Father faces retrial after inquest rules boy was unlawfully killed

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The Independent Online

A father who pushed his six-year-old son off a hotel balcony in Greece could face a retrial in Britain after a coroner ruled the boy had been unlawfully killed.

The Crown Prosecution Service said yesterday it was examining the case of John Hogan, who was found not guilty of murder or manslaughter by a Greek court after it heard evidence he was suffering an "earthquake" of psychosis when he took his son's life.

Liam Hogan, aged six, died after plunging from the fourth floor balcony at the Petra Mare Hotel in Ierapetra, Crete, with his father and two-year-old sister, Mia, who survived with broken bones.

His mother, Natasha Visser, 35, who has remarried, appealed for justice, saying the inquest had given "refreshing clarity of what really happened that terrible night". While the Greek trial was told that Mr Hogan had thrown Liam from the balcony before jumping with Mia in his arms, the inquest in Bristol heard disturbing new evidence from holidaymakers who insisted they saw him push both children.

Mrs Visser, said: "I cannot describe the pain I feel hearing that John had pushed his children off the balcony after standing them on that balcony without the comfort of each other, walking away and then returning to push them. The image of the children looking like they were trying to reach out to each other will haunt me and my family for ever.

"This inquest is about a lovely boy ... his life has been cut short, his sister Mia has lost her loving brother and her life has been scarred by what she has endured."

Mrs Visser, who reacted with fury when Hogan, 33, was acquitted, said: "The Greek court made little attempt to establish the facts surrounding Liam's death and did not even call known witnesses. We understand the decision about what happens next legally is in the hands of the English legal and health systems. We can only trust that they will re-examine the evidence as a whole and make a decision that will protect John from himself and others."

Detective Chief Inspector Mike Courtiour, of Avon and Somerset police, said: "All the evidence this force gathered has been forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service, with the documents provided by the Greek authorities concerning the trial held in Crete."

The inquest heard from Iain and Sarah Davidson and Kerry Jackman, who had been waiting for a coach outside the hotel on the night of 15 August 2006.

The two women said they heard a horrific argument and what sounded like a "maniac" shouting from a room above. They described watching with dread as they saw the man push both children from the balcony before leaping himself. Mrs Jackman said: "I saw two little children coming off the balcony feet-first as if they had been pushed off. I shouted 'Oh my God, he's killed his kids'."

Paul Forrest, the coroner, described their evidence as an "essential ingredient". Pointing out that it was not the job of the inquest to consider Hogan's mental state but to record the facts, he declared: "The verdict will be one that Liam Hogan was unlawfully killed."

Hogan has been receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital near Athens but could be transferred to England in the near future.

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