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Toddler back with parents after abduction
POLICE ARE on the hunt for those responsible for kidnapping an 18-month-old child from his grandmother’s verandah in Limassol yesterday, triggering a massive search for the missing toddler until he was found abandoned near a cemetery almost eight hours later.
At around 8am, the 18-month-old Stavros Styllis went missing from his grandmother’s balcony on Karaoli Street in Ypsonas in the Limassol district.
According to reports, his mother, a teacher, dropped both Stavros and his twin sister off at their grandmother’s in the morning before going to work. While his grandmother was changing the nappy of his sister in another room, Stavros was playing outside on the verandah.
When the grandmother went out to find him, he was gone. Early reports suggested eyewitness accounts reported seeing a rental car speeding away from the scene at around the same time as the kidnapping.
The boy’s father, a senior officer in the National Guard, was informed and almost immediately police launched a massive hunt for the toddler, sending out a helicopter while recruiting the help of the British bases, civil defence and other services.
By mid-morning, the news of his disappearance was all over the television and radio, while a picture of little Stavros was disseminated across the internet, on online social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and spread like lightning around Cyprus through emails.
Stavros was described as being 80cm tall, 11kg in weight, with short black hair, last seen wearing a red tracksuit with a Benetton label and a blue sleeveless coat.
At around midday, police spokesman Andreas Angelides said that police had alerted all ports, airports and checkpoints of the missing boy.
The search for the little boy intensified as the hours went by and word got round. At around 3.30pm, a widow, Lucy Constantinidou went to the Ypsonas cemetery to light a candle at her husband’s grave when she saw the child crying nearby, just in front of a shed made out of corrugated iron sheets.
Fearful that the kidnappers were near at hand and might attack her, she stopped motorist Yangos Yangou who was passing by in his car and asked him to help her take the child.
The two picked up the child who was shaking from the cold weather but dry, despite the earlier downpour in Limassol, suggesting he did not spend very long outdoors near the cemetery.
The father was informed immediately and arrived at the scene- around 1.5km from the grandmother’s house- to collect his child. Looking confused, relieved and teary-eyed, the father held the child in his arms before taking him to Limassol hospital for a precautionary check-up. The child appeared to be in good health, though a little disorientated and dazed by the media attention.
Head of Limassol CID Ioannis Soteriades said police were continuing their investigations into the kidnapping, noting that they were looking for more than one person.
“We are investigating a kidnapping, which is a very serious crime, with a penalty of up to seven years imprisonment,” he said. “We believe there was more than one person involved,” he added.
Police took around 20 statements from family members yesterday and took one family member in for questioning. The man’s car was also taken in to undergo forensic testing.
Soteriades hailed the “unprecedented mobilisation of forces” to search for the little child, which included Cypriot police and a police helicopter, British bases police, the fire service, the army, civil defence members, the Ypsonas mayor and local authority employees, and members of the public who offered their support.
“Because we are talking about an 18-month-old child, and I believe this mobilisation played a catalytic role in finding the child,” he said, implying that the kidnappers felt the web closing in on them and decided to dump the child near the cemetery before they were caught.