EXCLUSIVE ‘I’m dreading the moment I have to tell little Lydia her wicked father killed her mummy’: Father of murdered Caroline Crouch reveals his heartbreak as he speaks for the first time since her Greek pilot husband was jailed for 27 years over her murder
- It is now a year since Caroline was murdered by husband Babis Anagnostopoulos
- He was sentenced to 27 years for suffocating her as she slept next to their baby
- He faked burglary during which he killed family’s dog in effort to cover up crime
Visitors to the whitewashed villa with its views over the Aegean Sea still speak in whispers.
The sadness is pervasive. Laughter has been silenced. It is as if melancholy has seeped into the fabric of the house.
The only spark of joy comes from a young child who remains oblivious to the anguish. Her delight in everything around her is still unsullied by the awful truth.
‘Papoo,’ she calls, addressing her British grandfather David Crouch in Greek, and hugging him. David and wife Susan’s love for their sweet-faced granddaughter Lydia is the only reason they get up in the morning to face an otherwise ‘bleak and empty’ future.
For it is now a year since their daughter Caroline, 19, a British citizen, was murdered by her husband, helicopter pilot Babis Anagnostopoulos, 34, at their home in an upmarket Athens suburb.
This week, Anagnostopoulos was sentenced to 27 years for suffocating her as she slept next to their baby daughter Lydia, then faking a burglary during which he killed the family’s pet dog in an effort to cover up his heinous crime.
It is now a year since their daughter Caroline, 19, a British citizen, was murdered by her husband, helicopter pilot Babis Anagnostopoulos, 34, at their home in an upmarket Athens suburb
‘Now he has been sentenced to a long prison term, although it will not bring back my beautiful daughter,’ says David, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail.
‘A small consolation is the fact that his sentence will be served in Korydallos prison, the most squalid of prisons which makes Belmarsh in London seem like the Ritz.
‘He will be incarcerated with fellow murderers, but also perverts of every stripe. His polished manners and middle-class background will not serve him well in this cockroach- and rat-infested hellhole.’
Since the awful day last May when Caroline was murdered, Lydia has been the sole source of solace for Liverpool-born David, 79, a retired engineer, and Susan, 58, who are now raising her at their home on the remote Greek island of Alonnisos, where Caroline also grew up.
Her grandparents intend, as far as is possible, to eradicate Anagnostopoulos from Lydia’s life.
‘Soon Lydia will be old enough to start at the island nursery school, the same school that her mother attended,’ says David.
‘However, before that, I’ll change her last name to Caroline’s so she will never be associated with the murderous Anagnostopoulos. I’ll also ensure that he will never see his daughter again.’
However, the truth cannot be obliterated and he is steeling himself for the day when he has to tell his granddaughter the devastating facts about her mother’s death.
‘Someday, Lydia is going to ask where her mother is; it is a day that I am dreading. She has to know and no amount of hedging around the subject is going to work. One day she will find out the unvarnished truth, so it is far better that she learns it from her loving grandparents than pieces it together bit by bit,’ he tells me.
Meanwhile, Lydia — 11 months old when her mother was murdered and now nearly two years old — remains a bittersweet blessing: everything about her reminds David of the daughter he lost.
‘When I look at her running around the house I’m transported back in time almost 20 years,’ he says. ‘That was about the time Caroline was starting to assert her independence. A feisty little girl, she always knew what she wanted, but she had the sweetest nature imaginable.
‘The physical resemblance is uncanny: a pretty face with the biggest dark eyes I’ve ever seen, inherited from her mother, just as Caroline inherited her eyes from her mother.
I wonder if he and Susan will raise Lydia to be as independent and resourceful as her spirited mother was. Caroline was fluent in Greek, French and Tagalog — her Filipina mother’s native language — and spoke ‘perfect, unaccented English’, says David
‘Every time I sit and watch Lydia playing I’m hit with a pang of grief as I see her mother in every movement and gesture she makes. It makes me so sad that Caroline will never have the joy that she brought to Susan and me when she was that age.
