Father who threw son from hotel balcony is freed by Greek court

John Hogan now 'well enough' to return to Britain for treatment
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The Independent Online

John Hogan, the British father who killed his six-year-old son by throwing him off the balcony of a hotel in Crete, is set to return to the UK after being dramatically freed by a court in Greece.

In August 2006, the 35-year-old threw his son Liam from the fourth floor of the family's holiday flat after having an argument with his wife, before jumping after him with his daughter Mia, two, in his arms. Hogan and his daughter survived, but Liam was killed.

He was cleared of murder in January last year, after a Greek court ruled that his mental state meant he was "incapable" of such an act. At the trial, Hogan said he had been in the grip of an "earthquake of psychosis" and would not have endangered his children under any other circumstances. He was sentenced to a minimum of three years' detention in a psychiatric hospital.

Witnesses at the Athens court, which was closed to journalists, said Hogan "jumped up with joy, tears in his eyes, and embraced his mother and sister" when the verdict was read out. He was then driven back to the hospital where he has spent the past 18 months.

The family of his ex-wife, Natasha, who has remarried and moved to Australia, described the prospect of Hogan's return to the UK as "horrendous". Brian Chandler, Natasha's stepfather, said he was concerned about her mental state and that of her daughter, now four, who was seriously hurt in the fall.

He said in a statement: "The prospect of John Hogan returning after just 16 months of a recommended minimum (by a very lenient Greek court) of three years' detention in a psychiatric unit is simply horrendous. He will, if current press is correct, return, having pushed two children off a fourth-floor balcony, as a completely free man. As he has no conviction of any kind against him, he will therefore be free to travel the world, if he chooses, in search of Mia, the daughter he tried to kill."

Athanasios Kosmopoulos, the director of Athens Psychiatric Hospital, where Hogan has been treated, said the three-member court had unanimously agreed he was well enough to fly back to the UK. "We expect that Hogan might fly home as early as next week. It is just a question of bureaucratic procedures between the court and the British embassy. Meanwhile, although he is now a totally free man, he has chosen to stay in the hospital until the procedures for his flight are completed."

According to Mr Kosmopoulos, evidence provided by Hogan's personal psychiatrist, Dr Alexander Haidemenos, was crucial in helping the court reach its verdict. Dr Haidemenos said his patient would make "an even better recovery if he finds himself back in his home country, amidst familiar surroundings and with people that care for him".

Hogan has been supported by his sister, Christine O'Connor, who brought the High Court action on his behalf. If Liam's death is ruled to be an accident at the new inquest, he may be able to win partial custody of his daughter.

The Hogans had been on holiday in Crete in a "make-or-break" attempt to rekindle their marriage when the pair argued. Hogan's then-wife told him she intended to leave him and take their children with her. She began packing, with her back to the balcony. When she turned she realised Hogan and their children had disappeared over the edge.