Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Scotland Yard's Baffling Case of the Playboy Killer

A shady deal

Unbeknownst to Lanitis, Papalexis was facing a financial crisis of major proportions at the time he agreed to purchase the warehouse. Papalexis had begun developing another property in Holloway into luxury flats in 1999. He had hired a number of illegal immigrants to work on the development, and the substandard work they performed due to their inexperience placed the project in jeopardy from its inception. Using fake CV's and information from friends, Papalexis was nonetheless able to secure substantial bank loans that he would ultimately be unable to pay back.

Thanos Papalexis
Thanos Papalexis

Lanitis also was unaware that Papalexis had no intention of developing the warehouse but had, instead, engaged in a deal in which he would buy the warehouse only to turn around and sell it quickly to raise much-needed capital for his other ventures and to support his lavish lifestyle. In the deal, Papalexis stood to make a fast £300,000 profit—nearly a half-million dollars at the time. But the deal had a catch: he needed to proceed with the sale quickly or face losing £60,000 weekly in interest payments on the creative financing scheme in which he had engaged. Papalexis could only make the sale quickly if the warehouse's caretaker, Christodoulides, agreed to vacate the property immediately. Christodoulides, however, refused to leave. Police would eventually conclude he had been brutally murdered because he had stood in the way of Papalexis' real estate flip.

For the next nine months, investigators continued gathering evidence at the warehouse including fingerprints and DNA. Of course, fingerprints and DNA linked Papalexis to the property, but to the detectives who first handled the case it was not enough. Papalexis could have left his DNA and fingerprints there in the course of visiting the property during his negotiations to buy it. Although investigators did not immediately divulge the location of the fingerprints and the DNA, there was also DNA and fingerprints of two other as yet unidentified males with which they had to contend. Detectives also felt that if they charged Papalexis with a crime at that time, on his own, he would simply have blamed the other two mystery men of having killed Christodoulides.

There was another problem. Papalexis left the United Kingdom within two weeks after Christodoulides' murder and landed in Palm Beach, Fla., well outside the investigative reach of Scotland Yard.