, indicated signs of strangulation around the victim’s neck and detailed an “expert way of dismembering even a professional butcher would be jealous of,” leaving little doubt of Panagiotis Frantzis’s guilt. In 2007 a judicial review rejected Panagiotis Frantzis’s petition to be released on probation for the second time in a row.
Frantzis is the best known case in Greece indicating just how far sexual jealousy is capable of going but by no means original. Unfortunately an alarming percentage of homicides against female victims indicate similar motives and similar techniques.
The Butler Did It!
Wealthy businessman Michalis Chrysafidis and his entire family, including his 43-year-old wife Elizabeth and their two children, aged 16 and 18, were found butchered inside their luxurious home on June 24, 1991. Praser Sertuansa, a Thai national, murdered the entire Chrysafidi family with an axe. He was working for them as a butler. The autopsies performed on the dead bodies suggested not only that they had been horrendously tortured before death, but also that they were not murdered at the same time but gradually, beginning with the men in the family and continuing with the women.
Whether Sertuansa acted alone or with the help of a sketchy accomplice or accomplices has never been established. Also, the motive for the crime remains dark. Nothing was taken from the lush villa of the 48-year-old Michalis Chrysafidis, but his briefcase. The butler had remained in the villa days after his crime and tried to cover his tracks. Calmly, he would answer to concerned phone calls from friends and relatives telling them the family he had just murdered was on a trip abroad. He managed to escape, along with his wife and mother- in-law and is currently one of the most widely pursued individuals on the Interpol list.
In the Name of Satan
They were described as “a sweet bunch, buying records and hanging out.”
They were at the time between 18 and 21 years of age, offspring of normal, middleclass families. Asimakis Kastsoulas, 21, Emmanuil Dimitrokalis, 19, Dimitra Marietti, 18.
It was New Year’s Eve 1993 when the greatest criminal sensation in years was about to sweep Greece. It included elements such as ritual murder, rape, Satanism, the possibility of dark circuits controlling otherwise respectable, above-all-suspicion youth. It was all tantalizing. The evil deeds were undeniable. Some time before their first murders the two boys involved in the case had already begun to organize satanic ritual ceremonies and to convert naïve young things (mainly for their own sexual needs and orgies, all presumably in the name of Satan) such as Dimitra Marietti, who, in spite of her young age fully embraced the evil intentions she had been exposed to.
On August 27, 1992, the group led 14-year-old Dora Syropoulou astray on the pretext of initiating her to white magic. They took Dora to an isolated location where they preceded to handcuff her, strip her naked and force her to kneel holding a candle, before they smashed her head with a plank and, when that failed to kill her, strangled her. One of the young men also raped the young girl’s cadaver before they set fire to it in order to destroy evidence.
Growing bold after evading detection for eight months, the three murderous youngsters decided to strike again. This time, they decided to pick up a random person for their next “sacrificial killing.” In April of 1993, 28-year- old Garoufallia Giourga was a chamber maid in one of Athens’ most prestigious hotels and she was on her way home from work, waiting alone at a remote bus stop. The two young men convinced her to get in their car under the pretext that they were police officers. They drove to a remote area and handcuffed the young woman, stripped and raped her. When they were finished A. Katsoulas bludgeoned her head with a rock, killing her.
However, Dora Syropoulou’s family had not given up the search for their missing daughter. It was due to their determination alone that the satanic trio was not allowed to go on with more heinous crimes. The three were arrested on New Year’s Eve, just before 1993 was about to expire, after the private investigator hired by Dora Syropoulou’s family handed his damning report to the police for further investigation. The trial that followed and the details that emerged were monopolizing conversations for many months to come.
Both young men received life sentences. Dimitra Margetti was sentenced to 17 years in jail. Today she is a free woman. Both men are still serving time in different penitentiaries. A. Katsoulas, the mastermind behind the murders, has shown no signs of remorse and has since been accused of sexual harassment via obscene phone calls to girls aged 11 and 12 and of the attempted rape of a 23-year-old woman during a brief leave he was granted. Once more he had posed as a police officer.