Fugitive wreaks havoc

The Interior Ministry has suspended six Thessaloniki police officers after a man arrested for petty theft escaped detention, hijacked three cars and shot dead a bus driver in the northern city on Saturday. The 30-year-old suspect had been in a patrol car, en route to a detention center in the suburb of Sindos, when he grabbed the unattended weapon of one of the officers in the vehicle and got out. The suspect then stopped a motorist, forced him out of his car and sped off, pursued by police. At the city limits, he abandoned the car and boarded a bus, shooting the 59-year-old driver to death. A few hundred meters down the road, the suspect abandoned the bus and hijacked one of the police patrol cars that had been chasing him. He then abandoned the patrol car, hijacked another private vehicle – after taking its owner hostage – and drove a short distance before stopping and fleeing on foot. The armed assailant was finally cornered outside a furniture store. A shootout with police ensued but there were no injuries and the 30-year-old was finally rearrested. The 30-year-old, who police describe as a drug addict with a long record of thefts, is due to face a prosecutor on Wednesday on charges of murder, attempted murder and illegal detention. He had been arrested on Saturday for stealing a wallet. The Interior Ministry said six policemen – including two officers who had been in the original patrol car and the heads of two police precincts in Thessaloniki – have been suspended for gross negligence. The two officers from the patrol car are to face court today on charges of allowing a detainee to escape through neglect. According to ministry sources, the suspect had not been handcuffed while in the patrol car and one of the officer’s weapons had been laid against the hand brake, within easy reach. The ministry said it has ordered an internal investigation to determine who exactly was to blame for what in the unfortunate series of events. Thessaloniki’s union of police officers yesterday blamed the tragic fiasco on the «well-known» problems and «weaknesses» of the Greek police, claiming that too few policemen are employed to effectively serve the northern city.