Greek tragedy: A young boy dead, a girl injured, and a father facing a murder charge

It was to be the holiday for a family to solve their problems. But it ended with a young boy dead, a girl injured, and a father facing a murder charge. What went wrong?
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The curtains are neatly closed at the Hogans' modest terrace house in Stoke Bradley, Bristol. Everything appears to be the way the family left it when they went on holiday just over a week ago. Only a bunch of white roses on the doorstep stands testament to the fact that their son, Liam, will never return.

The six-year-old died after his father, John, reportedly threw him off a 50ft hotel balcony in Crete and then jumped with his two-year-old daughter, Mia.

Mr Hogan now faces a murder charge and is under armed guard in hospital where he has told doctors that he wants to die. His wife, Natasha, 34, is looking after Mia who suffered a broken arm.

The family have said they have yet to get a detailed account from Mr Hogan of exactly what motivated his death plunge, although Greek police believe he had been on a drinking binge after rowing with his wife.

The Hogans booked in for two weeks of sun and fun at the Petra Mare, a four-star hotel overlooking the beach in Lerapetra, Crete, which had everything that a young family could wish for. Not only was the sea within easy reach, but there was also a water park for Liam with slides, a swimming pool and a lazy river.

While his sister, Mia, would have been too young to join him, there was always the beach to keep the toddler amused. Her mother, a deputy sister in a hospital A&E department, could have found respite from the strains of working for the NHS by relaxing on one of the sun loungers. And her husband, John, 32, could have forgotten the pressures of running a tiling business from home while windsurfing or unwinding in the hotel's sauna.

But last Tuesday night John Hogan wasn't interested in what the resort had to offer. Instead he jumped from the hotel's fourth-floor balcony taking Liam and Mia with him.

Whatever the husband and father's reason for jumping, it was nothing compared with the agony he faced when he regained consciousness. Liam was dead. Mia, who is believed to have broken her arm when she landed on the bodies of her brother and father, was in hospital.

When the he heard the news, the horrified man, who had suffered a broken arm, leg and chest injuries, said: "I want to die, I want to die."

A distraught Mrs Hogan, who has since returned to the UK with Mia, released a statement which said: "All the family were looking forward to this holiday. It was to be an opportunity for us to enjoy quality time together in an environment away from the general strains of daily life. We are grateful for and look forward to the continued support of both families. This is clearly a developing situation which is expected to become clearer over the coming days.

"We have not had the opportunity to discuss in detail with John exactly what happened. He has undergone surgery and remains in hospital. Arrangements are in place to bring Liam back to the UK."

So what did make Mr Hogan leap 50 feet to a likely death, taking his children with him?

The businessman told Greek police that he remembered nothing because he was "steaming drunk", having consumed alcohol while taking antidepressants.

According to neighbours, the couple had been rowing before they went on holiday. One said: "About three weeks ago I heard the most dreadful argument. Natasha was outside and John was at the upstairs window throwing things at her ... It must have woken the entire street. He was shouting every obscenity at her and she was crying."

The couple argued again in Crete. Mr Hogan is reported to have had a fierce row with his wife after she had told him she wanted a divorce when they got home. One holidaymaker allegedly heard Mr Hogan screaming at her: "I'll take them before you do."

Things had deteriorated so badly that Mr Hogan wanted to return home with his family. They were packing their bags when the argument flared again. Mrs Hogan had gone down to the reception when she heard hotel guests screaming.

Not only did Mr Hogan apparently have the weight of his marriage breaking up to bear, but it is also thought that his brother had committed suicide.

Dr Tim Kendall, a consultant psychiatrist and deputy director of the Royal College of Psychiatry's research unit, said it was probable that Mr Hogan was depressed. "In terms of why someone would try to kill themselves and their children, they must have been outstandingly desperate. Depression is present in a large number of completed suicides."

If Mr Hogan was on antidepressants, they were likely to have been SSRIs, which are the most commonly prescribed. "There is some evidence that SSRIs are effective, but they're not fantastic," said Dr Kendall. "In younger people, about one in 10 feel very anxious and wound-up when they start taking them, and it can increase the risk that they attempt to self-harm.

"When people kill their children they have usually come to believe that they are protecting them from evil or some other problem."

If indeed Mr Hogan's brother had committed suicide, it could have made him more predisposed to an attempt himself. "If you have suicide in the family it harms people for ever," said Dr Kendall. "People blame themselves even when it is nothing to do with them."

Dr Marcus Roberts, head of policy at Mind, the mental health charity, said: "The reasons why a person becomes suicidal are a complicated mix of personal and social factors, such as a run of bad luck, a personal crisis that causes despair, or continuous pressures that wear down someone's self-esteem. There may be a last straw - an incident or problem just before a suicide attempt - but this is often not the real cause."

Meanwhile, shocked neighbours in Bradley Stoke, where the Hogans had lived for seven years, were trying to come to terms with what had happened to the "normal" family. Beth Xu, who lives two doors away, said: "It's so strange - they seemed such a loving family. For this to have happened is just awful, really terrible."

As another bouquet was brought to the house by the family's window cleaner, Mr Hogan was under police guard at the University General Hospital in Heraklion, having undergone surgery on his femur and tibia. "He is now breathing with a face mask and is fully aware," said a hospital spokesman. The Foreign Office said that he was likely to be charged with murder and attempted murder once he had sufficiently recovered.