Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Scotland Yard's Baffling Case of the Playboy Killer

Postmortem examination

Charalambos Christodoulides
Charalambos Christodoulides

The body had been covered in paint remover in an effort, police believed, to thwart sniffer dogs, and some reports indicated that it also bore evidence of burning. It appeared to investigators that an attempt had been made to set the body on fire to either destroy evidence or to delay or prevent identification. Although decomposition was considerably advanced by that time, the body appeared to be that of a male and fit the general characteristics of Christodoulides, but the condition of the corpse made determination of anything more specific, such as cause of death, impossible at that time.

Two days later, a definitive autopsy was conducted at Northwick Park Mortuary where the body was positively identified as that of Charalambos Christodoulides. It was also established that Christodoulides had been subjected to a prolonged assault and had eventually died of strangulation. There was also blood spatter evidence suggesting that he had been restrained in a chair with bindings, and that he may have had a hood placed over his head for at least part of the torturous ordeal to which his assailants had submitted him.

Thanos Papalexis
Thanos Papalexis

Why had Christodoulides been tortured and killed with such savagery? Investigators, including senior officer John Yates, who would later become Scotland Yard's Assistant Commissioner, could only wonder at this point. Detectives eventually found evidence indicating that Christodoulides had been initially assaulted outside the warehouse, perhaps as he returned home from one of his regular trips to Piccadilly Circus, and then dragged inside where he was ultimately killed. It appeared to the detectives that Christodoulides' killers had not only tortured him for some as-yet unknown reason, but that they had gone to great lengths to conceal his body and clean up the crime scene. However, investigators collected a multitude of evidence from the warehouse, including DNA and fingerprints, over time.

During the course of an investigation that would span eight years, detectives kept running across the name of Thanos Papalexis. Papalexis, 37, was the British-born son of a Greek shipping tycoon. His name first surfaced in connection with Christodoulides' disappearance when investigators learned that Papalexis had agreed in November 1999 to purchase the warehouse where Christodoulides resided from Lanitis to turn it into a new development project.

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