The husband of murdered Briton Caroline Crouch has told police that he hatched an elaborate plot to cover up her murder by staging a burglary because he couldn’t bear the thought of their daughter growing up without parents.
‘I did not want to go to prison, because I wanted to raise my daughter,’ 33-year-old Babis Anagnostopoulos is said to have told detectives as he confessed to killing her in a fit of rage after she threatened to divorce him and take their baby daughter.
Police revealed the pilot’s grovelling admission today, minutes before he appeared in court wearing a bullet-proof vest where he was officially charged with Caroline’s murder and the death of the family pet – a seven-month-old husky puppy that police saw he drowned as part of his cover-up. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Recalling the moment Babis’s story finally collapsed after a six-week goose chase for a gang of masked raiders that he had dreamed up, police chief Petros Tzeferis said he told detectives: ‘I tied myself up.
‘I did everything because when I realised I killed her, I thought of my child.’
Meanwhile astonishing images revealed the moment that Babis hugged Caroline’s distraught mother at her memorial service on Wednesday, just hours before he confessed to being her killer.
The embrace took place as detectives arrived to call Babis away from the service – claiming they had arrested a new suspect and needed his help to identify him.
In fact, the suspect that police wanted Babis to identify was himself – which he is said to have done during eight hours of interrogations.
Police announced late Thursday that Babis had confessed to smothering Caroline during a fight at their home in the early hours of May 11.
Detectives say he then concocted an elaborate story about a break-in and spent the pre-dawn hours staging the raid, including lurid allegations that three men had tied up him and his wife, threatened their infant daughter with a gun, strangled Caroline to death, then fled with £10,000 in a case which shocked Greece.
But detectives now say it was nothing more than a fabrication which fell apart when data collected from a fitness tracker on Caroline’s wrist showed her heart had stopped beating before the alleged break-in took place.
Babis Anagnostopoulos arrives in court in Athens to be charged with the murder of his wife and their pet dog after police say he confessed
This is the moment Babis Anagnostopoulos hugged the grieving mother of his dead wife at her memorial service – just hours before he confessed to being her killer
Babis (left) initially claimed Caroline (right) had been killed in a break-in at their home, but has since admitted that he strangled her himself before staging the burglary
TV footage taken at Caroline’s memorial service on Wednesday shows men who are believed to be police (pictured wearing green and red tops) asking Babis to go with them
Babis (circled) is seen walking through a crowd of Caroline’s family outside the service as he is ushered away by investigators
Babis can be seen bottom right, sitting in the back of a car as he is driven away from the memorial to an eight-hour police interrogation where he confessed to the killing
Police ‘suspected Babis from the moment they saw him and dubbed him the ‘Greek Oscar Pistorius”
Police who were first on the scene of the ‘break in’ had suspected Babis was the real culprit from the moment they laid eyes on him, the chief of police has told Greek media.
George Kalliakmanis, president of police in Attica, said officers had compared Babis to a ‘Greek Oscar Pistorius’ – the South African athlete convicted of shooting dead girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at their home in 2013, despite proclaiming his innocence.
He told Greek news site Protothema that detectives had immediately noticed the ‘coldness’ of Babis, adding that one officer had even taken his baby daughter away from him at the scene to ‘protect’ the girl.
Upon investigating the house, Mr Kalliakmanis said officers quickly uncovered signs the burglary had been staged – saying that very few of the cupboards and wardrobes had been disturbed.
Typically, burglars will rip open every potential hiding place in search of valuables, Mr Kalliakmanis said.
But in this house, they appeared only to have searched in the places that Babis said valuables had been stored.
He added that officers had concealed their initial suspicions from Babis and pursued his burglary narrative to keep him calm, all the while believing the true suspect was much closer to home.
More tracking data from Babis’s phone also showed him moving from the attic to the basement of the house and back again, despite claiming to have spent all night tied to the bed.
And data from a security camera at the home showed its memory card had been removed at 1.20am – again, hours before Babis claimed the break-in happened.
It was this evidence that prompted Greek police to drag the father away from his wife’s memorial service, where he had been continuing to play the part of the grieving widower.
He was taken by boat to a neighbouring island before being loaded into a helicopter and flown back to Athens – and it was during this journey that he seemed to grasp the truth of what police were up to, Protothema reports.
