Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast #112: Savvas Demetriades and the Code of Silence (Christos Georghiou)
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Welcome to the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, set within and beyond the West End.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED AND TWELVE:
On Monday 25th October 1943, at roughly 3:30pm, a businessman called Savvas Demetriades was murdered in broad daylight on a public pavement outside of the Helvetia pub at 23 Old Compton Street. The Police's investigation should have collapsed owing to the code of silence in Soho’s Greek-Cypriot community. But this would collapse owing to how petty the murder was.
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations, to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
The location of teh patch of pavement where Savvas was murdered is located where the rum & raisen triangle is. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, such as Soho, King's Cross, etc, access them by clicking here.
I've also posted some photos to aid your "enjoyment" of the episode. These photos were taken by myself (copyright Murder Mile) or granted under Government License 3.0, where applicable.
Credits: The Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast was researched, written and recorded by Michael J Buchanan-Dunne, with the sounds recorded on location (where possible), and the music written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name. Additional music was written and performed as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0.
This case was researched using the original court documents and the declassified police investigation files from the National Archives, as well as many other sources.
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE:
SCRIPT: Welcome to Murder Mile; a true-crime podcast and audio guided walk featuring many of London’s untold, unsolved and long-forgotten murders, all set within and beyond the West End.
Today’s episode is about a beef, a bust-up, a bit of bad blood between two hot-headed Greek Cypriots over little more than a few coins, which led to a brutal murder in broad daylight. Those who knew the two men claimed that they had seen nothing, but their strict code of silence was about to break.
Murder Mile is researched using the original police files. It contains moments of satire, shock and grisly details. And as a dramatization of the real events, it may also feature loud and realistic sounds, so that no matter where you listen to this podcast, you’ll feel like you’re actually there.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 112: Savvas Demetriades and the Code of Silence.
Today I’m standing on Old Compton Street, in Soho, W1; one street south of the bungled porn heist by rabid willy-fiddler Richard Rhodes Henley, a few shops east of the arcade where Alfredo Zomparelli got popped playing pinball, and right next door to the Union Club where Charles Berthier gunned-down a rival over an innocent little comment about his “big arms” - coming soon to Murder Mile.
Based at its edges, Old Compton Street is the cultural heart of Soho; a single street thankfully absent of the same high-street stores. Instead, we are blessed with something unique, diverse and authentic.
Sadly, like so many places, Soho is sprinkled with attention-seeking tools with their silly beards, trilbies and motorised scooters - all of which screams “look at me, I have no personality” - as they dodge a dance troop shooting the next YouTube hit, a scrawny hipster reading ‘Trendy Allergies’ magazine and a dullard with a thimble-sized laptop who claims to be a ‘writer’ (they even have a website so it must be true) but the only thing that they’ve ever written is a Twitter post stating “I’m writing my novel”.
Setting aside the awful gentrification which has ripped the guts out of Soho, what makes Old Compton Street so special is that it’s a place where many nationalities have settled down, set-up shop and served-up a little slice of their old life in with their new. It wasn’t planned, it just evolved, but it has spawned into a marvellous melting pot of styles, sights and smells, with little enclaves of culture on every street corner; whether delicatessens, patisseries, coffee shops or pizza parlours.
In 1943, Savvas Demetriades & Christos Georghiou, two Greek-Cypriots who owned a café in the welsh city of Cardiff were frequent visitors to Soho for a coffee, a game of cards and some good conversation with their fellow countrymen. As with so many immigrants, the Cypriots kept-to-themselves, sorted out any problems within and (if needed) they protected their own with a refusal to trust the Police.
But their loyalty would be sorely tested, when - in broad daylight, on the bustling pavement, outside of the busy Helvetia pub at 23 Old Compton Street - these best-buddies and recent rivals ended a very bitter feud… and the eye-witnesses to their crime felt obliged to claim that they had seen nothing.
As it was here, on Monday 25th October 1943, that the very public stabbing of Savvas would prove to be so petty, that the code of silence in Soho’s Greek-Cypriot community would collapse. (interstitial)
Some people kill for love, country, revenge or survival. It’s frowned upon, but to many such motives are understandable. And yet, others kill for causes so trivial, it makes you wonder why they bothered.
Savvas and Christos were as close to being brothers as any brothers could be without being brothers.
Born two years apart on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus; growing up in the capital city of Nicosia in the years preceding the First World War, daily life was hard owing to its isolated position, economic collapse, religious infighting and made worse by this former Greek colony being under the British boot.
To the British, Cyprus was nothing but a strategic naval outpost overlooking the Suez Canal; its people were invisible, their lives were worthless and the land was traded as a little trinket between the Greeks and the Turks. Systematically plundered by larger nations, the tiny island of Cyprus and its people have endured tyranny for centuries in a divided population split between the Turkish-Cypriots and the Greek-Cypriots, many of whom fought during both World Wars for and against the British.
