Five hunters found slain in the woods

Five men who were hunting in the woods in central Greece were shot dead, police said yesterday, as they launched an investigation to track down the killers in what appears to be one of the country’s biggest murder cases. Officers said that the bodies of the victims were found on Saturday evening in the area of Kalyvia near the town of Agrinion, some 280 kilometers northwest of Athens. The five men – two brothers and three cousins aged between 17 and 33 from the village of Lefka – had all been shot at least twice, police said. Officers said that it was an «unprecedented» case. Authorities were alerted to the case after the father of the youngest victim, 17-year-old Alexis Nikolopoulos, said his son had called him from his mobile phone but the connection was cut off before the two could speak. The teenager’s father went to the area where the men had been hunting and found their bodies. The other victims were named as Christos and Vassilis Nikolopoulos, aged 21 and 23 respectively, Lambros Antressas, 33, and Ilias Pipas, also 33. Speaking at a press conference yesterday, the regional chief of police in southern Greece, Vassilis Tsiatouras, said that no motive for the «heinous crime» was immediately apparent and police were investigating a number of possible scenarios. «This was an unprecedented criminal act. I have never experienced anything like this,» Tsiatouras said as he vowed to bring the culprits to justice. Tsiatouras said that all five victims had been shot both from a distance and up close. He said their bodies were found within a stretch of 70 to 100 meters. Officers think that Alexis Nikolopoulos may have tried to escape and call his father as his body was a little further away from the others and he did not have his shotgun on him. It was found near one of his cousins. Police believe that it is unlikely that one person killed all five victims. Tsiatouras said that the killers were most probably lying in wait for the hunters and after shooting them at least once, they moved in to shoot them at close range. «All the victims were shot at close range by the culprit or culprits whose intention was to kill,» said Tsiatouras. Empty shells from a hunting rifle have been found at the scene, which was still being searched by forensic experts last night.

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