‘Not guilty’ plea by 3 accused of manslaughter of British soldier

Three tourists facing the possibility of life behind bars for the manslaughter of a teenage British soldier in Ayia Napa have pleaded not guilty.

Friends and family of the accused sat in court as Mohamed Abdulkadir Osman, 19, and two 17-year-olds – who can’t be named for legal reasons – pleaded not guilty at Larnaca District Court to charges of manslaughter, possession of a knife and illegal possession and use of Class B drugs.

The case concerns the death of Fusilier David Lee Collins, 19, who was stabbed through the heart in the early hours of November 4 last year, whilst clubbing with three other soldiers.

According to police reports, the soldiers became involved in a violent brawl with the holidaymakers, with the altercation leading to Collins being stabbed with a flick knife and succumbing to his injuries just minutes later.

An autopsy concluded that Collins died from a “ruptured heart caused by a sharp instrument.” He had been serving with 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, based at Dhekelia.

The defendants all British passport holders, two of Pakistani origin and the third of Somali descent, were arrested soon after the stabbing and have been kept behind bars since.

During their maiden court appearance last year, the key suspect Mohamed Abdulkadir Osman admitted to investigators that he stabbed the soldier in self-defence, but argued that he had not meant to hurt him.

A police sweep of the trios Adams Beach hotel room hours after the stabbing, unearthed 11 flick-knives, two brass knuckle dusters and a quantity of high-strength cannabis.

Osman claimed the cache of knives had been purchased at an Ayia Napa gift shop and were intended as presents for his friends in London.

There had been some speculation that a guilty plea from Osman, would have led to a plea agreement on lesser charges for the co-accused defendants. But after yesterday’s not guilty plea, the three men face up to life in prison if convicted.

At yesterday’s hearing, public prosecutor Andri Constantinou confirmed that Osman and one of the 17-year-old defendants had been granted legal aid, after the pair submitted a formal request last week.

Defence lawyers also requested a substantial amount of CCTV surveillance footage filmed near the crime scene and access to police DNA results taken from the knife used in the stabbing, which was processed by the Institute of Neurology and Genetics.

Fusilier Collins’ funeral took place with a full requiem mass in his home town of Chorlton, near Manchester in late November. At the service, his commanding officer Lt Col Mike Butterwick said: “The army was going to be his life. He was loyal, he was hard-working, he was diligent, he loved the army.”

The trio have been remanded in custody at Nicosia Central Prison and are due back in court on April 3. The case is expected to last several months.

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