The examination of the remains of a 26-year-old Greek Cypriot soldier whose death 15 years ago is still a mystery continues on Tuesday at the morgue of Nicosia General Hospital. The process is expected to be completed on Wednesday.
Thanasis Nicolaou’s family never believed he had committed suicide as was insinuated by army and police authorities at the time of his death.
The family believes he was beaten to death and then thrown off the bridge of Alassa where his body was subsequently found, not far from his parked car.
A court order, okayed by the attorney general’s office, paved the way last week for the exhumation of his bones and for a new post mortem examination to take place. This time, by coroners assigned by both the state and the distraught family.
His remains were exhumed from a cemetery in Limassol in the presence of professor and former head of the Athens Forensic Medicine Service, Filippos Koutsaftis and Greek medical examiner Socrates Tsantiris.
Also present were Cypriot state medical examiners Sophocles Sophocleous and Nikolas Charalambous and independent coroner Marios Matsakis whose presence was requested by the family.
Limassol Crime Investigation Division investigators were also in attendance.
In September 2005, Nicolaou was performing his six-month compulsory military service and after overnight leave, he was due to return to camp.
However, the family were alerted that he had not returned and that his body was subsequently found under a bridge, not far from his parked car.
His family alleged that he had been killed by other soldiers, and police did initiate an investigation into the circumstances of Nicolaou’s death.
The first inquest, which took place before a district court, found that the conditions of his death were akin to suicide.
However, this finding was annulled following a certiorari application filed by Nicolaou’s mother.
The annulment was granted because the inquest had not provided grounds to conclude with a degree of certainty that Nicolaou’s death had been a suicide.
The death inquest was then examined by a second investigator who concluded that Nicolaou had passed away due to wounds caused by a fall, thereby excluding any criminal act. After the second inquest, the case was archived.
The family took Cyprus before the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 on the grounds that the investigation into their son’s death was incomplete and insufficient.
The ECHR sentenced Cyprus for the death of Nicolaou on January 28, this year, after accepting the family’s claim that authorities had failed to conduct sufficient investigations into his death.