Category: Greece

Reference Library – European Union – Greece

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Digger driver at centre of Ben Needham police probe was successful businessman who ‘knew everyone on the island’

The digger driver suspected of killing Ben Needham [1] was a wealthy businessman protected by a code of silence for 25 years, it is feared. Konstantinos Dino Barkas had a network of contacts all over Kos, the Mirror can reveal. Dino, who died of cirrhosis last year aged 62, was initially quizzed about Ben s disappearance and told police [2] he would chop his arms off so he could never drive again if he had killed 21-month-old Ben. But it is now feared these were hollow words and that he was able to hide a dark secret because he was so well connected on the Greek island where the toddler went missing in 1991. Read More John Alevroyiannis/Daily Mirror Digger driver Kostantinos Barkas A close friend of the Barkas family, who asked not to be identified, said: Everyone on Kos and I mean everyone knew Dino. The owner of a cafe in nearby Kos Town said: He was a very well-known figure in the business community. “He was a very successful businessman involved in the building of many hotels on the island. Despite owning the company he was a very hard worker and didn t mind getting his hands dirty. But he also loved his drink [3] and was a well-known womaniser. Read More Ben Needham has been missing for 25 years Ben s mum Kerry Needham said it would make sense if Dino had people protecting him. Kerry, from Sheffield, said: I thought he was just a poor digger driver, I had no idea he was so connected. “I m now starting to worry there has been a conspiracy of silence around him all these years. I think he was being protected which stopped people coming forward in 25 years. “But now I would appeal to them, to think of my family and the pain we suffered. John Alevroyiannis/Daily Mirror Kostantinos Barkas knew everyone on the island Please, stop being scared and help us find out exactly what happened to my son. Please come forward. Dino was widely known to be a heavy drinker, raising questions over whether he may have been drunk while operating heavy machinery. Despite his wealth Dino spent many days in the cab of his huge digger. He was clearing access for a delivery of concrete on the day Ben went missing, on a building site just 100 yards from the farmhouse where the toddler was playing in the village of Iraklis. When quizzed by the Daily Mirror in 2012 he said: Yes, I was the man with the JCB that day. John Alevroyiannis/Daily Mirror His son Valandis Barkas Loads of earth were being taken to clear the ground for the new house down the road. I think people were misled in thinking the child was abducted. Could there have been an accident? “I don t think so, but no one really knows what happened. But Dino later insisted to his close family that Ben had been abducted. It has been claimed Ben could have been killed in an accident but his body then removed from the scene and buried elsewhere. British police have been looking into the timetable of events leading up to Ben s disappearance. John Alevroyiannis/Daily Mirror Kostantinos Barkas’ grave After Dino s death last year a new witness told police there were two areas of land where building waste had been dumped by Dino which had never been searched. South Yorkshire Police [4] are now due to dig on Kos for a second time. The force confirmed officers will be travelling to Kos this month to work with Greek authorities and start digs at two new sites. Det Supt Matt Fenwick, leading the investigation, said: There will be planned operational activity at two locations on the island that have been identified as areas of interest to the investigation. “We continue to keep an open mind and have updated Ben s family about certain lines of enquiry we re currently exploring. North Downs Picture Agency Konstantinos Barkas A dedicated policing team continues to work extremely hard to find answers for his family and keep them fully informed and supported throughout the investigation. Kerry understands there is a statute of limitations of 20 years in Greek law, and does not believe there will ever be a prosecution for Ben s disappearance or death. Many islanders have reportedly long believed an accident involving construction machinery was the most credible explanation for Ben s disappearance. Shopkeeper Xanthippi Aggrelli, 63, was at school with Dino and got to know the Needhams when she volunteered as their translator in 1991. She told the Mirror: When it happened people were saying that something terrible has happened to the baby boy; some said the truck smashed into him. Daily Mirror Ben Needham vanished in 1991 There was a big Caterpillar truck and a digger. It was the baby s curiosity; he was going there to see. “We heard from many people that it was an accident. It was thought the body was hidden and that is why Ben has never been found. But Dino s family defended him. Son Valandis Barkas, 29, said: My dad lived his life with this hanging over him and I cannot believe they are still hounding him even after his death. “He had nothing to do with Ben s disappearance. Towards the end he was a very ill man, and he was very concerned and worried about everything to do with Ben coming back. It upset him a lot. Andy Stenning/Daily Mirror Kerry Needham and her mother Christine My mother is very, very tired. She lost her husband and now she has to go through all this. “When the British police came here he went up there to the site to help them. “He told them they could look as much as they want but they would not find the little boy there. As far as I know the boy was abducted. That s what my dad always said and that s what our family still believe today. “My father was a very good, honest man. My dad always told the police and prosecutors that there wasn t an accident. Adam Gerrard/Daily Mirror Kerry Needham has been left devastated by the latest development He said the boy was taken away and almost certainly taken to Athens. He added: I hope that Ben is still alive. As a father myself I cannot imagine what his mother is going through. He said his father died from cirrhosis of the liver after suffering from intestinal problems for some time. Dino s brother Ioannis branded the renewed investigation disgusting . He said: My brother is dead he cannot defend himself. Why don t they let his soul rest in peace. I don t understand why they are still chasing Dino. Are they going to take a dead man in to court? Ben Needham References ^ Ben Needham (www.mirror.co.uk) ^ police (www.mirror.co.uk) ^ drink (www.mirror.co.uk) ^ South Yorkshire Police (www.mirror.co.uk)

