Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Scotland Yard's Baffling Case of the Playboy Killer


Robert Baxhija
Robert Baxhija

Nearly three years passed without an arrest, but Hyatt continued to patiently work the case even though his superiors tried a number of times to close the file. The next break came in 2006 when another Albanian, Robert Baxhija, was also randomly arrested for possession of marijuana. Like Xhelo, Baxhija was released from police custody soon after his arrest, but, unlike Xhelo, Baxhija was deported. Baxhija's DNA matched the other DNA found at the scene of Christodoulides' murder. It was very frustrating for Hyatt and the other investigators who worked on the case, but they persevered and refused to close the books.

Despite having been deported, Baxhija subsequently legally reentered the U.K. via a marriage visa. When Hyatt and his team learned of Baxhija's return, they obtained his current address from the immigration department and kept him under close surveillance as part of an operation that they hoped would lead them to Xhelo, who they believed was still in the U.K. Their efforts paid off, despite it taking nearly two more years. In March 2008, Baxhija and Xhelo met each other and were subsequently arrested in a van after being stopped by Hyatt's team on the A10, the north-south highway connecting London with Cambridge. Xhelo and Baxhija appeared at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on March 15, 2008, and were charged with Christodoulides' murder. Both men initially denied any involvement in the murder, but later admitted to cleaning up the crime scene and disposing of Christodoulides' body for Papalexis. Hyatt had previously obtained cell phone records showing that Xhelo, Baxhija and Papalexis had been at the warehouse on the day of the murder from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Despite the evidence mounting against Papalexis, including the fact that the two Albanians had implicated him, Hyatt waited to make his move, in part because Papalexis was out of the country and it took additional time for him to get everything needed to bring Papalexis back to England into position.

Thanos Papalexis
Thanos Papalexis

Once ready to make the arrest, Hyatt learned that Papalexis was visiting the Bahamas and Hyatt was forced to wait until Papalexis returned to Palm Beach. Finally, on November 7, 2008, while Papalexis was dining at the Fire Rock Cafe with an attractive woman, U.S. marshals calmly approached his table, read him his rights, and arrested him for Christodoulides' murder eight years earlier. Papalexis was extradited to the U.K. on December 7, 2008, and met by officers from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command upon his arrival at London's Heathrow Airport. He was charged with murder later that day and held in custody pending trial.

In a case in which there had been initially few leads and no known suspects, Hyatt and his team of investigators with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) would eventually amass more than 1,000 exhibits from the crime scene in an investigation which amassed forensics costs in excess of £250,000 before nailing the men who murdered Christodoulides in cold blood.

"This investigation should serve to remind those that commit murder in London that they should not rest easily," Hyatt said. "The MPS will relentlessly pursue them until they are placed before the courts to answer for their crimes."

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