Missing body of Cyprus ex-president found

NICOSIA: Former president Tassos Papadopoulos’s body has been recovered three months after it was mysteriously snatched from his grave, sparking shock across the island, Cyprus police said today.

“DNA identification (overnight) confirmed that the body discovered does indeed belong to former Cyprus president Tassos Papadopoulos,” police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos told state radio.

The body was found at a cemetery in a Nicosia suburb late on Monday following an anonymous tip-off from a telephone box, he said, without giving further details.

State television said family members gathered at the cemetery and reporters said the ex-president’s daughter, Anastasia, was seen leaving the graveyard in tears on Monday night.

Investigators sealed off the village phone booth south of Nicosia from which the tip-off originated to collect fingerprints.

Grave robbers stole Papadopoulos’s body from inside his coffin on December 11 — one day before a memorial service was due to be held to mark the first anniversary of the 74-year-old’s death from lung cancer.

A member of Papadopoulos’s personal guard found the grave — less than five kilometres (three miles) from the discovery site — open when he went to light a candle, as he does every morning at the cemetery where he was buried.

Police said at the time the robbery was “deliberate and carefully planned,” with the perpetrators taking precautions to cover their tracks, but that they knew of no motive for the macabre raid.

Cyprus sought the help of Interpol, the FBI, Scotland Yard, Greece and Israeli police as it scoured surrounding areas.