ATHENS — Still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Greeks were shocked over the cold-blooded strangling murder of a 20-year-old mother in front of her baby daughter by a team of three home invaders who tied up her husband in another room.
So monstrous was the crime, described by police as “barbaric,” that the New Democracy government immediately put up 300,000 euro ($364,200) bounty for information leading to arrest of the gang.
While Greek media didn't identify anyone, the British newspaper The Telegraph said the victim was Caroline Crouch, a British-Filipino married to a helicopter pilot, Charalambos Anagnostopoulos, said to be in a state of shock after the killing.
Police mobilized a massive team for a nationwide manhunt, the crime stunning the country for its ferocity and cruelty, the invaders also killing the family dog to prevent it from barking and leaving it hanging on a fence outside the home in the northern Athens neighborhood of Glyka Nera.
The attack took place, officials said, at 4 or 5 a.m. on May 11 with the invaders said to have gotten in through basement window after initial reports said it was a second-story window, which in Greece would be a third floor.
News accounts varied. They then reportedly went up to a bedroom on the top floor where the family was sleeping after killing the dog and hanging it from is leash on the handrail of a staircase, said Kathimerini.
They then bound the husband with rope and tape before doing the same to the woman, who they strangled because she was reportedly shouting and resisting.
The perpetrators fled with money and jewelry after forcing the husband to reveal where they were kept. He said after freeing himself he crawled to his mobile phone and called police who arrived within minutes, breaking a door.
The husband said the perpetrators seemed to have spoken “good Greek,” at odds with other reports.
The couple was sleeping with their baby when the men came in and pointed a gun at the child, demanding to know where cash and valuables were kept, said to be speaking broken, an indication from authorities they have been have foreign, with Greece having a number of gangs from places such as Albania and Georgia.
They they reportedly strangled her with her blouse to prevent her from crying out and alerting neighbors instead of gagging her, leaving her dead next to her crying baby before her husband freed himself and found her body.
“The assassination is a heinous crime conducted with unforeseen savagery”, said Kleanthis Papagiannopoulos, a spokesperson for the Greek police. “Such brutality is rare for our country,” the newspaper reported.
According to the husband’s testimony, the three men spoke in broken Greek and managed to steal about 15,000 euros ($18,200) in cash and the couple’s jewelry, perhaps after surveilling the family with neighbors saying a suspicious car kept patrolling the area around the house for weeks, no one calling the police.
A special police task force was checking CCTV footage in the neighborhood to see if they can identify the attackers and track their movements and Greek TV showed snippets of the vehicle moving around.
Police said it was probable that the gang had kept the woman Crouch and her husband under observation for some time before carrying out the robbery, indicating they may have known there was a large amount of cash in the house.
Public Order Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis, described the killing as “particularly heinous,” the news story riveting a country easing out of a lockdown and people returning to restaurants, venues and near-normal life.
“One rarely encounters such barbarity in Greece, in Greek society, even among criminals,” Chrisochoidis said, adding that two teams of detectives had been set up to handle the investigation.
The victim, the British newspaper said, was born on the Greek island of Alonissos in 2001 to a British father and Filipina mother and married her pilot husband in 2017.
Her hobbies included kickboxing and diving. She had lived in Glyka Nera since 2019 and was a student at the University of Piraeus, reports said.
The Mayor of Alonissos, Petros Vafinis, told Greek television that islanders were shocked by the murder. “She was a sweet creature, a wonderful young girl, full of energy, who was active in many events on the island”.