“Marcelino”, a 17-year-old gypsy boy from Agia Varvara, tragically opened the “curtain” of kidnappings in Greece in 1990
“Marcelino”, a 17-year-old gypsy boy from Agia Varvara, tragically opened the “curtain” of kidnappings in Greece in 1990. His father, 47-year-old Giorgos Tsatsanis, a well-known merchant in the town, anxiously entered the local Police Department and informed that Giannis had to give signs of life since the previous day, March 18, 1990, when he left in his car, a “Volskwagen Golf” with registration number YOE-3809.
Within a few hours the proverbial gypsy solidarity brought dozens of his homosexuals to the streets, looking for “Marcelino”, as they called him, because of his weakness for the Brazilian footballer and his talent on the ball. The searches, however, were fruitless. Until, the next day, the phone calls started at the home of the wealthy merchant, on Pyrgou Street.
The kidnappers, one of whom tried to pass himself off as “Italian”, demanded 150 million drachmas for his release. His father, who could immediately give the kidnappers 30 million drachmas, had the undivided support of relatives and friends, who in one night collected another amount of money!
“Marcelino’s” car was spotted on April 4, parked and locked in a small alley, on Sardeon Street in Nice. The kidnappers called the Tsatsani family again, reducing their demands to 50 million drachmas. In fact, they continued to demand the money, after they had already killed their victim! The first appointment for the delivery of the ransom was made on April 29 at the “Floka” pastry shop on Kifisias Avenue. The Police organized a huge operation, but the perpetrators did not appear.
On June 19, 1990, the body of the 17-year-old gypsy boy was found in advanced decomposition, in the cattle ranch of Christos Agathi, in Skourta, Boeotia. As the medical examiner Filippos Koutsautis found, one hand had been cut off, probably by the wild dogs of the area, while a handcuff with a broken chain had been placed on the other. There were blood stains on his jacket and a lighter in his pocket. The head of the unfortunate gypsy bird was found 50 meters away!
The tragic parents of “Marcelino” did not find the strength to attend their child’s funeral at the 3rd Cemetery. At the same time, the investigations were in full swing at the Security. And it was the testimony of a resident of the area where the body of “Marcelino” was found, who put the water in the ditch and led to the traces of the perpetrators. He talked about a suspicious car, with a license plate whose grammatical part was BN. Three days later the police arrested five of the nine kidnappers. One of them was going in and out of “Marcelino’s” house and getting pocket money from his father to help with the investigations, another had carried the coffin of the young gypsy boy and a third was eating with his family on the day of the funeral!
The kidnapping and brutal murder of “Marcelino”
According to the case file, the idea belonged to Kostas Spinaris, a trusted person of the Tsatsanis family. Together with Dimitris Agapito, a friend and teammate of “Marcelino” in the Lightning of Agia Varvara, they told him that they had found out who had stolen his car radio a week earlier. They had, of course, stolen it themselves as part of their plan!
They took him to Schistos, to the deserted area of ”Pyroboleia”, where the 19-year-old cattle breeder Dimitris Skaftouros, the 20-year-old deserter of the Navy Stamatis Grypaios and the 22-year-old auto repairer Yiannis Lazarou were already waiting. All three appeared armed with carbines and pistols and began firing into the air. Then Spinaris and Agapitos put their car in front, allegedly leaving the frightened “Marcelino” at the mercy of the three kidnappers.
The perpetrators handcuffed and hooded the gypsy bird and took him to one apartment at 240 Rimini Street in Haidari, where 24-year-old Yannis Petrakis – who did not know about the kidnapping – and his 23-year-old girlfriend Theofania Mesmerlis lived. Grypaios and Lazarou took care of him, while Skaftouros, whose father owned a tavern in Schistos, a few hundred meters from the place where the kidnapping took place, took care of the food. Grypaios also made contacts with his father from various phone booths, pretending to be Italian. In fact, the kidnappers had recorded the voice of “Marcelino” sending messages to his father to make them more convincing. The 17-year-old’s mistake was that he recognized the voices of his friends and teammates in Keravnos, Spinaris and Agapitos – or so they thought! – and the gang decided to get him out of the way, to shut him up once and for all…
After holding him for four days in Haidario’s apartment, without removing his handcuffs and hood for a moment, late in the evening of March 22 they put him in the car of Giannis Avramidis, a friend of Spinaris, and drove him to Skurta, where he was waiting for them with a truck he had taken from the body shop where he worked. With this truck, Grypaios, Spinaris, Agapitos and Skaftouros transported him to the corral of Christos Agathis, Skaftouros’ uncle, eight kilometers from Skurta, where they had already opened a makeshift pit, in order to eliminate him. There, Grypaios, without any hesitation, shot the 17-year-old twice with a revolver that Skaftouros had with him. One to the heart and, when she fell to her knees, the gratuitous shot to the neck.
In the following days, it was revealed that 20-year-old Vassilis Vassiliou also played a role in the kidnapping – or “Gino“, as he was known in Agia Varvara. His father-in-law was a cousin of “Marcelino”! The police said that he pitched the idea of the kidnapping to Agapito and Spinaris and bought the tape recorder to record the voice of the unfortunate gypsy. He denied any involvement in the kidnapping, as did all the defendants, claiming that they were blackmailing him that they would kill his child, only ten months old, if he did not give them information about the movements of his father “Marcelino”.
The police were guarding the houses of those involved in the kidnapping, which were a few tens of meters away from that of the Tsatsanis family, but they did not have time to save Kostas Spinaris from the wrath of some relatives and friends of “Marcelino”, who shot him and seriously injured him inside the Security patrol car, at the time of his arrest in Haidari!
In December 1991, the kidnappers were sentenced by the Joint Jury Court of Athens to very heavy sentences and sent to prison, except for Theofania Mesmerlis, whose sentence, for concealing a crime, was redeemable. Grypaios and Spinaris were sentenced to death, the first as the physical and the second as the moral author of the murder. Agapitos in prison for life and an additional 17 years and the other four in prison for 10 – 15.5 years.
After four postponements, the appellate court took place in January 1999. Only Agapitos and Petrakis sat on the bench, as Grypaios’ appeal was dismissed as inadmissible, while Spinaris did not even appeal, out of fear as he claimed. The Mixed Jury Court of Appeal sentenced Agapito to life and an additional 17 years in prison and Petrakis to 10 years in prison for simple complicity in the robbery of “Marcelino”.
It took the presence of a strong police force for them to leave the courtroom without being attacked and lynched by their victim’s relatives, as was done at the start of the proceedings.
Spinaris escaped on regular leave from Nea Alikarnassos prisons in November 2005 and was arrested four months later on a boat off the Turkish coast opposite Rhodes, in which more than 40 kilograms of heroin were found. In June 2015 it was published in Greece. It took a full 18 years to locate Dimitris Skaftouros. He was arrested in New Jersey, United States, at the end of May 2008.
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