Cypriot fisherman guilty of infecting lover with Aids virus

Ian Burrell reports on the holiday romance that condemned a divorcee to an early death
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The Independent Online
As her 20-year marriage collapsed around her, Janette Pink's thoughts turned repeatedly to the sun-drenched Mediterranean island where she had enjoyed some of her happiest times.

Cyprus, she determined, would be the haven where she would rebuild her life to a soundtrack of bouzouki music and a backdrop of blue seas and sandy beaches which attracts thousands of British tourists each year.

Romance might have figured in this Shirley Valentine-style dream, but nothing could have prepared the 41-year-old from Basildon, Essex, for Pavlos Georgiou, a local fisherman who cruised the island's bars for female tourists.

A Cypriot court decided yesterday that Georgiou knowingly infected Mrs Pink with the Aids virus after becoming her lover, and crushed her hopes of a new life by condemning her to an early and certain death.

Barely three years after settling on the island which she had visited for family holidays, the mother-of-two was back in Essex, her weight down to five stone and her skin brown from the effects of her illness.

Yet, incensed by the callousness of a man who had shared her life for two years, she somehow summoned the strength to fly 2,000 miles to testify against him at the courthouse in Larnaca last May.

Tomorrow, Judge Antonis Liatsos, will sentence Georgiou to up to two years in prison, with a fine of up to pounds 2,000. The Cypriot was charged under an obscure island law intended to stop the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

The judge rejected as "devoid of any trace of truth", the fisherman's defence that he had told Mrs Pink that he was HIV-positive but that she was so in love with him that she insisted on having unprotected sex.

During a trial which was spread over three months, Georgiou's legal team sought to portray the British divorcee as a sexually promiscuous woman who had taken a succession of Cypriot lovers.

But as she steadfastly gave evidence during three days of intense questioning over her private life, Mrs Pink insisted that Georgiou had been her only sexual partner since her divorce from a City accountant in 1993.

She told the court that she had been introduced to him by mutual friends during a night out in a local bar. It was only after their friendship had developed over seven months that they became lovers, she said.

"It didn't even occur to me to use a condom," she told the court. "We had both been in marriages of 20 years, with children. We were not young people."

But unbeknown to Mrs Pink, the Cypriot's marriage had already been destroyed by Aids, and his wife, Martha, was in hospital in London dying from the virus. His youngest son, now aged four, is also HIV-positive.

The fisherman told her that his wife had leukaemia and denied that he was HIV-positive despite a report in a local newspaper that his wife had Aids.

Mrs Pink was later told the truth by relatives of Georgiou's wife but could not bring herself to leave her lover. "We got on well together," she said. "I loved him. It made sense that we were both infected with the same virus. It made sense to stay together and not leave him."

Ms Pink had an Aids test which proved positive, and when the disease turned full-blown her condition deteriorated rapidly. She returned home to England.

Before the trial, she was adamant that she was not motivated in giving evidence by the desire for revenge but by the need to stop him infecting others. Judge Liatsos said that while he was convinced of the sincerity of Mrs Pink's testimony, the defence was "riddled with contradiction".

He concluded: "The law states a person must take the necessary measures to protect another person from a deadly infectious disease. Georgiou negligently laid open another person to the infection."

Yesterday, as she was told the verdict at home in Basildon, Mrs Pink, now 45, said: "I am relieved and pleased with the verdict. I am glad that at long last this is all over. I now want to get as well as possible, enjoy my family and get on with my life."

As the verdict was returned, Georgiou, 40, slouched over the dock.

Georgiou's lawyer, Tassos Economou, appealed for clemency. "In view of his medical condition and the fact he needs treatment and has small children and is father and mother to them, we believe that if the court is thinking about passing a prison sentence, it should be a suspended one, so he can look after his family," he said.

But the fisherman himself, seemed less concerned. "I know I am going to die soon," he said. "What could scare me any more than that?"