NEWS

Body of ex-Cyprus president stolen

Police in Nicosia yesterday detained three suspects for questioning over the theft from a cemetery of the remains of Tassos Papadopoulos, the late president of Cyprus, a day before the memorial service to mark one year since his death. A former bodyguard of the president found the grave open and the casket empty when he went to light a candle early in the morning. According to police, the tomb raid must have involved three or four people, as a slab of marble weighing some 250 kilos had been removed to gain access to the casket. Police said that the perpetrators had poured asbestos around the grave to cover their tracks. Officers added that a light gray substance had been sprinkled over the tombstone, obscuring the late president’s name and date of birth. Police, who detained three suspects and were seeking another two, could not suggest a possible motive for the bizarre theft. Responding to the news later yesterday, current Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias spoke of «a despicable crime that causes shock and aversion.» «This truly is an act of barbarism that shames our culture,» Christofias told reporters in Brussels, where he was attending a European Union summit. He appealed to Cypriots to «remain calm in the light of this provocation.» Relatives of the late president said that the memorial ceremony would take place as scheduled today in Nicosia, exactly one year after Papadopoulos’s death at the age of 74 from lung cancer. «This unholy act by robbers has caused sadness and anger but cannot wipe out or bury the legacy of Tassos Papadopoulos,» a statement from the family said. Papadopoulos was president of Cyprus from 2003 until March 2008 when he was replaced in presidential elections by Christofias. His body had not been recovered by late last night.