Still a thorn between Australia and Greece. Still unclear. Still inaccurate. Thus stands the 1998 gruesome double murder of George Karalis and George Loizos in the Aegean Sea to this date. No matter how many times the families of the deceased have attempted to re-open the case, every time they have found themselves banging their heads against a wall. The wall of Greek justice, or should we say injustice.
An adrift death-boat was discovered before the dawn of June 2 by fisherman Andreas Chrisafogiorgos outside Rafina’s waters. In its stern lay the lifeless, blood-bathed bodies of the two Melbourne-born young cousins. The vessel, named Skorpios, fought with the wind as if it had just stung itself. Mr Chrisafogiorgos radioed his grisly discovery to coast guard officer Andreas Amanitis at 5.35 am. An hour later the port located the boat but it was not until 11.00 am that they sent out Admiral Nik Ekonamakis, with Soultana Marianou, along with several homicide investigators. The first report stated Karalis, 28, was hanging from the roll bar with a rope around his throat, wearing an anti-wind hoodie and shorts, with his right leg in the boat and his left floating outside the vessel. His wrists were cut. Loizos, 32, on the other hand, was floating face down in the water, partially dressed, with a rope around his belt. His right side was mutilated, stuck in the outboard motor.
The examiners took shots of the scene and details of the bodies and were ordered to “carefully” tug the vessel into the port of Rafina for further investigation.
If carefully can be interpreted into “drag the boat, with the dead bodies tied partially hanging out, and hose down all the evidence” then we have nothing to blame the Greek officers for. A while later, came this: “We advise that the coroner, Ms T.F. Marianou, has carried out a post mortem examination and ascertained the following: A. The death of George Karalis was caused by hanging while traces of self-injury were verified. B. The death of George Loizos was caused due to heavy, deep and intensive injuries of the left arm, left semi thorax with bone fractures, and lacerations to the left lung caused by an object that cut and crushed through – Homicide.”
The fact that 44,270 drachmas (A$225) were found in Loizos’ pockets ruled out robbery for the Greek officers. The press release that followed the report stated the two cousins were in a homosexual relationship and Karalis had killed Loizos after a fight. Some Greek newspapers even reported the tragic event as an accident, writing that Karalis tried to save Loizos who accidentally fell overboard and got trapped in the propeller. When he found out his beloved cousin was dead, he took his own life while in shock.
The case was ‘solved’ and closed in a matter of hours, quickly announcing their deaths as a murder-suicide, without taking into consideration the brotherly
nature of their relationship, Loizos’ marriage nor Karalis’ American girlfriend with whom he was said to be very much in love. He was in fact waiting for her to arrive in Greece a few days later. Witnesses stated that the two men were calmly and happily enjoying coffee and ouzo at a tavern in Porto Bufalo before they set sail off the Evvia Straits. The families, after finding out this specific area was plagued by smugglers, called investigator Stephen Curnow on the case, confident the deaths were a result of criminal foul play. According to him, the case had ‘standover-type murder’ written all over it.
“I formed the opinion that the original finding by the Greek authorities – that Karalis had murdered Loizos and then committed suicide – was incorrect and not supported in any way by the evidence available. In fact, the evidence clearly supported the contention that both Karalis and Loizos had been brutally murdered by persons unknown,” was the conclusion of the statement he filed to the Victorian Coroner’s Court. His report came with abundant evidence-based notes. The body of Mr Karalis was then flown back to Melbourne, where pathologist Michael Burke deemed the death to be a homicide. The Australian authorities’ findings contradicted the Greek inquest’s implications, which were reported by the Greek media, disparaging the men. Thanks to the parents’ immense persistence, the authorities overturned the initial report, classifying the predicament as double murder. Deputy state coroner Iain West filed his report, but as the case was and is outside Victorian jurisdiction, the Australian forensics could not comment on the unusual deaths further or the flawed operation of the investigation.
Neos Kosmos contacted Mr Karalis’ mother, Helen Karalis, who still requests that the Australian government press Greek authorities to seek the truth behind this unprecedented crime. Australia attaches a priority to seeing the perpetrators of these crimes identified and brought to justice. Everyone is sympathetic to the Karalis and Loizos families’ opinion, but have they taken any serious action since?
“We have not had the satisfaction of seeing the perpetrators of this crime, the ‘life-takers’ of our sons who were murdered in Greece, brought to justice,” she said. “We have spent years asking, begging even, that the Greek authorities investigate the deaths expeditiously and thoroughly. We know it is a cover-up. It was obvious foul-play. Obvious from day one. All I want is for the truth to shine and the perpetrators to be punished,” Karalis’ mother states.
She has said many times in the past that she would not rest until the day she dies to make sure the true reasons for her son’s death are ascertained. Yet she is tired, and disappointment has taken her over. She still can’t let go – and who can blame her – but she is greatly aggrieved.
“We are willing to undergo anything to ensure action will be taken and the people that killed our beloved sons will be brought to justice, but we no longer wish to give interviews, provide the press with additional evidence and talk to people for no reason. We need to know that something can and will be done.” Mrs Karalis feels the investigation was either deliberately botched or a result of shameless incompetence.
“We have since been living in a dark room with no oxygen. I don’t know how else to describe our everyday regime to you. Every time someone starts investigating we have to undergo an ordeal. Even though years have gone by, it still feels like picking at an open wound. Time makes it even more difficult to go into details – circumstances and reports that have beyond reason offended our families.
“Whilst after long-term struggles we saw the satisfaction of filing the deaths under foul play, the evidence does not permit a finding as to the identity of the person or persons contributing to the cause of death. These people continue to live freely. They have gone on with their lives. I want someone to guarantee that the case will be re-opened. I need Greece to sympathise. I need Greek authorities, the Greek press to take action. It is unfair. If the case were under
Victorian jurisdiction this wouldn’t have happened. This is unfathomable.”
Helen Karalis believes that action to ensure Australian citizens are protected in a country with which we share such strong relations has not been properly taken in this case. She feels the pertinent matter ought to have been pursued automatically by both governments and not by the families alone, costing them huge amounts of money. Yet another loss.
“For some it may be just one case, a name lost in a pile of files, but for us it is a matter of dignity. We demand from the Greek government that a new inquiry be conducted, not just into the circumstances surrounding the tragic deaths, but more importantly, into the method of investigation.
“We have pursued this on our own and of course I am angry. Angry that the authorities did not do their jobs. Angry that we had to go through so much to make them admit what really happened to my son and my nephew. Angry the result was so poor. Angry the culprits can still walk free on this earth. Please, help us do something about it. Put the perpetrators where they belong.
“I knew my son. And my nephew. He could never have done this to his cousin, or kill himself.”
The voice of George Karalis’ mother still echoes in our ears. Greece take heed – it is not just a case. It may have been one incident, but letting this gruesome and barbaric crime sink into this stagnant void of injustice feels like playing along. What if it happens again? What it if it were your son?