The 11-month-old daughter of the British mother murdered in Athens during a robbery laid a flower on her coffin today during her funeral on the idyllic Greek island where she grew up.
Caroline Crouch was laid to rest in front of hundreds of mourners from Alonnisos on the island’s Agia Paraskevi church as her widower Babis paid tribute to his ‘beautiful’ wife’ in front of the islanders who adopted the young Briton as their own.
Babis and daughter Lydia had flown by helicopter to the island, where shops and businesses closed as a mark of respect as the funeral takes place.
In a moving eulogy, he said: ‘I was very lucky that I knew Caroline and that she loved me. I was very lucky for all the moments we shared.
‘One thing that makes me even more sad than her death is the fact that our daughter will grow up without remembering her beautiful mother who was the joy of my life.
‘But through her daughter, Caroline will always be with me and with all of us. Our loved ones are the most important people to us all.’
After wiping away his tears, he added: ‘You should always look after your loved ones and enjoy your time together.’
During the funeral helicopter pilot Babis carried baby Lydia over to lay a singer flower on her mother’s coffin and carried her in his arms throughout the day.
The congregation could see him holding her during the moment the pair said their final goodbyes to Caroline as her body was laid to rest in the hilltop cemetery.
Caroline’s heart-broken parents – former British serviceman David Crouch and Filippino Susan Dela Cuesta – were supported by friends and relatives in their moment of grief.
During the emotional service attended by hundreds of mourners, family members were inconsolable as well-wishers threw flowers on to the coffin.
Ms Dela Cuesta had earlier accompanied Caroline’s body on the long journey from Athens by road and sea to her final resting place on the picturesque island in the Aegean Sea.
Dressed all in black, Ms Dela Cuesta, appeared distraught as she boarded the Skiathos Express ferry at the port of Volos for the five-hour journey to Alonnisos.
Her father David, who has been confined to a wheel chair following a surgical procedure, remained on the island to wait for her.
A black hearse carrying Caroline’s coffin – which was covered with carefully placed white roses – could be seen this morning entering the ferry at Volos.
Babis holds 11-month-old daughter Lydia during the funeral of his wife Caroline on the island of Alonissos in Greece on Friday
During the funeral helicopter pilot Babis carried baby Lydia over to lay a singer flower on her mother’s coffin and carried her in his arms throughout the day
Caroline Crouch is carried into the Agia Paraskevi church in an open casket for her funeral on the island of Alonissos
Almost every inhabitant of Alonnisos flocked to the island’s Agia Paraskevi church to pay their respects to Caroline Crouch, the young Briton who they had adopted as their own
Friends and family all wear face masks as they arrive at the Agia Paraskevi church for the funeral of Caroline Crouch
Caroline’s friends and family arrive at the Agia Parakevi church today for her funeral – many were carrying white flowers as they paid tribute to the 20-year-old mother
Burglars broke into the home of Caroline Crouch (left) and husband Charalambos ‘Babis’ Anagnostopoulos (right), strangled her and then fled with £35,000 in cash and jewellery
Mr Anagnostopoulos weeps as he speaks to reporters outside the family home in Athens on Thursday, saying he did not know his wife was dead until police arrived and took his blindfold off
Baby Lydia is carried by her grandmother away from the scene of a horrific burglary-turned-murder in Athens on Tuesday
Caroline’s husband Babis had broken off from helping the police in Athens to be in Alonisso for the funeral, having spoken at length to detectives since the murder.
Caroline was strangled during a raid on her Athens home on Tuesday during which her daughter was threatened and her husband tied up – and £30,000 in cash and gems stolen.
Officers cannot work out why the robbers killed 20-year-old Caroline after husband Babis had directed them to his stash of money and he and his wife had been tied up as they had apparently already obtained what they came for and gained nothing from her death.
Babis was so tightly bound with tape around his neck that he lost consciousness due to lack of oxygen and the gang believed they had also left him for dead. However there was a tiny gap in his tape blindfold that enabled him to find his phone and call the police.
The majority of Alonnisos’s 2,000-strong population – many dressed in black – had made their way to the ancient Greek Orthodox Church ahead of the funeral.
Old women and old men walked with sticks. Those unable to tackle the steep hill from the port came by taxi. All carried flowers to honour their adopted daughter Caroline.
