NEWS

Farmer admits to serial murders

Thessaloniki police reopened the cases of several unsolved disappearances in the Langadas area after a local man arrested for kidnapping his former fiancee and shooting her two brothers, confessed to the murders of three Albanian shepherds. Farmer Yiannis Baltas, 33, was arrested on Thursday following a three-day manhunt around Langadas, some 15km (9 miles) northeast of Thessaloniki, for fatally shooting Dimitris Kirkinezis, 29, injuring his brother Savvas, 31, and abducting their sister Theodora, 33, to whom he had formerly been engaged. The shotgun attack took place on Monday when Baltas ambushed the siblings as they were heading in their car to Langadas. Theodora Kirkinezi was found unharmed near the village of Lofiskos a few hours before police arrested Baltas in the same area without a fight. The woman had spent the previous three days in the woods and fields as Baltas dodged a 500-strong police force backed up by a helicopter equipped with heat-seeking cameras, and was set free to allow her abductor greater freedom of movement. On Saturday, police said Baltas confessed to organizing the Christmas 1996 murder – with the assistance of his brother Stavros, 29, and their friend Dimitrios Savelidis, 32 – of two Albanian shepherds whom he had offered to drive to Albania for the holidays in order to steal their savings. The corpses were found two months later in a road tunnel near Askos, east of Langadas. Baltas had been initially investigated in connection with the murders, but no incriminating evidence had emerged. Yesterday, officers found the remains of a third Albanian shepherd buried on Baltas’s land near Lofiskos. Police said Baltas had confessed to killing his employee Eduard Haka, 20, in 1996, following an argument about work three days after he had hired the man. Detectives are now trying to establish whether the disappearance of two Bulgarian women in the area can be linked with Baltas – who allegedly ran a migrant-trafficking ring. Officers are also looking into other disappearances of local immigrants.