World

Wife suspected in murder of Greece's ambassador to Brazil

A Rio de Janeiro police officer has confessed to murdering Greece's ambassador to Brazil in what investigators have called a "cowardly act" carried out at the direction of the diplomat's Brazilian wife with whom the officer was romantically involved.

Rio police officer believed to be her lover confesses to killing Kyriakos Amiridis

Francoise Amiridis arrives at a police station Friday to be interrogated in connection with her husband's disappearance. (Fabiano Rocha/ Ag O Globo/Associated Press)

A Rio de Janeiro police officer confessed to murdering Greece's ambassador to Brazil in what investigators on Friday called a "cowardly act" carried out at the direction of the diplomat's Brazilian wife with whom the officer was romantically involved.

Ambassador Kyriakos Amiridis, 59, was missing since Monday night. Francoise, his Brazilian wife and the mother of their 10-year-old daughter, reported him missing to police on Wednesday. 

Police investigator Evaristo Pontes Magalhaes said Friday that 29-year-old police officer Sergio Gomes Moreira Filho had confessed to killing the ambassador, claiming self-defence.

Magalhaes said Filho's cousin, Eduardo de Melo, acknowledged taking part in the killing as a lookout, and that he helped carry the body from the house with a promise from Francoise that he would be paid 80,000 reals (about $33,000 Cdn). 

Amiridis, centre, seen in May, went missing on Monday. (Marcos Correa/Brazil's presidential press office/Associated Press)

"This was a tragic, cowardly act, but we worked tirelessly to crack this case as soon as possible," Magalhaes told a news conference Friday. 

Wife denies involvement

Francoise, 40, has denied any role in the alleged plot. According to Magalhaes, Francoise said she couldn't stop Filho from killing her husband and insisted she was not at home at the time of the crime. 

But the police investigator said in a press conference late Friday that there is evidence she was "a co-author of the crime."

He said Francoise started plotting with Filho to kill the ambassador after the couple had a serious fight three days before Christmas.

"All our evidence suggests that her motivation was to use the financial resources left by the ambassador so she could enjoy life with Sergio," Magalhaes said.

Magalhaes said a judge had ordered the temporary arrest of Francoise, Filho and his cousin.

Blood on couch

Police found blood on a couch inside the home the Amiridises owned in Nova Iguacu, in the northern outskirts of Rio. He said the ambassador was likely stabbed to death as no shots were reported in the area. However, he said it was not yet possible to determine the exact cause of death because Filho had burned the ambassador's body in an attempt to cover up the crime. 

Authorities believe Kyriakos Amiridis's body was taken from his house to a car that he had rented. A burned vehicle matching the description of the rented car was found with a body inside it, but forensics experts have not yet identified the dead person. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

Investigators allege that Amiridis' body was removed from the house in a carpet at the same time that Francoise arrived with their 10 year-old daughter, who did not see the body of her dead father, Magalhaes said.

A burned corpse was found on Thursday evening inside the car that Amiridis and his wife had rented. It was parked under a highway overpass in the area where the couple had been staying. 

On Thursday, police confirmed that the ambassador had been missing since Monday night, when he was last seen leaving the Rio home he shared with his wife, which was located near her family's residence in Nova Iguacu.

Brazilian president responds

Brazilian President Michel Temer, in a letter addressed to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, said the ambassador's 
killing had caused him profound sadness and he extended his condolences to the ambassador's family, friends and the Greek people. 

The Greek embassy in Brasilia declined to comment. In Athens, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Stratos Efthymiou said the government also had no comment. 

Amiridis served as Greece's consul general in Rio from 2001 to 2004. He was Greece's ambassador to Libya from 2012 until he took the top Brazil post at the beginning of 2016.

With files from The Associated Press