South East Wales

Jonathan Hiles inquest: Andrew Symeou denies Greek club killing

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Media captionJonathan Hiles hit his head on a dance floor after falling off a stage

A man cleared over the death of a Cardiff teenager in a Greek nightclub told the victim's father: "I did not kill your son".

Andrew Symeou, 25, from north London, spoke out while giving evidence at the inquest in Cardiff into the death of Jonathan Hiles.

The 18-year-old was in a nightclub on the island of Zante in July 2007 when he was punched and fell from a stage.

Mr Symeou was charged with manslaughter but acquitted in 2011.

He had been in the resort of Laganas with a group of friends from Enfield, but denied being at the Rescue nightclub at the time of the incident.

On Thursday, he told the coroner Mary Hassell he was not at the club at the time Mr Hiles was hit.

He then turned to Denzil Hiles, the dead teenager's father, and said: "Mr Hiles, I did not kill your son. I wasn't there. It's been hard to hear people slandering my name in a court of law."

Image caption Andrew Symeou, 25, always denied Mr Hiles' manslaughter

Ms Hassell asked Mr Symeou about the fact Mr Hiles' friends had told the inquest they had seen him at the club.

Mr Symeou said: "I thought they were mistaken at first but now I think they're lying."

He then turned to Mr Hiles' group of friends and said: "Boys, you're lying."

The coroner asked Mr Symeou if he had hit Mr Hiles and he replied: "No. I've never hit anyone in my life."

A heated exchange then broke out when Denzil Hiles was allowed to question Mr Symeou followed by shouts from the public gallery.

The coroner had to temporarily halt proceedings.

She told the inquest: "I know that feelings are running high in this court. Normally this would be taking place in a criminal court but this [incident] happened in Greece."

Beaten

When Denzil Hiles resumed his questioning, Ms Hassell warned him it was not an opportunity "to bully or ridicule a witness".

Earlier, a friend of Mr Symeou said he was beaten by officers and made to change his witness statement.

Christopher Kyriacou's statement, which had been signed four days after Mr Hiles was injured, was read to the court by the coroner.

Image caption Denzil Hiles was warned not to 'ridicule' Andrew Symeou

It said his friend had "panicked" and fled the nightclub after hitting Mr Hiles following a row over a girl.

But the witness, who was 18 at the time of the interview, told the court that the Greek police's account was "100% untrue".

He said: "They first asked me about my heritage and where my family was from - I said my family were Greek Cypriot.

"They said I was lucky, otherwise things were going to be a lot worse.

"First they put me in a completely dark room for around 30 minutes. Then they turned the lights on and around six other officers filed into the room.

"I was very scared and intimidated. They kept asking me 'what happened?' and I told them I didn't know.

"One officer went ballistic and grabbed me by my neck. I was then hit around the face and punched to the head.

"My thinking was 'I am just going to have to do what they want me to do'. I needed to get out of the police station for the safety of my own life.

"I did not know what was going to happen to me."

'Hit on cheek'

The inquest heard that Mr Symeou and Mr Hiles did not know each other and had been holidaying in Zante separately.

The holiday was the first time Mr Symeou and a group of his friends had been abroad on their own without their parents.

Mr Hiles had flown to Laganas with a group of friends to celebrate his forthcoming 19th birthday.

Less than 24 hours after arriving on the island, the court was told the Welsh teenager's party were at the club when they were involved in an altercation in the early hours of 20 July.

Mr Hiles' friends told the coroner they had been dancing on a "chest-high" stage in the club at around 01:30 local time when another reveller urinated on them.

Some went to the toilet to clean up, although Mr Hiles and his friend Mark O'Gorman stayed put.

On Wednesday, Mr O'Gorman told the inquest he saw Mr Hiles hit on the left cheek after he asked the man in a non-aggressive tone: "What are you doing?"

He said he was certain the man he had seen hit him was Mr Symeou.

But friends of the 25-year-old told the inquest they did not arrive at the club until 04:00 local time.

Mr Kyriacou said he was confident the group had not split up at any point during their night out.

The inquest continues.

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