Postcard from Europe: Murder most foul | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.02.2010

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Europe

Postcard from Europe: Murder most foul

Cypriots are spellbound by a murder case in which a well-known newsreader stands accused of having her former boss murdered by two gunmen. Tabitha Morgan sent DW this postcard from Nicosia.

Shadow of a man holding a machine gun

Was a Cypriot media mogul gunned down for sacking an employee?

Elena Skordelli, a blonde, girlish-voiced newsreader, is accused of arranging the revenge killing of her former boss, Andis Hadjicostis, after he sacked her from her high profile job.

Hadjicostis, who ran the largest media corporation in Cyprus, was killed outside his house, in a smart residential suburb of Nicosia in January. Two men, captured on closed-circuit television, shot him at close range in the chest and back. He was 42 and had two daughters. Hadjicostis's media empire includes two television networks, four radio stations, a daily newspaper and several magazines.

Initial theories about the killing pointed towards a political motive - a depressing reflection of the state of inter-communal relations on the island. Police claimed that bullets found at the scene of the crime came from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus and it was suggested that Hadjicostis' death could have been connected to his company's opposition to UN-backed plans to reunite Cyprus.

Speculation and pontification are national pastimes in Cyprus, and the Cypriot rumor mill went into overdrive. From village coffee-shop pundits to bloggers, everyone had their own theory about the killing.

Surprise arrest

So, Cyprus was transfixed when police arrested news reader Elena Skordelli. Skordelli, whose television career began on lifestyle shows dealing with yoga and nutrition, doesn't appear to fit easily into the Cypriot criminal underworld. Her colleagues regarded her as something of a lightweight and several expressed surprise when she began presenting the evening news.

But according to the state prosecutor, Skordelli was angry with Hadjicostis for firing her, despite the fact that she and her brother jointly owned a 20-percent stake in his media empire. The prosecutor alleges that after Hadjicostis' murder Skordelli repeatedly approached other shareholders in an attempt to acquire a majority stake in the company.

Skordelli's alleged involvement in the murder only emerged after one of the gunmen identified on CCTV footage agreed to name his co-conspirators in exchange for witness protection and the promise of a new life away from Cyprus.

The gunman claims that he and his accomplice were told that if they killed Hadjicostis, they would receive 50,000 euros ($68,000) and jobs for life at the television network after Skordelli and her brother had taken control of the company.

The case has now been adjourned until June, but Cypriots are impatient for the latest installment in a drama, which, so far, has managed to outdo even the wildest imaginings of coffee-shop pundits.

Author: Tabitha Morgan

Editor: Neil King

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