Greeks have obsessed for weeks over the murder of Caroline Crouch by her husband, the confessed wife killer Babis Anagnostopoulos. The Crouch femicide appears to demonstrate a system of collateral damage and light sentencing for men who kill their wives.
The crime was unique, as rates of violent crime are comparatively low in Greece. The revelation of a marriage to a seemingly nice guy who is actually a monster that murders his mate, has shaken the cultural cornerstone of “a loving Greek family with a devoted husband and father.”
But the femicide and the cover-up by the perpetrator are not unique globally.
Violence against women can comprise a wide range of acts, from verbal harassment and other forms of emotional abuse to daily physical or sexual abuse. At the far end of the spectrum is femicide: the murder of a woman.
And the murdered wife is not the only victim in this femicide. The perpetrator’s fabrication of the homicide scenario can lead to fallout in minority communities as police shake down potential suspects, and expend countless manhours needlessly.
A Georgian man initially accused of Crouch’s murder alleges he was tortured and beaten while questioned in Greek police custody, before it was revealed that the actual killer was the victim’s husband.
Police initially reported that they had investigated criminals who were recently released from Greek prisons, prior to the murder, with similar records of armed robbery.
Parallel wife killings have occurred in both the US and the UK.
Femicide Perpetrator Fabricates Scene to Remove Suspicion
Anagnostopoulos, similar to men before him around the globe, killed his wife and set a scene to fabricate his innocence. To redirect suspicion, he propagated hate and racism as he pointed a finger at minorities in the community, who already assumed to be evil and immoral.
The staged murder began a wave of suspicion and fear across Athens. After six months of lockdown and the easing up of restrictions to combat the coronavirus, Athenian suburbanites in affluent neighborhoods felt vulnerable after Anagnostopoulos accused three masked armed foreign men of the alleged brutal break-in that left his young wife dead and his infant daughter without a mother.
Murder, by accident in the heat of the moment, as Anagnostopoulos claims, or premeditated — with intricate plans to be free of the spouse but also free of legal implications of the crime — is rare in Greece. However, there are many a predecessor across the US as well as the UK. Home is not a safe place for 50 percent of women who were murdered by their husbands or intimate partners, either current or past.
WHO Warns Femicide On the Rise During Pandemic
The World Health Organization (WHO) posted on their social media sites Thursday a warning about the rise in violence against women due to COVID-19. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, risks of violence increase due to: More time at home with abusers! Rising stress! Isolation from social support networks! Limited access to critical services! We must END violence!
“Violence against women is causing harm to millions of women and their families and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But unlike COVID-19, violence against women cannot be stopped with a vaccine.”
The lockdowns instigated by the coronavirus worldwide have made home, normally a place of refuge or safety, a dangerous place for women who live with violent partners. Of course, femicide has been ongoing, long before the pandemic.
A young suburban wife is murdered, prompting a flurry of 24-hour news coverage. Her husband appears on television declaring his love, pleading for her killer to be found. The husband is accused of the murder. A national drama ensues, as the media and the nation look for answers.
Similar to the Charles Stuart case in Boston, more than three decades ago, a “crime by others” was fabricated. The staged murder of Marion Stuart in Boston in 1989 gave rise to the “stop-and-frisk” policy targeting African American men in US cities, which continued for years.
Stuart Femicide Ends in Perpetrator’s Suicide
Charles Stuart leaped to his death off the Tobin Bridge in Boston after he was named the prime suspect in his pregnant wife’s murder. The suicide put an end to an ugly hoax that unleashed months of fear and fury from Boston’s officials, police, the media and the public.
Stuart falsely claimed that an African American man jumped into his car one night in October 1989 and shot him and his wife, Carol, after they attended a Lamaze class at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the city’s Mission Hill neighborhood. The supposed gunman, described by Stuart as an African American man in a track suit with a raspy voice, then shot Stuart in the side.
Carol was taken back to the hospital, where she gave birth to a premature son, Christopher, and then died on the operating room table. The injured baby died 17 days later.
News stories and television reports portrayed the horrific murder as a symbol of a violent, drug-ridden inner city, playing on the fears of white suburbanites. It fueled a public backlash against African Americans in Boston.
And following the shocking news of his confession, there seemed to be a sense of “himpathy,” a sympathy created for the murderer. Even as news of Anagnostopoulos’ confession was still breaking, Greek media pundits and commentators made the case in accusing Crouch to be at fault for making this “normal boy next door” lose control in the heat of the moment and accidentally suffocate the woman he loved, the mother of his child.
