Police say a Greek man accused of murdering his British wife confessed to killing her and staging a violent robbery to cover up his crime.
Charalambos (Babis) Anagnostopoulos, 33, has been charged with the intentional homicide of Caroline Crouch, 20, who was found dead at the family home in Athens on May 11.
A coroner’s report states Ms Crouch was suffocated shortly after falling asleep in an upstairs bedroom.
Anagnostopoulos, a helicopter pilot, initially claimed to detectives that university student Ms Crouch was strangled by a foreign gang of intruders while he was tied up in another room.
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But police say the husband has now admitted he smothered Ms Crouch with a pillow – in front of their 11-month-old daughter – following an argument, and he made up the story about the burglary to cover up his crime.
Police say Anagnostopoulos also confessed to strangling the family’s pet dog, a husky, and hanging it from a banister in a bid to strengthen his story about a robbery gone wrong.
Anagnostopoulos was attending a memorial service to his wife on the island of Alonnisos, where she grew up, on Wednesday when he was approached by police.
He was seen hugging his grief-stricken mother-in-law and left shortly afterwards with officers, who told him they wanted him to come back to Athens with them to discuss a breakthrough and new suspect in the case
But Anagnostopoulos was soon told that he was the suspect, said police.
The officer who handcuffed Anagnostopoulos was one of Ms Crouch’s childhood friends, a source told Protothema.
The source claims the husband was “relaxed” during the journey back to police headquarters in Athens, and was even cracking jokes with officers who were escorting him.
He is said to have confessed during an eight-hour interrogation.
Police have said they suspected Anagnostopoulos from the beginning and played along as he claimed his wife was killed by burglars.
Family friend Hariklia Theodorou claims Ms Crouch’s mother, Susan Dela Cuesta, did not suspect her son-in-law,
Ms Theodorou told Skai: “Susan is very angry. She is full of anger. It’s like she’s in a nightmare.
“She had placed all her hopes on Babis, she saw him as a continuation of her daughter. She had no idea, she had never suspected Babis.”
‘I killed her’
Excerpts of the alleged confession have been published by Greek newspapers.
Anagnostopoulos allegedly told police soon after they began questioning him: “I killed her. I will tell you everything in detail.”
He is said to have told detectives that he smothered Ms Crouch with a pillow on their bed after she told him she wanted a divorce and for him to leave the house.
They had argued by text message earlier that night while he was on a sofa in the living room and she was in a room upstairs.
Police allege he also told how he killed the dog and hung its body after killing his wife.
Anagnostopoulos claimed his wife had been angry at him that night and yelled at him after the baby started crying and for waking her up, said police.
He allegedly said: “That night we were fighting early. At one point she threw the child in the crib and told me to leave the house.
“She pushed me and punched me. I lost my temper, I suffocated her with the pillow. Τhen I made up the robbery.
“I tied myself up. I did everything because when I realised I killed her, I thought of my child.
“I never wanted to lie. I did what I did to evade arrest; to protect my daughter.”
Husband considered ‘hiding’ body
Anagnostopoulos allegedly told police he considered disposing of his wife’s body before settling on a story about a robbery, Protothema reported.
He allegedly told detectives: “I thought of making one last attempt so that (our daughter) might at least grow up with her father.
“I thought of disappearing the body, but it was impossible for me to do so. Just looking at her, I cried.
“The next thing I thought was to say that someone else did it. I would tell the police that robbers entered the house. I was in a panic.
“I did not know what to do. I thought that in order to look more plausible and to believe that rogue robbers had entered, I would have to hurt the dog.
“No one would have thought that I could harm a dog. With heartache I hung the dog leash on the railings of the stairs.”
The husband then reportedly told how he put his daughter next to Ms Crouch’s body, and tried to make it look like burglars had tied him up and placed duct tape over his eyes and mouth.
He allegedly said: “Before tying myself, I took (my daughter) from the sofa where she was sleeping and put her on the bed next to Caroline.”
During the interrogation, Anagnostopoulos is said to have gone over the couple’s history, from their first meeting while he was on holiday in Alonissos, how they began dating when she was in her teens, and got married in Portugal in 2019.
He told detectives they would argue daily and he feared she would leave him and seek a divorce, said police.
