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Last Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006, 19:06 GMT
Lone gunman clue in Greek murders
Greek police investigate the scene of the killings
Police say the victims may have known their killer
Police in Greece investigating the murder of five family members on a hunting trip say they now believe a lone gunman was responsible.

The five young men - two brothers and three cousins - were shot on Saturday in woodland in the Kalyvia region about 280km (175 miles) north-west of Athens.

Police say an expert marksman shot them first at long range, then close up.

They say the killer may have been wounded, as one blood sample found at the scene did not match the victims.

Police are concentrating their inquiries among the farming and hunting communities near the town of Agrinion to determine whether someone held a grudge against the family.

We are almost certain that the boys saw something important, something illegal, and that is why the murderers silenced them forever
Fanis Vlachos, relative

BBC Athens correspondent Malcolm Brabant says officers also suspect the young men may have known their killer.

Ballistics tests on cartridges found near the bodies all came from the same weapon.

The victims, all local, managed to fire their shotguns and detectives are checking hospitals in western Greece to see whether anyone was admitted with gunshot wounds over the weekend.

Public order minister Vyron Polydoras said police were optimistic of making good progress given the substantial amount of evidence at the scene.

The families of the victims do not believe the murders were motivated by a grudge, but that is the main line of inquiry being pursued by the police.

Officers are examining the shotguns of local farmers, shepherds and hunters.

Pools of blood

The five men had set off on Saturday afternoon on their hunting trip.

One victim had tried to raise the alarm by phoning his father but the call was cut off, police said.

The father began searching and found the bodies in the evening lying in a field next to their shotguns.

The coroner in the western city of Patras said: "The bodies were strewn across 150 to 200 metres and the area was full of blood."

One relative, Fanis Vlachos, told AFP news agency: "We are almost certain that the boys saw something important, something illegal, and that is why the murderers silenced them forever."

Our correspondent says the murders have stunned the rural community and the country at large.

With its exceptionally low rate of violent crime, Greece is regarded as one of Europe's safest countries.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Greece
21 Aug 06 |  Country profiles



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