London Road turns a community’s response to murder into a brilliant … 0

London Road turns a community’s response to murder into a brilliant …

Late in 2006, a truck driver named Steve Wright was arrested in Ipswich, a river town in Suffolk, England, for the murders of five prostitutes who had offered themselves to men along the town’s London Road, near a newly built sports stadium. The usual media circus ensued, sullying the town’s reputation, before Wright was convicted on all counts in February 2008 and sentenced to life in prison. In the weeks leading up to his trial and afterward, experimental playwright Alecky Blythe interviewed the killer’s immediate neighbors, the reporters covering the case, and even a few sex workers, returning to London with more than 100 hours of recordings. She might easily have turned this material into a radio documentary, but instead, collaborating with composer Adam Cork and director Rufus Norris of Britain’s National Theatre, Blythe turned it into a stage musical, London Road , which premiered in 2011 to great acclaim and has since been adapted to the screen. On paper London Road sounds like Springtime for Hitler how could a series of such recent and ugly crimes be set to music and produce anything but distaste? Yet onscreen London Road is a commanding, at times hypnotic experience. Every word spoken or sung is drawn verbatim from Blythe’s interview transcriptions, and Cork has structured his quirky melodies around the rhythms of people’s speech, preserving every pause and interjection. The austere classical music, stirring when even a single character is singing, is positively arresting when the characters join together in a Greek chorus, a single person’s remark becoming a catchphrase and then a common sentiment. These choral sequences feed into Blythe’s story of a community learning to speak for itself again, though in the end the neighborhood defines itself partly through the people it rejects. The first ten minutes alone show how masterfully the filmmakers have merged reporting and musical theater. A montage sequence links all the neighbors, the camera panning around each of their living rooms as they watch news reports on TV. Tense strings accompany the broadcasters, and as they recount the chilling details of the unsolved case, their professional cadences rise into melody. The neighbors begin to comment in spoken dialogue, sharing unpleasant memories of how the streetwalkers ruined their block. “I’ve got a 14-year-old girl!” exclaims Julie (Olivia Colman). “I don’t want girls, um, doing what they did in the streets. And they weren’t just getting in people’s cars. They were doing it in the alleyways and everything else.” Gordon (Duncan Wisbey) has nothing but vitriol for the women: “They were foulmouthed slags really, stab you as quick as anything else, wouldn’t they.” Sitting on their couches and speaking to the camera, the neighbors seem pinched and provincial, workaday people defending their modest middle-class lives. Even as these pitiless sentiments are being expressed, Norris cuts to the streets of Ipswich, where Julie, walking to the local Christmas market, introduces a descending, minor-key melody that will spread from person to person: “Everyone is very, very nervous / Um / And very unsure of everything.” In the market square a spinning Santa Claus statue croons “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and a local radio station is handing out plastic handheld sirens as a promotional gimmick. Sung remarks from other townspeople snake in and out of the main theme: “I think it’s, um, put Ipswich on the map for the wrong reasons, unfortunately,” sings one merchant. Shoppers take sidelong glances at each other, wondering if the killer might be walking among them, and fall into choreographed lines. As the number builds to a climax, Julie’s words unite the shoppers, who chant the word very over and over again before dropping to their knees on nervous . After Steven Wright is apprehended, Norris develops this powerful use of chorus into something even more complex, showing how the neighbors resent the media intrusion but also hang on coverage of the case. Julie, Gordon, and Gordon’s wife react coldly when they emerge from their homes en route to a community meeting and find TV newsman Simon Newton (Michael Shaeffer) preparing to tape a report outside Wright’s house (the front window has been boarded up, and kids have drawn a little demon cartoon on the wood plank). Over a spooky dub beat, Newton struggles to recite his lines, stumbling again and again on a long sentence involving DNA science and semen (a word he isn’t allowed to use on the air until ten o’clock). Meanwhile, at the community center, the neighbors agree that Wright is the culprit but fear he’ll go free for lack of any physical evidence. Suddenly Newton’s report comes on TV; they all gather to hear him deliver his piece perfectly, then repeat it in chorus. Blythe grew to sympathize with her subjects during the course of her research, and despite the grim subject matter, London Road ends on an upbeat note after Julie and her graying, rotund neighbor Ron (Nick Holder) call a meeting to help the neighborhood get back on its feet. Spring is coming, and they decide to have a block party with a gardening contest for best flower basket. Later in the movie Norris shows them all coming outside to clean up their yards and plant new flowers and greenery. This time Julie introduces a major-key melody, giving a tour of her fenced-in yard and showing off her flowers; the other neighbors chime in with inventories of theirs. They paint the road’s drab cement walls with cheery colors. In the final sequence everyone gets together for the block party, a long line of tables with white plastic tablecloths running up the street. Neighbors dance to Gordon’s three-piece rock band, and London Road is bathed in sunlight. But not everyone is welcome. Vicky (Kate Fleetwood), one of the hookers vilified by the neighbors in the opening sequence, threads her way uneasily through the party, trailing a balloon behind her and collecting salacious glances from the guys in Gordon’s band before finally retreating to a scaffolding some distance away. Blythe never individualizes the streetwalkers as vividly as she does the neighbors, but in the movie’s last third these women begin to emerge from the shadows in one scene Vicky and two other women huddle on the scaffolding above the community center and harmonize about their dreams of getting clean. Now that the crisis is over, some of the neighbors express more sympathy for the victims, but some are shockingly cold. “I feel sorry for the families, but not them,” says Julia. “They’re better off ten foot under.” The community has bounced back, but only by driving the less fortunate a little farther up the road. ‘v