By the time Anagnostopoulos appeared before the magistrate at the Athens Courthouse, public opinion no longer seemed to be offering him sympathy, as there were outbursts from the crowd calling him “monster,” and telling him “to rot in hell.”
Uncommon in Greece but certainly widespread across the globe, half the women who are murdered are killed by intimate partners, according to statistics published by the Violence Policy Center. And for the most part these are individually evil sociopaths. They are not products of toxic masculinity.
The middle-class suburban melodramas resonate with onlookers because they juxtapose the spectacle of the enviable-husband-gone-bad with the iconography of the innocent wife, who cannot seek justice for herself, but on whose behalf the public and media can be galvanized.
Wide Use of Stop-And-Frisk Tactic Prompted with Fabricated Murder
The safety and sanctity of innocents wrongfully accused did not however motivate the general public to take further action on the stop-and-frisk policy. As a result of Stuart’s hateful act of deception, police forces across the US began wide-spread use of the stop-and-frisk tactic that continued long beyond his suicidal plunge from the Tobin Bridge.
The controversial policy allowed police officers to stop and interrogate citizens on the sole basis of “reasonable suspicion.” Opponents of the stop-and-frisk tactics have argued that the policy violates the U.S Constitution’s 4th Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.
Evidence suggests that the policy is used as a method of racially profiling and harassing minorities, and many civil rights organizations such as the Center for Constitutional Rights and the NAACP, have voiced strong opposition to the policy.
And just as Anagnostopoulos has been remanded to Korydalos Prison to await trial for Crouch’s murder, and Greeks begin to take a breather from what they thought was an isolated incident, another wife slayer has confessed to killing his spouse in Greece.
A wealthy ship owner, after almost a year and a threat to his own life, 15 days following the warrant for his arrest, turned himself in to police.
Dionysis “Dimis” Korfiatis surrendered to authorities on Wednesday. An arrest warrant had been issued for him in early June for his alleged involvement in the murder of his 37-year-old wife, Christina Kloutsinioti, on Zakynthos a year ago.
Police acted on information provided by Korfiatis, 53, before he was also gunned down by unknown assailants in May. Korfiatis had also been injured as well in the 2020 attack.
A car and a speedboat owned by Korfiatis were used during the deadly attack and escape. He was accused of complicity in the homicide in the warrant issued for him and seven others.
Across the US, there are several more recent cases that parallel Caroline Crouch’s femicide. So many wrongfully targeted suspects and witnesses were stopped and frisked on the street by police in their zeal to catch the killers.
Colorado father Barry Morphew was arrested on murder charges early in May in connection with the Mother’s Day disappearance of his wife and the mother of their two daughters, Suzanne Morphew, more than a year ago. Investigators have not yet released a motive, and a trial date has not yet been set.
California man Scott Peterson was convicted of murder in 2004 for killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son. Police quickly closed in on him as a suspect after his girlfriend, Amber Frey, told them that she began dating him a month before the murders. She said he claimed when they met that his wife was already dead.
Christopher Watts, of Colorado, killed his wife and their 3- and 4-year-old daughters while dating a woman named Nichol Kessinger, who told investigators that when she met him, he’d told her he was already separated from Shanann Watts.
Then there was Drew Peterson, a former Illinois police officer, who was convicted in 2012 of the 2003 murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in the months before their divorce.
And Gabriel Ferris, of Saginaw, Michigan, strangled his ex-girlfriend, Cheryl Miller shortly before taking off for a honeymoon with his new wife. She told detectives 20 years later that she’d seen him suspiciously re-entering their lodging the morning the victim’s body had been discovered.
All of these men fabricated stories of their wives’ disappearance or death, forcing police departments to investigate phantoms, similar to the Greek helicopter pilot. And all of their victims where femicides by an intimate partner.
Six women are killed by men every hour in a “global pandemic of femicide” that is being partly hidden by COVID-19, according the United Nations — and the organization is calling for urgent action.
The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women issued by the UN General Assembly in 1993 defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
In general terms, aggression against women manifests itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms, including intimate partner violence battering, psychological abuse, marital rape or femicide.
The United Nations site states, “At least 155 countries have passed laws on domestic violence, and 140 have legislation on sexual harassment in the workplace. But challenges remain in enforcing these laws, limiting women and girls’ access to safety and justice. Not enough is done to prevent violence, and when it does occur, it often goes unpunished.”
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 found that between a fifth and nearly a half of women globally suffer physical or sexual abuse from their male partners. The Middle East and North Africa has the highest rate, with 45 percent of women being harmed.
But the problem persists across the world. In North America, the rate was 32 percent and in Western Europe 22 percent. And in the UK, a new first-of-its-kind report from the Femicide Census shows that a man kills a woman every three days in the country, a statistic unchanged across the 10 years studied.
