Australian inquest on 1998 deaths

MELBOURNE (AFP) – Greek authorities failed to hold a basic investigation into the death of two men, one an Australian, before portraying them as lovers involved in a murder-suicide, an inquest in Melbourne heard yesterday. The bodies of George Karalis, 28, and his cousin George Loizos, 31, were found tied to a boat in the Gulf of Marathon on June 3, 1998, the Victorian Coroner’s Court heard. A summary handed to the court said the port authority declared the deaths a murder-suicide 30 minutes after the pair were brought ashore and examined by the local coroner. The coroner was told the Greek press reported the deaths were believed to have followed a dispute between homosexual lovers. Former Victorian homicide detective Stephen Curnow, who investigated the case for Karalis’s family, told the hearing the Greek coroner’s conclusions were impossible and not supported by the evidence. The Greek findings ignored ligature marks suggesting Karalis had been strangled by a third person, and incorrectly found the 5-meter-long boat would capsize with more than two people on board, Curnow said. Separate evidence revealed the boat would comfortably seat six. The dead men’s clothes were thrown out after three days without being analyzed, and the boat was towed to shore with the bodies still attached by rope before the crime scene was investigated. «We’re in an awkward position in that some of the most basic investigation processes you’d expect to take place have not taken place,» said Curnow. Karalis’s mother, Helen Karalis, said her son and Loizos were close friends who «grew like brothers» before her nephew returned to Greece as a teenager. The inquest follows years of lobbying by Karalis’s family.