Family held for murderous fraud

A couple of struggling Greek restaurateurs from Germany and two of their five children have been arrested on suspicion of murdering a cleaning woman and staging her death in a car accident in a plot to grab a large insurance payment. Police in northern Greece said yesterday the family had meant to pass off their victim – whose body, under the original plan, would have been burnt beyond recognition – as that of Maria Kessopoulou, who had insured her life for 1.5 million euros with a German firm in June, soon after the plot was hatched. Kessopoulou, 45, had lived in Germany for years with her husband, Alexandros Kessopoulos, and children. But their business did badly. «Our investigation showed that, four months ago, in Germany, they planned to fake a car accident in which the wife was to appear to have died in a car, for them to collect the insurance payment,» Vassilis Traoudas, deputy police chief for Pella, told a press conference. Traoudas said the family found a woman from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia who resembled Kessopoulou, and lured her to Greece to work as domestic help in their home at Lofi, a village 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of Florina in western Macedonia. Hours after picking her up at the border, the suspects drugged the woman and drove a rented car to a secluded spot early on Wednesday where they strapped their unconscious victim into the driver’s seat, set the car on fire and pushed it down a slope. But the car did not explode, and when the wreck was found, police established that the woman died of petrol fume poisoning. Kessopoulos reported his wife’s disappearance but cracked under cross-examination with his sons, aged 18 and 20. Maria Kessopoulou was found in a Lofi stable yesterday. The victim’s identity is unknown.