The well wishers outside the church as the waited patiently to be allowed to enter in accordance with Covid 19 protocol.
Slowly the streamed down the aisle to lay their tribute. All wore face masks.
The majority of Alonnisos’s 2,000-strong population – many dressed in black – had made their way to the ancient Greek Orthodox Church ahead of the funeral. Old women and old men walked with sticks. Those unable to tackle the steep hill from the port came by taxi.
Beautiful wreaths are left outside the church today for Caroline’s funeral while flowers were left on wooden tables by mourners
Wreaths made of white, red, yellow and pink flowers are lined up outside of the church for Caroline’s funeral on Friday
Friends and relatives of Caroline gathered today and carried flowers as they paid tribute to the murdered mother
A man wearing black looks down while carrying a yellow flower as friends and family of Caroline pay tribute to her at the Agia Parskevi church on Friday
Friends and family stand next to the hearse carrying Caroline’s coffin as they hold flowers outside the Agia Paraskevi church
There was silence across the church yard. The only sound were the pitiful sobs of Caroline’s devastated mother Susan.
An old black hearse had brought her broken to the yellow and salmon pink building directly from the ferry port.
The blue and white flag of Greece and the yellow flag of the Greek Orthodox Church flittered gently above it.
Children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged parents and grandmothers wept openly as they shared their grief in public.
They hugged each other, held hands and offered each other strength to deal with their collective loss.
Before the service family friends had paid tribute to Caroline.
The coffin carrying the young British mother killed by burglars in front of her 11-month-old baby is today being taken to the Greek island where she grew up for her funeral
A black hearse carrying her coffin – which was covered with carefully placed white roses – could be seen this morning entering the ferry at the port of Volos, central Greece, on its way to the island of Alonisso
Almost every inhabitant of Alonnisos flocked to the island’s Agia Paraskevi church to pay their respects to Caroline Crouch, the young Briton who they had adopted as their own. Pictured: Caroline with her baby daughter Lydia
Kostas Mavrikis, owner of the Alonnisos Museum, told MailOnline: ‘Caroline’s parents are family friends of mine since many years and my daughter was a fellow student and friend of Caroline at school, they grew up together.
‘There were many times that I had a coffee with her mother Susan and the only topic that she would speak about was always Caroline.
‘She told me about how happy she was that her daughter was so lucky to have met Babis and to have built such a happy life with him so early in her life.
‘She wanted her daughter’s happiness to last forever.’
Mr Mavrikis added: ‘Caroline was present almost at every event at the island.
‘She always liked to participate in many different things, she was always cheerful, social and open.
‘Many times they went out together with my daughter and with other children of their age and she always had this smiley and friendly attitude towards everyone, something I think she got from her mother.’
Mr Mavrikis told how her father David had fallen ill and that his wife Susan took great care of him.
‘Following a surgery he had, David is on a wheelchair.
‘David, as he was sick during the last years and not able to move he relied a lot on the help of Susan and Caroline.
‘Caroline and his grandchild were all his world. And now that Caroline had moved to Athens to study they used every so often to speak on skype.
‘David was very happy to see the baby through the camera every day and watch it grow.
‘Since the day he learned about Caroline’s death only very close family has been able to see him and speak to him.
‘Sometimes he screams ‘no, no’ and his scream is so loud that is heard (is echoing) through the closed doors at the village.’
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)
He added: ‘The whole island is shocked. We are all numb. This was a family that everyone knew.
‘They might be foreigners but they were very well adapted in the islands life, they had very good friends here they have built their life here and they were adapted in the local society.
‘They have built a beautiful house on the old village of the island and they were enjoying life.
‘David was not speaking very good Greek when they arrived, Susan spoke better, but they both learned the language.
‘I can’t even begin to imagine how the life of the parents will be now, as Caroline was their life.’
Mayor of Alonnisos Petros Vafinis told MailOnline: ‘Caroline grew up here, she was an angel. She used to take part in the activities of the island.
‘I know her father pretty well, he is a man that has worked in international companies, he had a big career and then retired on the island because he loved the island.
‘He is a quiet and very nice man. What happened to them is really unbelievable.
‘I don’t think they have come to terms with it yet, it is still too early.’
Nothing that has come to light so far shows any evidence that Caroline and husband Babis’ home in Glyka Nera wasn’t chosen at random.
