Crete News April 2006

Violent Murder in Almyrida, west Crete

The police investigation into a savage double murder in Almyrida, an area of Vamos, Western Crete, continues. Many speculative theories have been put forward concerning the motives behind this apparently senseless killing on Sunday 12th March. However, at this time, very little is known.

A couple, Terry Johnson, 54, and his wife Josephine, 53, from Cornwall, England, were found dead in their bedroom by their son, Ryan, 32. He had woken at noon, gone downstairs to his parents’ flat in the two-storey house, and discovered their bodies. A forensic report from Coroner Manolis Michalodimitrakis stated that Terry Johnson had been bound and gagged and suffered three stab wounds to the throat, blows to the head and had been strangled – with the cause of death officially listed as haemorrhage and asphyxiation. His wife, Jo, also died as a result of being strangled.

Ryan Johnson was arrested following the arrival of police, and has still not been cleared of the charge that he murdered his parents following a rift over his homosexuality. He told police he had been out drinking and did not discover his parent’s bodies until he returned home. He remains in Crete on bail of 20.000 Euros and is not allowed to leave the island. A sum of money must be paid by the end of March, or he will be returned to jail.

Ryan was arrested on Monday 13th of March, and appeared in court on the following Thursday. In statements to newspapers in the UK he has strongly denied any conflict with his parents over his homosexuality, stating to the Sun newspaper, “My parents were quite liberal, almost modern-day hippies. Because I had no brothers or sisters we were like three made one.” The Johnsons moved to Crete last year, intending to make a family home, having purchased the house near Vamos. Ryan had been in Crete 3 months previous to their being re-united.

Ryan Johnson’s family are standing solidly behind him and have repeated that they find it utterly inconceivable that he could have harmed his mother and father in any way. Andrew McCooey, from Freedom Now, who defends Britons abroad, said: “I am convinced he is completely innocent. It’s inconceivable he could brutally murder his parents.

In the aftermath of these deaths, several rumours have been in circulation that Eastern European, possibly Albanian gangs were involved in the killing, with the motivation to steal money. No property is reported as missing from the home of the Johnsons and no evidence has been put forward linking any particular group or individual to these horrific killings.

Archaeological Museum of Heraklion to Close from October

The building housing Crete’s world-famous collection of antiquities, since it was built in 1935, will close for refurbishment after the summer. New modern buildings have already begun to take shape alongside the old Archaeological Museum in Heraklion’s Plateia Eleftherias. Reactions are expected from the representatives of the tourist industry who may find themselves having to fill a large gap in many itineraries. The museum has come in for much criticism for its lack of ‘user-friendliness’ with poor lighting, inadequate labelling of exhibits and confusing presentation of exhibits

Whether to repair the old sections and re-open the Archaeological Museum with added buildings, or to completely move the collections to a new site, has still not been decided. The Ministry of Culture will make a decision on what will eventually happen over the next few days.

Problems with the existing museum have included damage to the infrastructure leading to water coming through its roof. Worries have been expressed that repairs will take years to finish.

Papandreou in Crete

George Papandreou, leader of opposition party PASOK, paid a visit to Ierapetra and Neapoli in Eastern Crete on March 1st. Reports from eyewitnesses are fairly unanimous in declaring his reception to have been very warm and enthusiastic, and his speeches a fiery denunciation of the actions of government.

According to Papandreou, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis (Nea Dimokratia), has instigated a ‘divide and rule’ policy. He cited the divisions between sailors and farmers seen during the recent national seamen’s strike, and the conflict between the Cretan people and their local administrations. He called for Karamanlis to be truthful about events surrounding Greece’s current scandal, the covert tapping of ministers’ telephones leading up to the Athens Olympic Games. PASOK is the most popular political party in Crete, but voters have been urging Papandreou to ‘get tougher’ in his opposition to Nea Dimokratia policies.

Chinese Investment in Crete

There still may be a possibility of the Chinese using a new container port in the southern Crete area of Tymbaki. Their interest is alive but the Chinese are asking for Greece to build the port and provide the necessary equipment. It appears their interest is in renting a facility rather than building one. The Chinese have also expressed concerns about the earthquakes that have occurred in the area, asking for detailed safety plans to be drawn up.

There have been many stories, and rumours, of possible Chinese investment from the Cretan press over the last six months, and it is still too early to establish definite facts. This ‘will-they, won’t they’ tale seems set to continue. The new port would handle around one million containers per year and would be a major point of entry for Chinese goods into Europe, Africa, Near Asia and the Mediterranean. While generally, the population in this region welcome the idea, for economic reasons, environmentalists and those in the tourist industry have voiced concern about the impact on this quiet corner of Crete.

Tragedy on the Roads Heraklion – Mires

There have been two fatal accidents in March on the road between Heraklion and the southern village of Mires, the National Road, within a few metres distance. On the eight kilometer mark, a 27 year-old woman living in Venerato has been killed in a collision. In another incident, two young men driving a black jeep, 150 metres further on, crashed when they lost control of their vehicle, with one dying at the scene. It is said that they were driving too fast. Greece is among the worst places in Europe in terms of car accidents. There has been some improvement in recent years, but there remains a very real problem with road safety.

Wind-Farm Plans Cancelled in Crete

A proposed site for much needed wind power production of electricity has been found to be unsuitable. Lassithi (east Crete) was seen as a promising area for such development, reducing Crete’s reliance upon fossil fuels. Greece has been warned many times by the European Union that it must reduce carbon emissions and is among many countries facing difficulties in meeting targets set for the 2010 deadline to increase radically the use of bio-fuels and other renewable sources of energy..

The area in question on the isthmus between Ierapetra and Pachia Ammos, has also been earmarked as a possible site for a new airport, still hoped for by the people of Lassithi.

Representatives of the Department of Lassithi voted ‘No’ to the wind farm because it would be next to a proposed airport. No timetable has yet been drawn up for the construction of a new, potentially profitable, airport in Lassithi, and the existing one in Sitea still hopes to expand. Heraklion too, wishes to move the site of its airport, thus increasing capacity for more flights to the Cretan capital.

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