Police called to the Athens home of a British mother who was murdered during a horror break-in found her 11-month-old daughter ‘hitting’ the body and ‘trying to wake her up’.
Officers say they found 20-year-old Caroline Crouch, a student, ‘pale and frowning’ inside the home with her hands tied behind her back, before realising she was dead.
Next to her was her 11-month-old daughter, who was ‘hitting her mother with her hands and trying to wake her up’, according to Greek news site
Her husband – Charalambos Anagnostopoulos, 33 – was nearby, handcuffed and with duct tape partially covering his eyes and mouth, according to George Kalliakmanis, of the Association of Police Officers of Southeastern Attica.
Mr Kalliakmanis spoke as the hunt continues for the perpetrators, with police now working to track down 300 known gang members who have previously served time for burglary and been released from jail in the last three years to see if they can shed any light on the horrific crime.
Meanwhile, extensive DNA testing is being carried out on the victims’ clothes as well as items used to bind and throttle the couple – such as a pair of trousers – in the hopes that it will provide more information on the killers.
Police point out that the thieves spent more than an hour inside the property demanding the couple hand over money and jewellery – even though Mr Anagnostopoulos quickly gave them the location of £10,000 in cash hidden inside a Monopoly box – and believe they will have left enough evidence behind to identify them.
Caroline Crouch, 20 (right), was killed at her home in Athens, Greece, that she shared with husband Babis Anagnostopoulos (left) and their infant daughter (pictured)
Police say a gang of burglars broke into Caroline (left) and Babis’s (right) home, tied him up, tortured and killed her, then stole £33,000 in cash and jewellery and fled
Babis was today seen briefly returning to his home to pick up personal possessions whilst accompanied by three police officers, according to Greek newspaper Proto Thema . The publication ran a news video on its website showing the moment he was questioned by journalists as he got into his car to leave
It comes after Mr Anagnostopoulos, a helicopter pilot, gave his own account of the ‘nightmare’ ordeal, saying he begged the burglars not to hurt his family before they held a pistol to his daughter’s temple.
Mr Anagnostopoulos, known as ‘Babis’, was asleep at his home near Athens on Tuesday alongside wife Caroline Crouch, 20, a student, and their 11-month-old daughter when a gang of thieves broke in around 5am.
He told the police that the masked raiders – armed with handguns – tied him up on the floor and tied Caroline to the bed before demanding ‘where’s the money?’ in broken Greek.
He said the couple had a large amount of cash at home because they had recently bought a plot of land and needed to pay builders for work, and he revealed his hiding spot – inside a Monopoly box – quickly in order to spare his loved ones being tortured.
But the thieves demanded more money and jewellery, then pointed a gun at his infant daughter’s temple before suffocating Caroline when she started screaming, according to Greek media.
‘I heard my wife screaming for help tied to the bed while I was tied to the floor,’ Babis is said to have told police. ‘We screamed not to be hurt.
‘The baby was crying, my wife was crying and someone or some people were looking for the house to find more money and jewelry. Suddenly they left the room and I couldn’t hear my wife’s voice anymore.’
Speaking to Greek TV outside the family home later the same day, Babis added: ‘I wish no one ever goes through what we went through last night. It was a nightmare.
‘We begged the thieves not to harm us. We told them where the money was and asked them to leave us alone. The police will catch them.’
Police were called to the scene by Mr Anagnostopoulos who managed to get to a phone and dial the emergency number with his nose.
Police have described the crime as the ‘most heinous’ they have ever investigated, and say it was carried out with a ‘brutality’ that is rare in Greece.
A £250,000 reward for information has been offered, and investigators are thought to be working on the theory that the gang was well organised, likely surveilled the couple before the raid, and somehow knew they were keeping a large amount of cash at home.
Officers are questioning friends, neighbours and relatives of the couple to see if anyone was spotted hanging around the house in the days before the raid, or whether anyone had given away information about them keeping money in the house.
Police are also investigating similar burglaries to see if they were perhaps carried out by a single gang, including a raid in the nearby Chalandri suburb of Athens back in December.
During that break-in, men speaking ‘broken Greek’ smashed their way into the lower floor of a house then forced the couple to reveal the location of their money while threatening their daughter with a knife.
Police have described the crime as the ‘most heinous’ they have ever investigated, and say it was carried out with a ‘brutality’ that is rare in Greece. Pictured: the house (right) where the murder took place
The burglars walked through a path (pictured) to the back of the house to access the property before the attack took place
Investigators say Tuesday’s raid began around 4.30am when the gang approached the couple’s house (pictured) and broke a security camera outside
Forensic marks seen on the door and windows in the rear yard of the house where the burglars are believed to have entered
The rear of the house shows the attic bedroom where the couple were asleep next to their child when the burglars entered
One of the witnesses in that crime described the men as being Roma.
