Did TV star Elena Skordelli murder the man who sacked her?

With its hit-men, sibling loyalty and business rivalry, the court case that opens in Cyprus tomorrow is worthy of any soap opera

Sigma TV, the second-most-watched channel in Cyprus, is known for its lurid soap operas and equally lurid approach to the news. In a plot-line to fulfil the channel's wildest fictional, and non-fictional, dreams, a glamorous blonde television presenter is due to go on trial in Cyprus tomorrow accused of plotting the murder of the boss who sacked her. Unfortunately for Sigma, the victim was the channel's own boss, the media tycoon Andis Hadjicostis, 43.

The couple accused of ordering his shooting includes one of the most celebrated people in Cyprus, Sigma's former lifestyle and news presenter Elena Skordelli, 42. The second alleged mastermind is her brother, Tassos Krasopoulos, 37.

Personal hatred and revenge for Ms Skordelli's sacking from the TV channel last year is said by the prosecution to be just one of the reasons for their alleged crime. Investigators also believe that there was a commercial motive. The brother and sister already owned 20 per cent of the shares of Sigma's parent company, Dias. They are alleged to have tried to buy up a majority of the company in the days after Mr Hadjicostis was gunned down outside his home in Nicosia last month.

At first, the murder was thought to have been political. Through his media group, the dead man was one of the most influential opponents of the UN-sponsored talks to unite the Greek and Turkish parts of Cyprus, which have been divided since 1974. Bullet casings identified as coming from the Turkish-controlled north of the island were found near the scene of the crime.

Rumours are still swirling on the island of a hidden political dimension to the murder. Prosecutors are expected to dismiss these reports when the trial, originally due to open yesterday, starts in Nicosia tomorrow. The city's police chief, Michalis Papageorgiou, said in a television interview that he was convinced that the four people under arrest – and an alleged hit-man who fled the country – were solely responsible for the murder.

Political motives had been ruled out "beyond any reasonable doubt", he said. It remains unclear whether the "Turkish" bullets were planted to divert suspicion or were misidentified. The trial was delayed for two days yesterday so that one of the defendants – who had blown himself up with a bomb three weeks before the murder – could receive further hospital treatment.

Mr Hadjicostis was shot outside his house in the up-market Engomi district of Nicosia as he returned from work at 8.45pm on Monday 11 January. Closed-circuit TV footage, examined by police, shows two men fleeing the scene on a motorcycle. One of them was identified as Theophanis Hadjigeorgiou, 30.

Mr Hadjigeorgiou was arrested several days later. He told police that he and Andreas Gregoriou, 33, had been employed by Ms Skordelli and her brother to kill the media tycoon in exchange for money and future employment at the Sigma television station. Mr Hadjigeorgiou said that Mr Gregoriou had helped to plan the killing but was seriously injured in an apparently unconnected bomb explosion in December.

He named Gregoris Xenofontos, 29, as the replacement hit-man. Mr Xenofontos has since fled the country and is believed to be in Moldova. According to leaked copies of witness statements, Mr Hadjigeorgiou said that he met Ms Skordelli at her brother's house. He said that he and Mr Gregoriou, were offered €50,000 (£43,000) and jobs for life at Sigma. Ms Skordelli allegedly declared: "I want this man dead."

In another scene worthy of a daytime soap script, Ms Skordelli's sister was arrested after she turned up at a remand hearing held in the Nicosia hospital. She allegedly ran her finger across her throat while glaring at Mr Hadjigeorgiou and mimed to Mr Gregoriou to keep his mouth shut by sewing pretend stitches in her lips. She has been charged with threatening violence and attempting to influence witnesses.

Elena Skordelli began as daytime lifestyle presenter on the Sigma channel before working her way up – to the surprise of many colleagues – to prime-time jobs as a chat-show host and news presenter. Since she was fired last year, she has worked at another channel, Plus TV. Before her arrest, rumours circulated on Cypriot blogs and websites pointing to her as a possible culprit. She ordered her lawyer to sue anyone "responsible for all the slanderous and malicious publicity, which has been carried out at my expense". In a statement, she denied that she had any connections with the "detestable and hideous" murder of "dearest Andy". She said that she had been the victim of an "orgy of sycophantic and defamatory whisperings".

During remand hearings, Ms Skordelli, who is married with two sons, appeared wearing designer sunglasses and clutching a Louis Vuitton handbag. She looked haggard and bewildered. The prosecution told the court that "the two siblings wanted the elimination of Andis Hadjicostis because, despite paying a large amount of money and being big shareholders in the television station, she was ousted and they considered the victim culpable".

The state prosecutor, Savvas Matsa, told the press last week: "It was a revenge killing, motivated by her dismissal and interconnected with her desire to buy more shares in the company. If found guilty of murder there can be only one sentence: life imprisonment."

Television colleagues said there had been great surprise when Ms Skordelli was promoted to news jobs at Sigma. "She was so obviously out of her depth," said one journalist, "you just felt sorry for her."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
books
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
Sport
sport
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine