NEWS

Demolition controversy claims life

A Finance Ministry employee who had been named in the press last week as being responsible for suspending the destruction of illegally built villas was found dead at the foot of a cliff yesterday in an apparent suicide. The discovery of the woman’s death set off a judicial inquiry and Prime Minister Costas Simitis called on aides to brief him on the issue. Rubini Stathea, 53, the assistant director of property issues for the Finance Ministry left behind seven letters, a police report said. Sources said these included letters for her family, colleagues, state officials and an Athenian daily newspaper. Sources told Kathimerini that the letters spoke of Stathea’s inability to endure government pressure to first stop the destruction of illegally built beachside villas and then to speed up their destruction so as to serve the government’s communications needs. Among the letters Stathea left were one for her husband and one each for her two children – a daughter aged 25 and a son aged 22. She also left a handwritten will tying up loose ends. She is also said to have written to Constantine Dafermos, who heads a state watchdog over public administration and who had shown interest in investigating her actions last week. Stathea’s name had been made public by documents released by the Public Works Ministry which had apparently been angered by the delay in the demolitions. Stathea had disappeared on Sunday afternoon after suggesting in a phone call with her husband that she would kill herself. He notified police verbally, setting off a search that by yesterday had become a major operation involving the fire brigade’s elite rescue unit with sniffer dogs, police and coast guard officers. The search concentrated on the area around Stathea’s holiday home at Keratea. Her body was found about a kilometer away, at the bottom of a 20-meter cliff next to the sea in an area called Vgiethi, shortly after 6 p.m. A little earlier, searchers had found her pullover, spectacles and a telephone card on a rock near the edge of the cliff.