Mon, May 01, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Copycat killings deepen double murder mystery

THE OBSERVER , ATHENS

The mystery surrounding the brutal killings of a British couple in their villa on Crete six weeks ago has deepened after a spate of similar attacks across the island.

A Greek Orthodox priest, was, like Jo and Terry Johnson, gagged and bound before being killed, and a local couple also survived a copycat attack.

Three Greek men are now in prison over the killing of the cleric, but the Johnsons' relatives are angry that Cretan authorities have not broadened the double murder inquiry. The couple's son Ryan, 32, remains accused of killing his parents.

The former dancer was released on ?15,000 (US$27,394) bail posted by relatives but is banned from leaving Crete until investigations are completed, leaving the funeral on hold and the Johnsons lying in the mortuary in the UK.

"We're hoping to clear Ryan first so that he can come home for the burial," his uncle, John Bailey, said. "There is actually no evidence against him, it's all hearsay and we are 100 percent behind him."

Jo Johnson was strangled with washing cord; Terry was gagged, bound, strangled and stabbed. The family hope forensic tests will help to clear Ryan, but the inquiry could take 18 months. Andrew McCooey, their British lawyer, said that, even worse, evidence had been mishandled.

"Ryan was allowed to wear his same clothing from the night of the murders for five more days and he was then brought back to the villa and told by the police to walk across the crime scene where his parents' blood was splattered," he said.

"And, of course, when he had first discovered his parents [14 hours after the murders] he had broken down and held his mother for about 20 minutes," McCooey said.

Such evidence, if used against him, would be inadmissible in an English court, McCooey said.

"There is not a shred of credible evidence against him. My own view is that there is a great fear on the part of the Greek authorities that tourists, and Britons seeking to buy villas, may be scared off if the real culprits ... are shown to be the killers [in the other cases]," he said.

Greek police appeared unwilling to take into consideration the copycat attacks and proof that the Johnsons were robbed before they were murdered, Bailey said.

The case is almost entirely based on the evidence of Andrew Bart, a friend Ryan went out with on the night of the murders. Bart said Ryan "must have done it" because of the family rift caused by his homosexuality. Ryan claims his sexuality was never an issue.

Sympathy has mounted, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair sending a hand-written letter of condolence.

"Friends I had lost touch with years ago have sent cards, saying they can't believe it," Ryan said.

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