Another theory being worked on by police is that the most-recent burglary was committed by a gang who have spent time in jail, but may have been recently released and returned to their old activities.
Investigators say Tuesday’s raid began around 4.30am when the gang approached the couple’s house and broke a security camera outside.
They then removed security pins from a basement window and climbed inside the property, where they found the family’s dog downstairs. Police say the husky was strangled using its own leash before its body was hanged from a stair banister.
The men then made their way upstairs to an attic bedroom where the couple were asleep next to their child.
Babis was attacked first – with the men tying him to a bed post and covering his mouth with duct tape. They then set upon Caroline, a trained martial artist, and tied her up using a t-shirt.
Caroline, who is thought to have been born Greece but has a British passport, began dating Babis in 2017, married him in 2019, and gave birth in June last year
Caroline was a student at the University of Piraeus, according to Greek media, though it is unclear what she studied. Pictured: Caroline and Babis with their daughter
Police have cordoned off the couple’s home in the Glyka Nera neighbourhood of Greece and are scouring it for evidence
Officers believe the gang likely targeted the couple, and may have had them under surveillance before striking
For around an hour they tortured the couple, demanding the location of the family’s money and jewellery.
It is thought that Babis quickly gave up the location of money he was holding for building works by pointing the thieves to a Monopoly box.
But this failed to satisfy the masked raiders, who demanded more money and jewellery.
According to news site
The men then pointed a gun at the infant, the site reports, causing Caroline to scream for help. She was then suffocated to keep her quiet, possaibly using a blouse or pillowcase.
A medical examiner has said he believes Caroline would have suffered a ‘slow and torturous death’ and if she did fight back against the robbers, her DNA will be found on her finger nails.
Grigoris Leos told the
‘But in this case we are talking about a young girl and we are talking about people who were determined to kill this girl and if it is confirmed for a suffocating death we are talking about a slow and torturous death. Therefore, the perpetrator wanted to lead his victim to death.’
Mr Leos added: ‘They chose a type of killing that requires contact between the perpetrator and the victim.
‘All this will have very rich genetic material, the perpetrators will have left fingerprints and if the girl really resisted, genetic material will be found on her nails, as well as in the dog that was killed.’
After taking the family’s valuables, the men fled. Babis told police that the trio spoke a foreign language among themselves, though he was unable to identify it.
At around 6am, Babis managed to reach a phone and called police, who rushed to the scene which has since been cordoned off.
Babis and his daughter were taken to hospital, while officers began examining the house for evidence.
Social media profiles reveal Caroline and Babis met in 2017 and were married in July 2019 in a ceremony in Portugal.
Caroline, who appears to have ties to the UK through her father’s side of the family, then gave birth to their first child in June last year.
Police say hooded men broke into the home in the Glyka Nera suburb while one stood guard, strangled the family dog, tied up the husband, then tortured and suffocated his wife
Caroline was killed in front of her infant daughter after thieves broke into the home she shared with her husband
The pair lived in Athens, where Babis worked as an ‘air taxi’ pilot flying out of Athens international airport and a smaller airfield in nearby Megara.
Caroline was a student at the University of Piraeus, according to Greek media, though it is unclear what she studied.
According to The Times, Caroline grew up on the Greek island of Alonnisos. A family friend quoted in the paper said she had a British father and a Filipino mother.
‘I don’t know if she was born on the island or just raised there,’ she said. ‘She was a very beautiful girl and she was a very active child, doing lots of swimming and scuba diving.
‘Her mum was a sweetheart and she was so proud of her daughter. Her mum was saying just a few days ago how happy she was to be able to visit Caroline in Athens once in a while.’
Caroline married Babbis in May 2018. In an Instagram post in July last year, Babbis wrote: ‘Happy Birthday to my awesome wife, closest friend, and best mom our daughter could have.’
A post a month earlier announced the birth of their daughter. Babbis said it was the ‘best day in a man’s life’.
Police say it appears the robbers were experienced, and likely surveilled the couple for some time before the raid.
Investigators are now reviewing local CCTV cameras to see how the burglars got away and whether they were in the area before the raid.
They are also interviewing the couple’s neighbours and friends to see if anyone gave away information about the pair keeping large amounts of cash in the house.
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