Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 13:20 UK

Developer guilty of tenant murder

Thanos Papalexis - pic from Palm Beach Post
A prostitute told US marshals Papalexis had confessed to her

A developer who arranged the killing of a tenant after he had refused to leave a building earmarked for a £2m property deal has been convicted of his murder.

Thanos Papalexis, 37, of Palm Beach, Florida, allegedly hired henchmen to kill caretaker Charalambos Christodoulides, 55, in March 2000.

His body was found in a warehouse complex in Kensal Rise, north-west London, which he had refused to leave.

Papalexis is in custody awaiting sentence on 30 September.

His conviction on Friday could not be reported until Monday when the jury was discharged after failing to reach verdicts on Ylli Xhelo, 35, and Robert Baxhija, 29.

The two Albanian workmen employed by Papalexis had also also been charged with the murder.

Papalexis, who once held a fundraiser at his Florida home for Hillary Clinton, had Christodoulides killed because he would not leave the £2m warehouse building he was trying to sell, the court heard.

'Perilous' finances

He was worried the deal would collapse and needed money for another development.

Papalexis' financial affairs were also said to be in a "perilous" state after his inexperience led to heavy losses on another development in Holloway, north London.

He was paying £60,000 a week on a bridging loan.

The developer was arrested in Palm Beach in November 2008 after police finished building their case against him.

Murder victim Charalambos Christodoulides
The killing of Mr Christodoulides was descibed as "senseless"

A local prostitute, Rebecca DeFalco, was said to have told US marshals that Papalexis, her former lover, had confessed to her in 2004.

The prosecution said Papalexis thought Mr Christodoulides stood in the way of a quick deal to sell the derelict site which would have saved him from financial ruin.

The property deal fell through and the Holloway development was put into receivership with £8m debts.

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, prosecuting, said Mr Christodoulides had been tied to a chair, tortured and strangled.

Mr Laidlaw added: "It appears that the victim was condemned to die for no better reason than he was not prepared to leave his home.

"This was a senseless killing motivated by greed."

Mr Christodoulides' sister, Anna Lanitis, 60, wept as she told the court: "We loved him. He was a very gentle person. He lived his life the way he wanted."

After Mr Christodoulides' body was discovered, Papalexis went to America and the Albanians, who had been denied asylum, were deported.

Mr Xhelo and Mr Baxhija were remanded in custody to face a retrial.

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