Dinner, chat with Greece’s most wanted

Three days after he set off a massive manhunt in the mountains near Lamia, Greece’s most wanted criminal suddenly appeared before a married couple at their remote mountain inn on Tuesday night and told them that he had to borrow their car for two days. Nikos Palaiokostas, who is on Interpol’s «most wanted» list and has a 730,000-euro (250-million-drachma) bounty on his head, chatted with the husband for about 20 minutes while the wife prepared a meal for him, before he drove off in their car, the Athens News Agency reported yesterday. The incident occurred near the village of Pavliani, on the mountain of Oeta, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south, as the crow flies, from the village of Kabotades, which, in turn, is 12 kilometers (7 miles) southwest of the central town of Lamia where Palaiokostas, 42, was spotted on Saturday. Police have been searching for him for the past 12 years for armed robbery, terrorism, kidnapping, hostage-taking and possession of weapons and ammunition. His sighting set off a chase that included special anti-terrorism squad officers, tracking dogs and a helicopter. Palaiokostas, who police say knows the region like the back of his hand, managed to evade his pursuers and slip through the cordon. He appeared suddenly before Nikos and Angeliki Avgerinos at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday. «He looked like a hunter. There was nothing striking about his appearance,» Nikos Avgerinos said yesterday. «He asked me if we could have a serious talk. When he saw that we had not recognized him, he introduced himself and asked if he could borrow our car for two days… He said he did not want to use force under any circumstances.» Avgerinos argued that he could not let him have the car as he needed it for his business. «He took 250 euros out of his pocket and left it on the table, saying: ‘Take this and use a taxi these days. I want you to understand that they are pursuing me and I need the hardware so I can get away,’» Avgerinos said. The only time Palaiokostas appeared agitated, he said, was when Angeliki Avgerinou was alone in the kitchen. «I hope she doesn’t have a mobile phone in there,» Avgerinos quoted him as saying. «I was impressed by the fact that he was well-dressed and polite,» Angeliki Avgerinou said. «He wore a cap and his jacket was buttoned up all the way. Most of the time he had his left hand in his pocket. He seemed very sure of himself, because he had his back turned to the door.» Palaiokostas and the couple argued about the grace period they would give him before calling the police. He wanted 30 minutes, they said they would phone the police in 15. Police set up a cordon but, again, they found nothing.