If indeed there is a special place in Hell for the truly wicked and evil (it must be a big one) then save space for the savage subhuman who gagged Caroline Crouch in front of her 11-month-old baby during a home invasion in Athens, then put his hand over her lips and mouth to suffocate her.
She was 20, a British-Filipino woman whose adult life was just beginning, holding the flower that makes it truly special in a child, the young mother snuffed out in a second by a man with no heart, conscience or soul – for 15,000 euros ($18,219) in cash and valuables.
In a country inured to tragedy by the lingering COVID-19 pandemic that by the time of her murder had killed more than 11,300 people, so cold and brutal was this one that it went too far, shocking people and police alike.
Predictably, authorities put in motion teams of detectives and squads of police to try to find who did it, and media reports said they had suspects from the get-go,.
The hunt was aided by her husband, 32-year-old helicopter pilot Charalambos Anagnostopoulos, who said he saw the face of one of them and was able to describe it to police, said Kathimerini.
The immediate question was why? The invaders didn't have to kill Crouch, with varying reports she was murdered to silence her and prevent screams that would alert neighbors, after they killed the family's dog, people believing that's a deterrent, but which is eliminated with some poison and red meat.
As horrible as a home invasion and violation is, a terrifying trauma even when you're not hurt, this would have been a story that fell down in the headlines and news in a couple of days, so the men who did it put the spotlight on themselves.
Coming five weeks after the unsolved shooting death of investigative journalist Giorgos Karaivaz, which looks like it will be another that goes into a cold case file with no one ever found, this murder put people more on edge and probably adding triple defender locks and other security to their homes.
“They will get to the perpetrators – the case has become a hot topic on a nationwide level and the police are into it. They will use any available means from DNA to technology, informants and money awards,” Ioannis Michaletos, Research Coordinator for Greece at Balkanalysis, who covers organized crime, told The National Herald.
Other media reports said Anagnostopoulos was shown 30 mug shots of potential suspects as police were said to be tying the burglary and murder to a Albanian-led gang that uses gypsies and other foreigners who had conducted a dozen break-ins.
Police were questioning a 30-year-old Georgian man caught trying to leave through the border with Bulgaria, apprehended while trying to use a forged passport, and who had a record including the violent robbery of an elderly couple.
Crouch's husband had been tied and gagged in another room, perhaps hearing the attack on his wife who was in an attic with their child, with some reports saying the baby was trying to wake its mother.
After an hour, he was able to free himself to make the awful discovery that's a life shattered, left with his child but not his young wife.
Greece's state broadcaster ERT said police were centering the probe on professional burglars and were looking at CCTV footage and trying to find clues.
“The murderers could be high on drugs , it has happened before,” said Michaletos who said it's time to worry even during the pandemic that is lingering, the terror only slowly evaporating as vaccinations gradually beat it back.
“Home invasions and a rise in criminality in Athens is steady over the past 15 years or so. It will get worse if a set of measures is not in place. Right now penalties are very low, there are serious dysfunctions in police operations and … the economic crisis further fuels the phenomena,” he added.
Over the past few years Greece has seen a number of grisly murders, from the rape and killing of American scientist Suzanne Eaton on Crete in 2019 by the son of a priest, to the rape, torture and murder of 21-year-old university student Eleni Toupaloudi by two men, who tossed her into the sea alive to drown.
Human nature being what it is, the memory of Crouch's murder will fade too, but she is gone forever and there has to be the hope that whoever did it will be caught and jailed for life – actually life because Greek sentences for life often mean only a handful of years – and the killers could walk free.
“The whole country is in a steady pace of 'Mafiazation' for years now,” said Michaletos as the fear of COVID-19 is being joined by that of knowing you're not safe in your own house at night when savages prey.
“Citizens should start taking simple measures to protect properties and lives by educating themselves on simple things … locking the doors … a lot forget to do that,” he said. “Also not divulging personal information on social media – and be aware of their immediate environment,” he added.
“Things will get worse,” he said, and he wasn't talking about COVID-19.