But Athens detectives are still said to be looking into whether the attackers may have been given some inside information from someone who knew Caroline or Babis that would let them know that valuables including £10,000 in cash were in the house.
Detectives hope their inquiries with Babis will help to jog his memory for even the slightest details of the horrific attack that will lead them to the perpetrators.
Police believe the gang carried out days of surveillance, Greece Prothema news website reported.
One line of inquiry is that an Albanian organized crime group that includes Greeks and other nationalities may have been behind the savage killing of the British mother.
The criminal gang is believed to be based in the western suburbs of the Greek capital and responsible for a series of extremely violent burglaries in which victims are subjected to vicious beatings, torture and often tied up with ropes.
The gang comprises of many members who alternate between burglaries and who avoid main roads to avoid being detection from CCTV, the profilers have concluded.
The first test results of samples of DNA taken from the scene – including traces of blood and skin taken from under Caroline’s finger nails – are expected later today.
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
Police have identified three similar burglaries in the same area in the last six months.
In each case the burglars entered via a window and used extreme violence on their victims.
The shocking site of Caroline’s lifeless body, pale and tied to a pole, with her 11-month-old daughter – Lydia – trying to wake her mother, has been described by the first officers at the scene, Ta Nea newspaper reported.
Police Union spokesman George Kalliakmanis said: ‘As soon as the police entered the room, they the girl [Caroline] frowning, pale and her legs were white, as a result they realized that she was dead.
‘The unfortunate girl’s husband was handcuffed, with insulating tape in his mouth and eyes.
‘At some stages it is believed that he suffered from lack of oxygen and lost consciousness.’
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 an officer identified only as Christos, who is himself a father.
Baby Lydia was said to be ‘half on her, screaming and hitting her mother with her hands to wake her up’ when help arrived while her father was tied up, blindfolded and gagged on the floor.
Mr Anagnostopoulos, speaking outside the house yesterday, said he did not know Caroline was dead until officers arrived and took off tape that was covering his eyes.
He then left the house carrying baby Lydia and found his mother waiting, who took the child in a moment captured by photographers.
A neighbour who was the first to be alerted to the tragedy after being called by Babis, described what happened as the baby was brought out.
She told MailOnline: ‘I came outside and I saw the police were here. Babis was in shock and could not speak.
‘Babis was holding the baby. I went inside and got a blanket to wrap up the baby. The grandmother came and took the baby.
‘Babis and the baby are being cared for by the mother.’
The neighbour added that Babis had been able to raise the alarm by using his nose to dial his phone and call the most recent dialled number, which was hers.
She took the early-morning call, but initially could not understand what was being said because Babis had been gagged.
She said: ‘He was screaming, he was screaming but I could not understand what he was saying because his mouth was gagged.
‘I thought it was a medical problem. I went outside to investigate and I saw and then I knew it was much more important.
‘Earlier in the night I heard the dog barking but I thought he must be fighting with the cats, they have four cats.
‘I only wish I had come to investigate sooner.’
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
As more details of the tragedy emerged today, police continued hunting for the perpetrators including interviewing those with links to criminal networks.
It is thought that investigators are trying 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 Babis 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.
Babis, a helicopter pilot, had earlier given a more-detailed account of the ‘nightmare’ ordeal, saying he begged burglars not to hurt his family before they held a pistol to his daughter’s temple.
Babis said he was asleep at his home near Athens on Tuesday alongside Caroline Crouch and baby Lydia 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.’
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
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.
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
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 is believed to have been born in Athens, where her ex-pat parents set up home, while her dad was working for an international oil company following a career in the armed forces.
The family moved to Alonnisos when Caroline was eight years old and attended the local school, where she joined a younger class to help her improve her Greek.
She graduated from Alonnisos High School aged 18 and was known for her love of sports. She was a member the Hammerhead Kick-Boxing Club.
Caroline was also into amateur dramatics and took part in school plays and island entertainment events.
She enrolled in the University of Piraeus on the Greek mainland, to study statistics.
Caroline met her future husband Babis on Alonnisos where his mother worked as a High School teacher.
The helicopter was a frequent visitor to the island to visit his parents.
The couple met during the summer of 2016. They married in July 2019. Their daughter Lydia was born in June 2020.
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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