After arriving at police headquarters, Babis was taken to an interrogation room and seemed to understand that he was being questioned as a suspect rather than a witness, a senior officer said.
After a short opening exchange Babis is said to have snapped and told investigators: ‘I killed her. I will tell you everything in detail.’
‘It really didn’t take long for him to confess,’ said a senior investigator. ‘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,’ he said, ‘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.’
The officer said Babis recounted the story of his relationship with Caroline, from their first meeting while he was on holiday in Alonissos to falling in love and then their marriage in 2018.
But he said their marriage had devolved into daily arguments driven by his fear that she was planning to leave him, which culminated in her ordering him out of the house and asking for a divorce.
Babis is said to have told officers that he threw her down on the bed and pressed her face into a pillow until she passed out, before realising he had killed her.
He then drowned the family dog in an area outside the home and removed the CCTV memory card which he snapped and flushed down the toilet.
After his confession was over, police left Babis in the company of two psychologists and then announced his guilt to the world in a statement at 9.36pm local time on Thursday evening.
“Suspicions loomed from the start,” Police Chief Petros Tzeferis said. “But we lacked the hard evidence.”
Still, weeks into the investigation, a step-counter detected on the husband’s smartphone, yielded the most damning piece of evidence, authorities said, quickly shifting the focus of the investigation onto the husband.
“It showed that he was moving during the time he claimed to have been immobilized by the robbers,” said Penelope Maniatis, director of the Greek Police’s forensics department. “This was the first major inconsistency created in his testimony and the first clear suspicion created about his potential involvement.”
Coupled with other digital forensic finds, including from the fitness watch, investigators managed to establish a case against the husband.
An examination of Crouch’s mobile phone, authorities said, also showed that on the night of the crime, the 20-year-old mother was trying to book herself and daughter, Lydia, into a hotel room.
“I never wanted to lie,” Anagnostopoulos said in the course of his marathon confession late Thursday. “I did what I did to evade arrest; to protect my daughter.”
The fate of the 11-month old infant remained unclear. Authorities refused to say whether she would be placed in the care of social services or her grandparents – Crouch’s Filipino mother and British father.
Babis said in his statement: ‘That night we were fighting early. At one point she threw the child in the crib and told me to leave the house.
The ‘REAL timeline of Caroline’s murder’
According to Babis’s initial version of events, burglars broke into his house near Athens around 5am on May 11, tied him up alongside wife Caroline, robbed them, strangled her to death and then fled before he was able to call cops at 6am.
But detectives say that was an elaborate fiction, and have laid out in detail what they believe was really happening inside the house on that fateful night…
0.35am, May 11: A CCTV camera on the ground floor of the couple’s home captures its last image, which police say shows Babis sitting on the sofa
In his arms is his infant daughter, and in his hands is a phone which they say he was using to text Caroline, who was upstairs
Detectives say the couple were in the midst of a bitter argument
1.20am: Babis removes the memory card from the camera, according to data stored in the device
He will later admit to snapping it in half and flushing it down the toilet in what officers argue is evidence that Caroline’s murder was premeditated
0.35am – 4am: Babis and Caroline continue to argue over text messages which officers describe as ‘particularly sharp and hard’ with the couple ‘fighting fiercely’
At some point, Caroline messages a friend to say she is leaving her husband. She also attempts to check into a hotel for the night
Police say the argument ended with a face-to-face confrontation in front of their daughter, with Caroline ordering Babis out of the house and telling him she wanted a divorce
4.01am: A fitness tracker attached to Caroline’s wrist shows a sudden burst of heart activity. Detectives believe this is the moment a fight broke out between the couple
In a statement to police, Babis said Caroline hit him and he lost control, throwing her on to the bed before pressing her face into a pillow
4.11am: Caroline’s fitness tracker shows that her heartbeat has stopped, she is dead
Detectives say Babis stuffed cotton into her mouth, then smothered her
4.11am – 6am: Babis spends the pre-dawn hours staging an elaborate break-in
According to the cop’s version of events, he broke a latch on a downstairs window, then turned out hiding spots where valuables were kept to make it look like a burglary
In a sick twist, he then drowned the couple’s seven-month-old husky puppy and hanged its body from the stair banister, later telling police that robbers must have killed it on their way in so it didn’t wake them up
Officers say Babis then blindfolded himself, tied himself to the bed, and placed a call to a neighbour who alerted them to the ‘burglary’
‘She pushed me and punched me. I lost my temper, I suffocated her with the pillow. Τhen I made up the robbery.’
