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T/C boy's murder shocks island
in Cyprus Mail, July 16-22, 2004


By Charlie Charalambous

The brutal murder of a Turkish Cypriot boy in a frenzied knife attack by a mentally ill Greek Cypriot has shocked the island with questions asked as to why a convicted criminal and drug addict was allowed to walk the streets.

Andreas Nicolaou was detained in custody for the killing of 11-year-old Salih Mehmet Ez Houvarda who was stabbed to death on Tuesday afternoon while fishing on Limassol pier.

Police arrested 29-year-old Nicolaou for the "unprovoked attack" on young Salih, while the authorities were quick to rule out any political motive for the outrage.

Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides issued a statement saying the government was "deeply saddened" by the "terrible crime" and sincere condolences were sent to the family. And the spokesman insisted: "This was not a politically motivated crime."

Justice Minister Doros Theodorou vowed that tough action would be taken and the full weight of the law would be utilised.

"The state will show no mercy when confronted with crimes of such a nature," the minister warned.

Theodorou also agreed that the police and social services need to investigate whether there was a failure to protect the public from a dangerous psychopath, and if so, what can be done to improve matters.

Morphou burial

The victim was stabbed eight times around the body before a kitchen knife was stuck into his face. Salih succumbed to fatal knife wounds to the lungs, heart and brain at Limassol General Hospital. The boy was buried in Morphou on Wednesday following an autopsy with the government contributing 500 to the funeral expenses.

The autopsy was carried out by pathologist Panicos Stavrianos in the prescence of independent UN officials due to the severity of the case. Stavrianos urged the authorities to tell parents and inform neighbourhoods if potentially dangerous people with mental health problems are being monitored.

Witnesses on the busy pier said they saw the man start hitting and screaming at the Turkish Cypriot, who was out fishing with friends from both communities, said police. The eye-witness accounts suggest this was a totally random killing and the boy wasn't singled out for racist or religious reasons.

The murder suspect - who has admitted to the crime - was remanded in custody for eight days by a Limassol District Court and is now seeking psychiatric treatment at Athalassa hospital in Nicosia.

"The attacker is known to us as having psychological problems and being a drug addict. This could have happened to anyone," said assistant police chief Sotiris Charalambous.

He confirmed that the Greek Cypriot was convicted in 1999 to four-and-a-half years in prison on drug related offences. It seems he showed no signs of psychotic behaviour during his time in prison and received psychiatric help.

He said extra police measures had been taken in the small Turkish Cypriot quarter of Limassol as a precaution against any reprisals for the killing.

Salih was one of five children of a gypsy family who had moved to the south two years ago and resided in the Turkish Cypriot area of Limassol, home to most of the 400-strong community of Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled areas.

Despite the killing being roundly condemned as an act of madness and calls for greater trust between the two communities, feelings are running high among the Turkish Cypriots in Limassol.

"If this person was mad, as the government says, why was he allowed to walk around freely and kill a child? They will let him out in two or three years to kill another one of our children," resident Hussein Mustapha told reporters.

"We have no problem with you, but if you knew this person was crazy why did you let him out", the Turkish Cypriot added.

There is also real concern among ordinary parents that this could happen to their child if there is a failure in the system to track such people and offer them proper care in the community. Salih was viciously attacked in broad daylight with lots of people around by a man who was allegedly mentally unbalanced and could have been high on drugs.

(end)
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