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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Helena Smith in Athens

Greek pilot who killed British wife drops appeal over life sentence

Babis Anagnostopoulos claimed he killed his wife in the heat of the moment.
Babis Anagnostopoulos claimed he killed his wife in the heat of the moment. Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP

The Greek pilot who killed his British wife, Caroline Crouch, in a crime he tried to pin on ruthless foreign robbers, has unexpectedly announced he will drop an appeal to overturn his life sentence.

Babis Anagnostopoulos said he had elected “for extremely serious reasons” to put a stop to appeals court proceedings under way since May, without further explanation.

“My client has decided for extremely serious reasons, which cannot be announced, to waive all legal means, specifically the appeal he filed against the judgment of the mixed jury court in Athens,” the pilot’s lawyer, Alexandros Papaioannidis, said referring to the verdict of a lower court reached in Athens last year. “I will today proceed with all the [requisite] procedures … so that the trial at a secondary level does not continue.”

Anagnostopoulos, who claimed he killed his 19-year-old wife in the heat of the moment, had long argued his 27-year sentence should be reduced on account of mitigating circumstances.

Wednesday’s decision not only means he will have to serve his prison term to length – a sentence augmented by the 11.5 years he also received for choking his wife’s puppy and perverting the course of justice – but quashes any prospect of parole. By the time the 35-year-old is released from Greece’s high-security Malandrinos jail he will be in his late 50s.

The shock announcement came a week before the appeals trial was set to continue in the Greek capital. The UK-trained pilot, who smothered Crouch with a pillow in the couple’s rented maisonette in Athens, had lined up six defence witnesses, including his parents who were due to take the stand later this month.

Anagnostopoulos, who was described by psychiatrists as suffering from extreme narcissistic disorder, not only fooled authorities for the best part of six weeks – telling police the pair had been the victims of a bungled break-in and even singling out potential foreign “culprits” from police line-ups – but had played the grieving widower, going so far as to attend Crouch’s funeral holding their then 11-month-old daughter, Lydia, in his arms.

The infant was found at the scene by police on the bed where her mother, who is believed to have been attacked as she slept, lay dead. A coroner who subsequently examined the body described the murder as “both agonising and prolonged”.

Reacting to the news, the Briton’s distraught father, David, admitted he had been “astounded” by the decision but told the Guardian he was also “reluctant to take the announcement at face value”.

The retired gas and oil executive, who raised Caroline on the island of Alonissos after settling in Greece with her Filipina-born mother, Susana, said that in the face of it the decision was “wonderful news for my family and me”.

“Every time he appears in court we are forced to relive the nightmares of the last two years and listen to his lies as he tries to justify his killing of my daughter,” he wrote in an email. “Unfortunately I am not convinced we have heard the last of [him], he is a tricky, duplicitous bastard; not very smart but a born actor who always has his eye on the main chance … I can’t believe that he is prepared to drop his appeal and calmly return to prison to serve out his life sentence plus 11 and a half years – he is not that kind of person.”

It was, he said, his “resolute” determination that neither the pilot, nor his parents, would “ever lay eyes on my beautiful little granddaughter”.

Earlier this year the 77-year-old revealed that Lydia, who is now three, had relocated with her grandmother to Manila in the Philippines.

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