Police in Greece have launched a manhunt for the murder of 20-year-old Caroline Crouch by three burglars who strangled her next to her baby in the early hours of Tuesday at the family home, near Athens.
The hooded burglars broke into the home of Crouch and her husband Charalambos Anagnostopoulos, 32, at Glyka Nera, north-east of the Greek capital.
They tied Anagnostopoulos to a chair and tracked down Crouch, who was hiding in the attic with her 11-month-old baby.
She was found dead next to the baby. Caroline was beaten and strangled to death by the burglars, as she was pressured to reveal where the money and jewelry were kept, threatening the life of her child.
“Tell us where the money is, we will kill the baby,” one of the burglars said to Crouch, her husband told police.
“We begged them. We told them where they would find the money,” he added.
Holding a gun, they threatened to kill the family if they did not give them everything they asked for. According to reports, the gun at some point was aimed at the child’s temple.
“I told them where I had hidden the money so that the torment could end quickly. I heard my wife constantly screaming for help tied to the bed. We both screamed not to hurt us. The baby was crying, my wife was crying as they were searching the house for money and jewelry,” the distraught man told police.
“Suddenly they left the room and then I stopped hearing my wife’s voice,” Anagnostopoulos said.
After the murder, they trio made off with 15,000 euros in cash and valuables. They also killed the family’s dog to stop it from alerting the neighbors.
Anagnostopoulos managed to untie himself a few hours later and call the police just before 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
Police sources say say that the three men involved were probably acting on information that the couple had a large quantity of money in the house and quite likely have previous criminal records, while they have left a number of fingerprints and DNA evidence in the house, where they remained for some time.
Two teams of officers from the homicide and burglary departments are looking through the files of felons released from prison, especially recently, and are confident that the mistakes made by the ruthless criminals will lead to their location and arrest.
In addition to forensic evidence from the clothing of the 20-year-old and her husband and in various locations in the house, they also have video footage from security cameras in the area to determine the route they took, though the perpetrators managed to destroy an external video camera placed outside the couple’s home and a camera set up by the couple to monitor the baby inside the house.
Crouch and Anagnostopoulos wed in 2018, and their baby daughter was born in June last year.
Rare brutal and violent murder in Greece
Minister for Public Order Michalis Chrisochoidis has issued a 300,000 euros ($363,000) reward for any information that may lead to their capture.
“One rarely encounters such barbarity in Greece, in Greek society, even among criminals,” he said. “We’ve seen several other ugly murders throughout the years. But this was extremely brutal and violent.”
The crime rate in Greece is relatively low compared with the rest of Europe. In the first nine months of 2020 it dropped compared to the corresponding period in 2019, according to the Hellenic Police (ELAS).
ELAS says that the drop was in large part due to the lockdown period, as well as the restrictive measures in place since then.
More specifically, homicides decreased by 16.67%, robberies by 40.96%, vehicle thefts by 26.47% and burglaries by 25.75%.
ELAS said its services continue to implement integrated policing programs and special actions aimed at further reducing crime.