‘Lydia chatters constantly, almost exclusively in Greek. She sleeps in Caroline’s old room in her cot. Unfortunately, she resolutely refuses to sleep alone, so Susan sleeps in the room with her in Caroline’s old bed. A poster of her mum’s favourite boy band, One Direction, still looks down on her.’
The reverberations of their loss are unimaginable. Susan suffers debilitating depression and does not talk at all about Caroline’s death.
Indeed, she barely speaks except to her granddaughter, around whom her whole life pivots.
She still gets up early every morning to pray at Caroline’s grave — just 80 yards away in the churchyard overlooking the sea next to the little chapel where Lydia was christened earlier this year — before returning home to immerse herself in the care of her granddaughter.
The daily rituals of bathing and feeding, playing and conversing with the little girl are what sustains her now.
‘Susan lavishes almost unbelievable care and attention on Lydia,’ David tells me. ‘I have had to hire a full-time maid to take care of all the other things that need doing around the house.’
He adds: ‘I am afraid that the Susan I’d known for almost 30 years is gone for ever. Caroline was the most important thing in her life, someone for whom she would have laid down her life in an instant.’
For David, grief has manifested itself as a physical pain, a dull, persistent ache.
‘The sickness that afflicts me is of the heart. It is broken over the loss of my daughter. When I first heard that she had been murdered — we thought then by robbers — it was as if an icy hand had reached into my chest and grabbed my heart. From then on I was virtually paralysed.’
Since then, he has also suffered a skin complaint so unnerving and incapacitating — it was as if all the skin on his back had been flayed — that it prevented him from attending the court case in Athens.
‘The doctor said she had seen nothing like it and arranged for me to go to hospital. I knocked that on the head straight away; hospitals are full of sick people,’ he tells me.
‘Besides, if I am going to die I want to go in my own house; looking out over the bright blue Aegean Sea, not in some miserable hospital ward full of old codgers.’
He still preserves his gallows humour. During the year since Caroline’s murder, David and I have kept up an intermittent correspondence, extracts from which, with his permission, I recount here.
Over the months he has oscillated between delight in Lydia, searing grief and regret that Caroline will never share the joy of her child, and anger at the revelations which have emerged about his controlling and bullying son-in-law. Last July, he wrote of his pleasure at Lydia’s progress: ‘I am sure that you will be pleased to hear that any trauma, real or imagined, that may have been suffered by Lydia has been completely dispelled and she shows no sign of any ill-effects.
‘Yesterday we had a visit from the state paediatrician to give her the usual vaccinations, to weigh her and to measure her. She was satisfied with her progress and found her completely enchanting, as we all do.’
Then, as the court case progressed this April, his mood hardened into implacable anger as revelations materialised about Anagnostopoulos’s despicable behaviour during his two-year marriage to Caroline. It emerged that he coerced and controlled his bright and beautiful teenage wife.
Caroline, a former teacher who read statistics at the University of Piraeus in Athens, had dazzled both academically and in sports. She joined the Scouts and learnt to kick-box. So David still puzzles over how his strong-willed, accomplished daughter became so subjugated by her husband.
He reproaches himself for failing to realise that all was not well in his daughter’s relationship. She and Anagnostopoulos had married secretly in July 2019 in a quiet beach ceremony with just two witnesses, during a holiday in Portugal.
‘And during the years they were together there was never any intimation that everything wasn’t all sweetness and light. We would message each other at least once a day and I never suspected a thing,’ he tells me.
Though perhaps it should have rung warning bells when Susan visited shortly after Lydia was born and afterwards reported that, ‘Babis was obviously very much in love with Caroline as he never left her side the whole time she was there.’
David is particularly appalled that the 1,000 euros (£860) he and Susan used to send their daughter monthly was appropriated by her husband.
‘It would seem that Babis never let Caroline have any money; not money for pet food, not what we would call “walking around money”, nothing,’ says David.
‘On the rare occasions that she would meet her friends she had to take a taxi that was driven by his friend so that she didn’t need to pay and he would know where she was. When it was time to come home, he would pick her up.
‘What is driving me crazy is, until the day she was killed, I was sending her 750 euros per month and Susan was sending her 250 euros a month, so that she could have a little independence.
