NEWS

Tollbooth robber back behind bars

A pyromaniac former fireman serving a prison sentence for theft and immigrant-smuggling is to be charged with a series of audacious armed robberies at highway tollbooths while out on an eight-day furlough earlier this month. On Thursday, police identified Korydallos inmate Nikolaos Lelis, 37, as the robber who struck five times at the Afidnes, Schimatari and Pelasgia tollbooths between February 5 and 8, after finding his fingerprints in a stolen black BMW he used for the robberies. He had abandoned the car in a hospital parking lot near Elefsina, west of Athens. Although Lelis’s style and apparent fearlessness – at one point, he drove back to the scene of the crime 10 minutes later to return an empty coin tray to an astounded teller – earned him instant fame, his efforts netted him no more than 660,000 drachmas (1,940 euros). Lelis, who is serving 11.5 years for theft and people-smuggling, was thrown out of the fire brigade for setting fire to engines, police cars and a forest.