Despite hit-and-run, arrest in Berkeley, Uber driver still finds time to … 0

Despite hit-and-run, arrest in Berkeley, Uber driver still finds time to …

Image: Google Maps A 27-year-old Hayward man dropping off an Uber fare in Berkeley flew into a fit of rage when he found his route blocked, then drove into a community service officer repeatedly Saturday night before fleeing police and ultimately being arrested, according to rider and police accounts. The rider, a UC Berkeley student, and her friend had to jump out of the moving car after he told us not to get out, she wrote when she contacted Uber on Sunday. She was charged $7 for the 4-minute ride. According to Uber, the driver would have had to manually end the trip for the fee to have been charged. The fare has since been refunded. University of California Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Sabrina Reich said Tuesday that a driver for a ride-sharing service struck a UCPD community service officer shortly before 10:10 p.m. Saturday. Reich confirmed the driver, M. Bilal, fled the scene but was found nearby and identified as the driver. He was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, the vehicle. Reich said the officer ultimately reported no injuries. The rider, a UC Berkeley junior, said the driver was seemingly nice at first, until he found the road blocked at Rim Way and Centennial Drive, near the Greek Theatre where a large concert was taking place. When the officer tried to stop the driver from getting through, the situation escalated. He proceeded to swear at the security guard on the road and eventually accelerated into the man hitting him repeatedly with the car with my friend and I still inside, she wrote to Uber on Sunday. (The email exchange was later shared with Berkeleyside.) The young woman asked for the $7 charge for the ride to be refunded, as per the email exchange. She also requested a phone call from Uber and noted concerns for her safety in case the driver had access to her personal information. She received a formulaic email response from a customer service rep identified as Sonali Dhan. Dhan said the fare would be refunded but did not address any of the other concerns, according to the emails. The student then reached out to her mother, who got in touch with Berkeleyside. This is just nuts, she wrote. Do you mind taking a moment to read what is happening with Uber in Berkeley? Tracey Breeden, an Uber spokesperson, confirmed Uber had received feedback Sunday about an incident very similar to what was provided to her by Berkeleyside, though she said she could not confirm the driver s name due to privacy rules. Breeden said the driver had been suspended pending further investigation, and that his access to the Uber platform had been removed. We look into all allegations when we receive feedback like that, Breeden said. Breeden said Uber tried to contact the rider by phone and email but, as of Tuesday afternoon, had not been able to reach her. The driver, she said, will remain suspended from the app until he is able to provide evidence or information, such as court documents, showing that there was no charge or conviction. Breeden said Uber has its own team that investigates any incident that involves police, and that Uber takes security and safety very seriously [1] . She said Uber s incident-response team is on duty 24-7 to handle reports from riders and drivers alike. If Uber receives feedback indicating a driver has been arrested or was driving dangerously, the service immediately and automatically suspends that driver until an investigation can be done, she added. If the investigation finds those allegations to have been true, a driver can be suspended from the app for life, Breeden said. The woman s mother told Berkeleyside, ultimately, she is just grateful her daughter is safe. The driver was found and arrested and my daughter and her friend were advised to avoid Uber, by the police, as they do not conduct background checks, she told Berkeleyside. He suggested they use Lyft , in the future, as they do [conduct those checks]. Bilal is no longer in custody and no further information was immediately available about his case. Have a question about a local public safety incident? Write to [email protected] . Photographs and videos are always appreciated. [2] Berkeleyside provides exclusive coverage of many Berkeley crimes [3] . We welcome community tips about public safety issues and other newsworthy issues via email [4] , Twitter [5] or Facebook [6] . Please alert us in advance if your tip is anonymous. [Clarification: The UCPD employee who was struck was a community service officer, as noted in the story. A reference to a campus security officer in the opening paragraph an attempt to use a more general term for this position that might make more sense to the public has been changed to the official designation to avoid confusion with a different UCPD position identified as security patrol officer. ] References ^ takes security and safety very seriously (www.berkeleyside.com) ^ [email protected] (www.berkeleyside.com) ^ Berkeley crimes (www.berkeleyside.com) ^ email (www.berkeleyside.com) ^ Twitter (twitter.com) ^ Facebook (www.facebook.com)