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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 19:18 GMT
Hotel leap man cleared of murder
Natasha Hogan on Monday
Natasha Hogan: "Liam died for nothing"

A British man who leapt 50ft (15m) from a hotel balcony with his two children in Crete has been cleared of murder.

John Hogan, 33, from Bradley Stoke, near Bristol, was "incapable" of murdering his son because of his mental state, a Greek court has ruled.

He will now be placed in a psychiatric unit for a minimum of three years.

Mr Hogan's son Liam, six, died from head injuries. His daughter Mia, then aged two, broke her arm but survived the fall, in August 2006.

Couple rowed

President Paraskeri Kiraleou, the senior judge at the trial, said: "His responsibility was diminished.

"He was incapable of murdering his son and he needs to be in a psychiatric unit for therapy."

Mr Hogan, his then wife Natasha, 35, and their children, had gone on holiday to the 227-bed four-star Petra Mare hotel, which overlooks the beach of Ierapetra, Crete

I accept that an act in a moment of complete madness was uncharacteristic of John. But to have done this to our children is unforgivable
Natasha Hogan

The holiday was a "make or break" effort to resolve differences in the couple's marriage.

However, the court in Crete, which comprised three judges and four jurors, was told the summer break had been plagued by rows.

On the night of Liam's death, Mrs Hogan described her husband as "agitated" and had asked him to "calm down" but he had become increasingly angry.

They argued as she packed their suitcases with her back turned to the balcony. When she turned around he had disappeared over the edge with their children.

The court heard Mr Hogan's family had suffered several tragedies, including the suicides of his two brothers.

Mr Hogan was now taking anti-depressants and had tried to kill himself on four occasions while in prison.

The Hogan family

Tiling firm boss Mr Hogan, who was crying as the verdict was delivered, said nothing as he was led from court by two police officers.

Mrs Hogan sobbed into her hands on hearing the verdict.

In a statement read by Det Con Russ Jones, from Avon and Somerset Police, following the verdict, Mrs Hogan said: "This result albeit somewhat unexpected, has left me feeling that Liam lost his young life for nothing.

"I accept that an act in a moment of complete madness was uncharacteristic of John. But to have done this to our children is unforgivable.

'Rebuild our lives'

"I know that we all miss Liam, but it is Mia and I who are left to rebuild our lives without a loving caring son and brother."

The statement also said that the family has found it difficult to hear the circumstances of Liam's death again.

It added: "John is no longer my husband and plans are afoot to rebuild our lives away from the media spotlight.

"You have all heard our lives laid bare during the court process. I ask now that you allow us time to reflect, to rebuild our lives with dignity showing due reverence to my son Liam."

Dimitris Xiritakis, Mr Hogan's lawyer, said: "According to the verdict of the courts, John Hogan is innocent.

"The court in one voice decided that on 15th August 2006 when his son died and his daughter was wounded, John Hogan could not realise reality in the sense of the law. He is innocent.

"But because he has [suicidal tendencies], he must stay [for] a short period, that is not defined yet, in full therapy."

He added that it could be possible for Hogan to spend some of this time in England.

'Mental anguish'

A spokesman for the mental health charity Sane said: "We welcome the verdict in the trial of John Hogan, and the judge's acknowledgement of his disturbed mental state and his need for psychiatric treatment.

"This case highlights how extraordinary mental pain can tragically distort a person's perception and judgment.

"While in no way underestimating the terrible consequences of John Hogan's actions we should not automatically condemn him without considering the depth of mental anguish he was suffering.

"Severe depression is not simply a case of feeling 'blue' and those at its mercy cannot 'pull themselves together'. It is a serious illness and a debilitating psychiatric disorder that changes personalities and wrecks lives."



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
John Hogan outside court



SEE ALSO
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Grieving mother revisits tragedy
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