‘She wasn’t working so I thought it would be nice if she didn’t have to keep asking her husband for money.
‘He even appropriated the 70,000 euros [£60,000] that Susan and I sent her to purchase some land on which to build a house. I am determined to retrieve this as it rightfully belongs to Lydia.’
It should, perhaps, come as no surprise that Anagnostopoulos was capable of coercion and greed because his capacity for duplicity and deviousness is unsurpassed.
After killing Caroline and strangling the family’s pet dog Roxy with her lead, he cynically staged a robbery to cover up his crime, tying himself up near Caroline’s body with duct tape over his eyes and mouth.
Maintaining the charade that a gang of robbers had broken into the house, murdered his wife and stolen £8,500 in cash and £20,000 worth of jewellery, he played the grieving widower until his ruse was uncovered and he was arrested by police more than five weeks later, after Caroline’s memorial service.
Even David was convinced by the lies of a man an expert witness in court called a ‘narcissistic psychopath’. ‘I can clearly recall the day of Caroline’s memorial service in June last year when, prior to the service, we sat together in my house and he held my hand, and with tears streaming down his face told me how, when confronted by the armed robbers, he was devastated at being unable to defend his wife and daughter.
‘He told me how, when he realised that Caroline was dead, his whole world had collapsed about him. The one bright spot was that his little daughter was unharmed.
‘I have never in my life seen a man so overcome by grief, so utterly defeated. He was the consummate actor. Of course it was only later that I thought it strange that he was completely unhurt; no man with a gun would have stopped me fighting for my Caroline’s safety. I also noticed that these desperate robbers had missed the expensive Rolex watch that he was wearing.’
A family court in Greece officially granted the Crouches sole care of Lydia last October and also stipulated that her paternal grandparents could visit her up to five times a month.
To begin with, David, judging that Lydia needed ‘all the love she could get’, accepted the visits of Anagnostopoulos’s parents Kostas and Georgia with good grace. Now, his forbearance is at an end.
‘I refuse to see them, particularly as they still believe in his innocence,’ he says.
‘I can’t control the hatred that I have for their son, and their belief that he is innocent and just covering up for someone — even though he has been convicted of premeditated murder — makes it impossible for them to offer any kind of apology.
‘They seem to be remarkably stupid people. They must see what their presence does to Susan but still they come.’
I wonder if he and Susan will raise Lydia to be as independent and resourceful as her spirited mother was. Caroline was fluent in Greek, French and Tagalog — her Filipina mother’s native language — and spoke ‘perfect, unaccented English’, says David.
Already, Lydia has learnt to swim in the sparkling Aegean, taught by her grandmother and aunt. ‘And once she is old enough, probably about eight or nine, I’ll encourage her to join the Scouts here on the island as Caroline did.’
It is, of course, precisely the idyll Caroline enjoyed during her childhood, in the corner of paradise to which her father had retired, choosing Alonnisos because of its beauty, its remoteness — it can only be reached by boat from the nearby island of Skopelos, where Mamma Mia! was filmed — and its lack of thronging summer tourists.
Caroline’s birth, at a private hospital in Athens in July 2001, had made his retirement ‘complete’, he told me just after her death.
That he will now end his days without her is a sorrow almost too painful for words.
‘I am still as devastated now as I was on that terrible day one year ago when she died; perhaps even more so as I have learnt over the course of the trial the misery that Caroline endured in her marriage, and I cannot bear to think of my little girl suffering,’ he says.
Caroline’s belongings, which were delivered many months ago, remain unpacked.
‘We cannot face it,’ says David. ‘Just to look at some of her little trinkets brings back all the memories of the wonderful times we had together.’
Their only comfort is Lydia. And the poignant fact is, she grows more like her mother every day.
David Crouch has asked for no payment for this interview and does not want to profit from his daughter’s death. However, he has agreed to us setting up an appeal in his granddaughter’s name.
To donate to the Lydia Fund go to www.dailymail.co.uk/lydiafund or send a cheque, payable to Lydia Fund, c/o Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.
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