Laying out what they believe to be the true timeline of events on the morning of May 11 to news site Protothema police said a downstairs CCTV camera had captured its last images shortly after midnight, as Babis sat on the sofa downstairs cradling his daughter and arguing over text with Caroline, who was upstairs.
They say the camera’s memory card was removed at 1.20am while the argument was still ongoing, and which continued for another two hours and 40 minutes.
Then, at precisely 4.01am, Caroline’s fitness tracker captured an intense burst of heart activity, which is when they believe the couple came to blows.
The activity continued for another 10 minutes, until Caroline’s heart stopped beating around 4.11 am.
The confession comes five weeks after Babis led mourners at Ms Crouch’s funeral and read a eulogy while standing over her grave.
‘Our loved ones are the most important people to us all,’ he said at the time – wiping away tears while holding their baby daughter in his arms.
‘You should always look after your loved ones and enjoy your time together.’
On social media, the young couple appeared to enjoy a blessed life – 20-year-old Caroline posting snaps of the couple with their daughter, or else showing off their idyllic-seeming life in Greece as she wandered on sunny beaches in bikinis.
The pair had met while Babis was on holiday to the Greek island of Alonissos where Caroline, who was born in the UK, had lived with her parents since the age of eight.
They were married in 2018, and she gave birth to their first child – a daughter – in June last year.
But a friend said last night that the idyllic images were a mirage – in fact, Babis was a jealous and controlling husband and Caroline was deeply unhappy.
‘She could not have the time she wanted with her friends and she was constantly expressing her complaints about his behavior,’ a source told Greek news site Ethnos.
It was a fact that police had also uncovered during their investigation, after speaking with a psychologist who was treating both Babis and Caroline in separate sessions.
At the time, it was reported that Caroline was suffering from post-natal depression. Officers did not say what Babis was being treated for.
Texts found by police on the coupe’s phones also reinforced suspicions of a less-than happy marriage, with police saying messages exchanged in English showed that one had called the other ‘stupid.’
On the night of the murder, Caroline had allegedly messaged a friend saying that she was leaving Babis.
Phone data also showed that Caroline had attempted to book herself into a hotel on the night she died, detectives said.
The 33-year-old’s story fell apart after detectives uncovered data from Caroline’s smartwatch which showed her heart stopped beating hours before the alleged burglary took place
Babis ‘based his fake break-in on real-life horrors suffered by one of his flight instructors’
It is a lurid and detailed tale: Three men speaking a foreign language break into a family home in the early hours, demand cash, threaten a baby with a gun, then strangle the wife and flee with £10,000.
This was the story concocted by Babis Anagnostopoulos, one which he delivered to detectives as they arrived at the home where Caroline Corouch lay dead on the morning of May 11.
Police now say the story was a fabrication – the elaborate break-in stage by Babis to hide his guilt. But how did he invent such a story?
According to one of Babis’s former flight instructor, the helicopter pilot borrowed almost all the details from real-life horrors that he suffered two years prior.
The man, who spoke to Greek TV station ANT1 anonymously, said that he and his wife had also been attacked and tied up at their family home by a gang of robbers who demanded cash.
He said Babis’s description of the gang leader being shorter than the other attackers matched his own experience, as did the claim of having seen the men after a blindfold slipped.
‘The only difference was that we were attacked with clubs while Babis said he was attacked with pistols,’ the man said.
The instructor said Babis would have heard the story from others at the airport, because he and his wife appealed for blood donations afterwards – spreading the news among the staff.
He said that he had even gone to police to recount details of his raid after hearing Babis’s story, believing the same men may have been to blame.
But following Babis’s confession, he now suspects the 33-year-old used his story as the basis for his fabrication.
Police also revealed on Thursday that officers had ‘immediately’ suspected Babis of committing the murder, after noticing his ‘cold’ demeanor when they arrived at the crime scene on the morning of May 11.
One officer even told how he took Babis’s daughter away from him and handed the girl to her grandmother out of fear that he might harm the girl, Protothema reports.
But detectives agreed to pursue the burglary theory while keeping their suspicions about Babis under wraps to avoid ‘spooking’ him.
That included allowing him to attend Wednesday’s memorial service with Caroline’s family.
