Son's release deepens mystery of British couple killed in Crete

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The Independent Online

Police have widened the search for the killers of Jo and Terry Johnson, stabbed and strangled to death last weekend, after judicial authorities unexpectedly freed their son, Ryan, who had been the crime's prime suspect, yesterday.

The 32-year-old was released on bail after an investigating magistrate deemed the evidence against him was insufficient to merit his further detention. Less than 48 hours earlier, a public prosecutor had charged the Briton with plotting his parents' death. His version of events had been riddled with contradictions, police said.

Emerging from a marathon session with the magistrates yesterday, Mr Johnson described his ordeal as a "horror tale" that had brought an awful end to his family's dream of "moving to paradise" by settling on the isle. "This has been a horrific week," he said, looking shaken. "Obviously, I am innocent and I can only pray that the real killers are caught and justice done for my mum and dad."

The couple, who had moved in to their two-storey villa in the seaside resort of Almyrida 12 days earlier, were found dead in their bedroom last Sunday. Mr Johnson, 34, a former publican from Penzance, had been bound and gagged and stabbed three times in the throat. Jo Johnson, who had realised her dream of opening a gift shop on the island a week earlier, was strangled with washing cord.

The murders have shocked the island, with ex-pats, long used to leaving their front doors open, expressing fears about their safety. "It's really scary and spooky to think that there's someone out there murdering people in the middle of the night," said the couple's neighbour, who gave his first name as Ray.

Ryan Johnson's relatives voiced delight at his release, saying it was the best news they had had in a very bad week. A great-uncle had agreed to raise the €20,000 (£14,000) bail, they said.

"We can't really get over the shock of it, first being told that Jo and Terry are dead, and next that Ryan's been charged with [murdering them]," said John Bailey, Mrs Johnson's brother. "The family is totally behind Ryan, 100 percent. There is no way that he's involved in this, we'll never believe that. He's not violent. There's no malice in him."

The dancer claimed that he had spent the night of the murders out with friends in a bar in the nearby village of Plaka. But the Briton's ordeal is far from over. With the inquiry still under way he remains a suspect, unable to leave the island until the murders are solved. "That's OK with me. I'm not going anywhere. The killers have to be found first," he said.