Greek pilot found guilty of murdering young British wife and hanging her dog

·5-min read
Caroline Crouch and Charalambos (Babis) Anagnostopoulos on their wedding day in Praia Do Canavial, Portugal - Athena Picture Agency Ltd
Caroline Crouch and Charalambos (Babis) Anagnostopoulos on their wedding day in Praia Do Canavial, Portugal - Athena Picture Agency Ltd

A Greek helicopter pilot who admitted to smothering to death his young British wife in front of their baby girl has been found guilty of murder at the culmination of a trial which shocked the country.

He was also found guilty of killing their dog, as part of a plot to claim that the couple had been targeted by a gang of ruthless robbers who invaded their home.

Babis Anagnostopoulos, 34, stared straight ahead was a judge delivered the verdict. He could face a life sentence - 16 years under Greek law - for the murder of his wife and up to 10 years for killing the dog. He was also convicted of two counts of perverting the course of justice for which he could receive an additional six years.

He had insisted that his killing of Caroline Crouch was the result of a fit of rage, a momentary lapse that happened after a domestic fight. He now faces a maximum of 35 years in prison.

He initially claimed that three robbers had burst into the couple’s maisonette home north of Athens, tying him to a chair, stringing up their puppy from a banister and asphyxiating his wife in front of their 11-month-old daughter, Lydia.

The UK-trained pilot stuck to the charade for more than a month, delivering a eulogy at her funeral, until police uncovered evidence that proved his story was a lie, based on data from his mobile phone and Ms Crouch’s smartwatch that revealed inconsistencies in his account.

Information from his mobile phone showed that he was moving around the house at the time when he claimed he had been trussed up by the supposed robbers.

Anagnostopoulos was arrested and charged with murder, perverting the course of justice and the killing of an animal. He was found guilty on all charges and faces up to 25 years in jail for killing his wife, plus a separate maximum 10-year-sentence for killing the family dog.

He confessed to smothering 20-year-old Ms Crouch but said it was done in a “blurred state of mind”.

Caroline Crouch, who grew up on the Aegean island of Alonissos
Caroline Crouch, who grew up on the Aegean island of Alonissos

The key role played by technology in solving the crime was recognised during the trial.

"Thankfully he didn’t think to remove her smartwatch, which gave us valuable data. I call this divine retribution," said Evgenia Stathoulopoulou, a prosecutor.

Thanasis Harmanis, the lawyer for Ms Crouch’s family, said that “if the crime had occurred 40 years ago, it would be unresolved.”

During a six-week trial, the court heard that the couple was seeing a therapist in the months before the murder.

Ms Crouch, who was born in Liverpool but grew up on the Aegean island of Alonissos, told the therapist that she was “suffocating” in the relationship.

She said she found her husband, whom she met when she was a 15-year-old schoolgirl, narcissistic, controlling and manipulative.

The court heard how Anagnostopoulos had flown a helicopter over her school to try to “dazzle” her during their courtship.

“She didn’t have any money on her, not even five euros. She couldn’t even move around on her own, she could only travel in a taxi driven by a friend of Babis,” therapist Eleni Mylonopoulou told the court.

The couple's baby daughter, Lydia
The couple's baby daughter, Lydia

“I was very clear in my advice that she should leave him, because this could turn out dangerous for her,” Ms Mylonopoulou said.

At one point, Ms Crouch told her: “‘I can’t stand it anymore. I am suffocating.’”

A psychiatrist who reviewed the case said Anagnostopoulos displayed a deep lack of empathy, not only by murdering his wife but then appearing in public, calmly repeating the false story about the break-in.

“It’s a very barbaric thing to place the baby on her mother’s body. Babies at this age have an acute sense through smell and touch. There is also a lack of empathy in the fact he killed the dog,” said Alkisti Igoumenaki.

There was “premeditation and preparation” in his killing of his young wife, who had come to find him increasingly possessive.

“Premeditation does not mean that he prepared it a year ago. It could be in the last five minutes. When someone thinks ‘this is how I’m going to do it’, it’s premeditation.

“What we see in Caroline is a girl who fell in love, in the way a teenage girl does, and then started to wish for independence. Caroline began to grow up. She felt caged.”

Babis Anagnostopoulos, a Greek pilot and flight instructor, center, escorted by policemen arrives at a court in Athens, Greece - Thanassis Stavrakis/AP
Babis Anagnostopoulos, a Greek pilot and flight instructor, center, escorted by policemen arrives at a court in Athens, Greece - Thanassis Stavrakis/AP

Smothering his wife to death would have taken at least five minutes, the court heard. The death of the seven-month old puppy would have been protracted as well.

“He didn’t take a gun and shoot them. He could see them dying,” said Ms Igoumenaki.

Evi Kormikiari, a prosecutor, said the killing of the dog was utterly heartless.

“I have never seen an owner do something like this. I’ve seen shootings, stabbings, but nothing so cold as this. Hanging is one of the most atrocious ways to kill an animal.”

“The defendant knew the dog was dying but he was too busy directing the ‘robbery’”.

At a hearing last week, Anagnostopoulos spent more than 10 hours trying to explain how and why he lost control one night in May last year and smothered his wife to death with a pillow.

He tried to convince the court that the murder was not premeditated but was instead an attack carried out in a fit of rage and that it warranted a lesser sentence.

He claimed that on occasion, when the couple argued, Ms Crouch had kicked and punched him.

“There is no excuse…what has been lost is irreplaceable. Neither Caroline nor our dog deserved it,” he told the court. “There are not enough times that I can say sorry

From the day that I lost Caroline, I lost everything. I lost my life. I hope that God will forgive me. I will never forgive myself.”

He admitted to hanging the couple’s pet dog, Roxy, from a banister in their two-storey home.

The couple's daughter, Lydia, is being brought up by Miss Crouch's British father and her Filipina mother on Alonissos.

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