Anthony Williams was recently jailed for just five years in the UK for the manslaughter of his wife Ruth. UK MPs and feminist campaigners called for an increase of the sentence, saying such leniency sent out a message to men that killing your wife is not a serious crime. Williams claimed he was not fully responsible for his actions when he strangled his wife to death and that the pandemic had exacerbated his anxiety and depression.
The case, although shocking, represents a much bigger problem.
Lighter Sentencing for Murder by an Intimate Partner
Professor emeritus at the University of the Aegean, Maria Gasouka, has lectured and researched for decades on issues of gender and equality through the department of cultural technology and communication.
“Women’s groups across Greece want to incorporate the word femicide in criminal law and public debate, because the word femicide rallies people to struggle for social and cultural change and rejects gender-based inequality and violence,” said Gasouka.
According to Gasouka, who is also a spokesperson for the Hellenic Feminists Network, the legal system in the country perpetuates femicide. The legal system does not acknowledge the misogyny behind crimes. It does not recognize femicide, or gynoktonia, as a separate crime.
“There have been so many incidences of femicide in Greece. Worldwide the count was at 80,000 at the end of 2019,” Masouka relates.
A “domestic killing” actually carries a lighter sentence across the globe, if it is not premeditated. If one is murdered by a stranger on the street, instead of an intimate partner, there is a longer sentence.
Most jurisdictions authorize a sentence for murder ranging up to life imprisonment, and a minimum sentence of imprisonment for a substantial number of years, commonly from 10 to 20 years. For the most serious category of murder, some jurisdictions provide a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
Penalties for manslaughter vary widely. The maximum penalty may be as high as 10 or 20 years imprisonment, and the minimum as little as one or two. If involuntary manslaughter is treated separately, the maximum penalty is less, usually not more than five years’ imprisonment.
In the UK there is one woman who has made it her life’s work to evaluate femicide.
For more than three decades, Davina James-Hanman has fought to protect survivors of domestic violence. Her career, which started in a women’s refuge in the late 1980s, has included stints running a major charity, advising the government and eight years in charge of strategy for the mayor of London.
James-Hanman spoke to The Guardian a few years back about domestic murderers that are likeable men.
As a consultant on violence against women, the activist now devotes much of her time to women whose time has run out. Since 2011, every British murder has triggered a domestic homicide review (DHR).
This is a detailed multi-agency inquiry into the circumstances of the victim’s life and death, and their contact with agencies and services. James-Hanman, who has completed more than 30 DHRs for Britain’s Home Office, says it “forces you to ask ‘what would have made a difference?'”
She talks to police officers, doctors and local authorities, as well as the grieving family and friends. She searches victims’ social media accounts. “Occasionally, I get to read their diary,” she adds. She also writes to the killers. About a third agree to meet her.
“We used to say domestic violence was everywhere but nowhere because it was nobody’s focus,” she adds. But soon the sector would learn from emerging American “multi-agency” approaches, including health and education as well as police and the criminal justice system. In 1992, James-Hanman became Britain’s first local authority domestic violence coordinator. Among other measures, the Islington London borough where she was stationed placed crisis intervention workers in police stations.
In 2000, the new London mayor, Ken Livingstone, asked James-Hanman to develop the city’s first domestic violence strategy. Attempting to unite the women’s sector, police and 32 boroughs was a major challenge, she says: “I went home and cried every day.
“In the early days I used to have paranoid fantasies that there was some kind of secret abuser’s handbook,” she says, so similar were the stories victims brought to refuges. “Eventually I realized that there is, and it’s not secret at all, it’s called mainstream culture.”
James-Hanman sees it in her homicide reviews and in prisons. She meets men who fear losing the power that comes with a rigid belief in traditional gender roles. “Often they are not feeling anger at all but that’s the only safe emotion to feel because if they stop believing in gender roles, their whole world starts to crumble,” she says.
She has seen the pernicious effect of technology, too. Abusers now use video calling so they can see which rooms their partners are in, and put satellite trackers in their cars.
Crouch’s femicide used up thousands of hours of police man power at the expense of Greek taxpayers, as well as targeting minority communities, until Anagnostopoulos finally confessed. It is estimated that he will languish in Korydalos Prison for the next 18 months until the case comes to trial.
And when officially convicted, he could get as much as 15 years — or as little as five, if he can convince a jury that the crime was not premeditated, according to criminologists and former police officers who have commented on the case.
With the worst case scenario, as current laws stand, Anagnostopoulos could be released by his infant daughter Lydia’s 16th birthday, at the age of 47.