Hariklia Theodorou, a cafe owner who employed Babis before he changed careers to become a pilot, was at the service and recalled how he was weeping and looking at pictures of Caroline before the police arrived.
‘I remember the look on his face, he was puzzled. He did not expect it,’ she told Greek media.
”Hey guys, let me go to my wife’s grave’ he said, but they told him ‘No, Babi, you have to follow us now, aman has been arrested who fits the characteristics of Caroline ‘s killer and we have to go there to identify him.’
‘Babis did not object and followed them.’
His confession ends a month-long investigation into what authorities billed ‘a near-perfect murder’ for the lack of evidence the killer left behind.
Anagnostopoulos, who trained as a helicopter pilot in Liverpool, had married Miss Crouch in May 2018 after they met while he was on holiday to Alonissos.
Miss Crouch, a student at the University of Piraeus, had a British passport. She moved to Alonissos with her mother Susan Dela Cuesta and father David Crouch, 78, when she was eight.
Three days after her death, every shop, bar and restaurant on the island of Alonissos closed as its 2,000 residents laid to rest the British woman they had adopted as their own in a hilltop cemetery overlooking the Aegean.
Earlier, her killer had brazenly addressed the mourners from the altar of the island’s Greek orthodox church.
Wiping away a crocodile tear, he told them: ‘I was very lucky that I knew her and she loved me. I was very lucky for all the moments we had together.
‘One thing that makes me even more sad than her death is the fact that our daughter will grow up without remembering her beautiful mother, who was the joy of life, though our daughter will always be with me and with all of us.’
As the wife he’d killed was buried, Anagnostopoulos – still clutching their infant daughter to his chest –hugged Miss Crouch’s distraught mother.
Anagnostopoulos spent 37 days expertly playing the part of the grieving widower, providing the police with a detailed account of the robbery and even descriptions of the intruders.
He claimed that three men had broken into the house through a downstairs window, disabling security cameras before strangling the family dog on their way upstairs to the couple’s bedroom where they found them asleep.
Babis claimed he was blindfolded and gagged, then tied to a bedpost with his back towards Caroline, who was also restrained.
He said the men had somehow known the couple were keeping £10,000 in cash at the house, hidden inside a Monopoly box, which they had planned to use for building works on a new plot of land they had bought.
Babis said he quickly gave up the location of the money to avoid an altercation, but the men were not satisfied and began demanding more valuables.
Through a gap in his blindfold he claimed to have seen the men – who he said spoke Greek to him but a foreign language among themselves – point a gun at his baby daughter’s head while making their threats.
That had caused Caroline to scream, he said, after which the burglars bundled her to the bed and suffocated her before fleeing the property and leaving him tied up.
He claimed to have spent hours in that position, before managing to free himself just enough to crawl to a phone and dial a neighbour’s number with his nose.
The neighbour then summoned police, who arrived to find the grisly scene.
Police had initially pursued the burglary narrative, and even arrested a suspect – a Georgian with a history of violent burglaries who tried to leave the country on a fake passport – but failed to link him to the crime.
DNA evidence collected from underneath Caroline’s fingernails as she fought her attacker has also proved to be inconclusive.
Babis shared a tribute to his wife Caroline Crouch last month after her death. Under the photo taken on their wedding day he writes: ‘Together forever. Have a nice trip my love’
Mr Anagnostopoulos previously told police that three men broke into his family home early on May 11, stole £10,000 he was keeping in a Monopoly box, then strangled his wife
Caroline Crouch, 20, was strangled to death in front of her 11-month-old daughter at her home in the Glyka Nera suburb
But the investigation now appears to have been a ruse, concocted so that Babis would remain calm and stay in Greece while they pursued him as the real suspect.
During that time, Babis had given several interviews to the media while allegedly playing the grieving husband – telling reporters ‘imagine how I feel’ when questioned about the tragedy.
He was also frequently pictured with Caroline’s parents, even hugging her mother at the funeral which took place last month.
Babis had also sat down for two lengthy interview session with police, sticking to his story about the break-in both times.
Suspicions around him only crept into public view a few weeks ago, when it emerged the police had interviewed the couple’s therapist.
At the time, detectives said they had uncovered ‘vital evidence’ about Babis and Caroline’s relationship that they believed would help solve the case.
Babis is expected to be formally charged with murder on Friday. It is unclear whether he will enter a plea at the same time.