They decided to see a therapist in a bid to save their marriage, he added.
A senior officer told Protothema: “It really didn’t take long for him to confess.
“He said he had been fighting with Caroline for some time and they were fighting that night, exchanging heated text messages while he was on the ground floor and she was in the attic.
“At one point, when Caroline texted him that he was ‘stupid’, he lost his cool. He disabled the home’s surveillance camera, discarding its memory card, before charging up to the attic where he had another heated argument with Caroline, pushing her onto a bed there, and smothering her to death.”
Detectives are said to suspect the murder was pre-meditated because the memory card was removed from the security camera before the killing.
Anagnostopoulos’ lawyer Alexandros Papaioannidis said the killing was not pre-planned and the husband blames “his wife’s behaviour”, Protothema reported.
Brit ‘attacked in bed’
Police spent hours going through text messages and data from mobile phones and other devices.
Detectives said the robbery story fell apart thanks to Ms Crouch’s fitness tracker, data from Anagnostopoulos’ mobile phone, and CCTV from the home in the upscale neighbourhood, Greek media reported.
Footage taken at 12.35am allegedly shows the Anagnostopoulos cradling his daughter on a sofa as he and Ms Crouch argued over text, Protothema reported.
Police say Anagnostopoulos removed the memory card from the security camera in the living room at 1.20am, and admitted to breaking it in half and flushing it down the toilet.
The husband and wife continued to text each other until about 3.15am.
According to a coroner’s report obtained by the Amna news agency, she went to bed and was asleep for about six minutes until the murder began.
A fitness tracker on Ms Crouch’s wrist indicated “a sleeping person” at 3.58am.
But a sharp increase in her heart rate was detected between 4.05am and 4.11am, as she was killed, according to the coroner’s report.
Her heart stopped beating at about 4.11am.
The report gave the cause of death as suffocation, and said Ms Crouch also suffered a neck injury which may have been caused by a sharp object.
It is alleged that data from Anagnostopoulos phone showed him moving between the ground floor and attic of the home at a time when he claimed he was in bed with his wife.
It is alleged that after killing his wife, he strangled the dog and staged the robbery scene – tying his wife to the bed and making it look like he had been bound and blindfolded by the burglars.
A neighbour told Protothema they heard the dog “crying” at about 4.20am.
Anagnostopoulos had told police the intruders broke in at about 6am.
What did he initially tell police?
Anagnostopoulos initially told police and reporters that foreign gang members armed with guns broke in while the family was sleeping, and tied up and gagged him and his wife.
He told detectives that one of the three intruders strangled his wife.
Anagnostopoulos speculated that his life was spared because he had temporarily lost consciousness while bound, gagged and blindfolded in a different room, and likely appeared dead.
The couple’s baby was threatened with a gun, he claimed, but was unharmed.
He said the burglars demanded cash and jewellery, and fled with about £10,000 worth of euros hidden in a Monopoly box.
The couple had that kind of money on hand because they needed to pay builders, he added.
Anagnostopoulos told police he managed to wriggle free and call for help using his mobile phone.
The husband’s initial statements led to the arrest of a Georgian man, who police now say was falsely accused.
What did he tell reporters?
In the days following Ms Crouch’s death, Anagnostopoulos made a number of statements to TV crews in front of the family home.
He said the day after his wife was found dead: “I wish no-one ever goes through what we went through last night. It was a nightmare.
“We begged the thieves not to harm us. We told them where the money was and asked them to leave us alone. The police will catch them.”
Two days after his wife was found dead, Anagnostopoulos told the Mirror he was in “no condition” to speak at length about her.
He added: “She was an amazing person, full of life and full of love. Our lives will never be the same without her.
“Take care of your family, sir. Cherish your loved ones as much as you can.”
What happens now?
Anagnostopoulos has been charged with intentional homicide committed in a calm mental state, animal abuse, making false statements to police and falsely accusing other people.
He faces life in prison if convicted.
Greek media reported that he was being held at a police detention centre in Athens and he was alone in his cell due to fears he could be attacked by other inmates.
He was under constant guard, according to reports.
There is also the unresolved matter of custody of the couple’s daughter, who turned one earlier this month.
The baby had been with her father and his family following Ms Crouch’s death.