Family's hunt leads to body of murdered Briton in Kiev

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The Independent Online

A British engineer has been found murdered in a flat in the Ukrainian capital after being traced by a detective hired by his family and friends.

The body of Kieran Downes, 42, who ran his own plumbing business, was found with his hands tied behind his back in an apartment in Kiev. Mr Downes travelled to the former Soviet republic to buy and develop a property more than a year ago and friends and family became concerned for his safety after he stopped telephoning.

After local police allegedly refused to look for him, a private detective was hired and initially travelled to Russia in November. After nearly six weeks of painstaking work, the detective located a flat where Mr Downes sometimes stayed in Kiev.

Police were summoned and the body of Mr Downes, a black belt in judo, who had travelled extensively in America, Russia and Spain, was found on 18 December. The circumstances of his death remain unclear.

Mr Downes, who came from Ealing in west London, was divored a few years ago from his wife, with whom he had three children. The children live with their mother in Bournemouth.

Mr Downes's body has been returned to Salisbury, Wiltshire, where he was identified by dental records. Detectives from Wiltshire Police are liaising with Russian and Ukrainian authorities on the murder investigation.

In a statement, his parents, George and Mary Downes from Salisbury, said: "His death has come as a great shock to us, his two brothers and other members of our family. We will always remember his love of life and sport, and he was well thought of by so many people. The circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear and we are waiting to see if the Ukrainian authorities can shed any light on it. Meanwhile we are trying to come to terms with our loss." An inquest has been opened and adjourned.

Organised criminals have become very active in the Ukraine in recent years and Kiev has become a centre for smuggling of all types, from drugs and illegal guns to the trafficking of women for Europe's sex trade.

Thousands of women leave the country each year to look for a better life, enticed by promises of security and a fresh start in the European Union or the Middle East. Traffickers smuggle them into the EU, where they are sold, their papers are taken away and they become vulnerable to coercion.

The sale of illegal arms is also big business in the former Soviet republic. In 2001, a Russian man was arrested in Italy after he had flown an Antonov 124 into Kiev and loaded it with 113 tons of rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition. The consignment was bound for Ivory Coast in west Africa.