As little boys raised during the First World War, the childhoods of Savvas and Christos were short; food was scarce, clothes were ragged and death was frequent. Being gripped by rationing, even law-abiding citizens would dabble in the depths of small-time criminality simply to survive by buying even the most basic of necessities on the black-market. Regarded as petty-thieves by their British occupiers, their daily lives were ruled - not by the military, or even their own police - but by the British Police, therefore it’s unsurprising that many Cypriots developed a mistrust and a strict code of silence was formed.
Raised in abject poverty, Savvas & Christos naturally had a thirst for wealth, fine foods and sharp suits. To them, every penny was precious and - as in every family - the two boys squabbled over increasingly trivial matters, but always stuck together through thick-and-thin; like a big brother and a little.
Savvas Christos Demetriades was born in 1909, two years after Christos. As the youngest of the two, Savvas was blessed with the patience and wisdom of an older man. He was frugal, astute and (although he loved the thrill of gambling on cards, dogs, horses and dice) he was a sensible spender who would happily blow a bundle on a long-shot in the hope of a big pay-off, but he always knew his limits.
In relationships, Savvas was as a calm and loving man for whom family was an unbreakable bond. And being short but muscular man who was handsome in his own way, he had no problem with the ladies.
By 1927, as Cyprus had become a British colony, being granted his citizenship and keen to seek a better life overseas, Savvas joined the Merchant Navy alongside his best-friend Christos.
Being three inches shorter, four stone heavier and two years older, Christos Georghiou was more akin to a baby brother, both physically and mentally, who often envied the style and savvy that Savvas had, and (lacking the business acumen) he clung onto the younger man’s coat-tails.
Like mirror opposites, Christos aspired to be bigger and better than his best-buddy - by petulantly being dressed in sharper suits, slicker hats and with his thin moustache Brilliantine’d into razor sharp slivers - but instead of trying to forge his own path, he would remain stuck in the shadow of Savvas.
As a businessman, he disliked hard-work but loved money. As a gambler, he took big risks which rarely paid off. As a lover, he dated many of Savvas’ ex’s and flirted with any potential squeeze. And whereas Savvas had several bank accounts (for his legitimate purchases) and a strongbox under the floorboards (for those which weren’t), Christos never saved a penny. Instead he would seek out his next potential investment in the sports pages of his local rag. And although both men were hot-headed Cypriots prone to fiery outbursts, where-as Savvas would fume then forgive, Christos would bubble and erupt.
Savvas would always take Christos under his wing, as although they weren’t related, family was family.
For several years, the two men served side-by-side as cooks on several ships in the Merchant Navy. In the early 1930’s, as naturalised British citizens, they moved to Southampton, London and then to the Welsh city of Cardiff, all of which had a large Cypriot community and this became their new home.
In 1939, Savvas & Christos decided to go into business together. They invested £150 each, put their skills to good use and – by infusing the standard English fare of cups of tea and fry-ups with a slice of their Cypriot upbringing – they opened the ‘British & Continental Café’ at 19 Caroline Street in Cardiff.
It was popular and profitable among the Welsh and Cypriot locals alike. During the day it was a cheap eatery to feed families, but by night - with the blinds down and the doors locked – it was a gambling den for card-sharks like Christos. It was illegal, but through silence, it was kept off-the-Police’s radar.
Being as different as they were similar, with two hot-headed men working side-by-side, all day, every day, in the heat of a scorching kitchen, naturally their tempers flared. So, for a while, although their little café proved to be a minor success, trivial little things had already caused it to start to slide.
Seeing the café less as a business and more as a place for any pal of Christos to hang-out, Savvas rightly resented these bums who ponced his free food and ate up his profits, so as it tumbled from being a charming family café to doss-hole for deadbeats, very quickly the regular customers stopped coming.
Desperate to beat his best-friend who was also his bitter rival, in the den, Christos used loaded dice, a rigged deck and every underhanded trick to win, and so, a deep mistrust began to creep in.
It all seems so obvious where the problems lay, but being so hot-headed, both men struggled to simply say “I’m sorry” and (even over such trivial matters) they both harboured a grudge, especially when Savvas had started to date a young lady known only as ‘Peggy’, and Christos would flirt with her too.
As best-friends who were as close as any brothers, their relationship fractured, their café bled money and as even the smallest of issues spiralled into petty violence, three incidents would split them apart.
On the evening of 23rd March 1943, feeling rightly cheated having lost a sizable sum owing to Christos’ marked cards and wonky dice, an unidentified gambler cursed Christos as a “dirty Greek rat” and sliced open his nose with a flung cup. Seething, bloodied and unwilling to back-down from a petty slight - pulling a stiletto blade from his boot - Christos slashed back, and as the den erupted into all out war, tables were tipped, bottles were hurled and the white walls were re-decorated with splashes of red.
And during the melee, as the level-headed Savvas tried to hold back his rabid partner, Christos bit him, which left a trail of blood to the sink and his right hand with a very visible scar for the rest of his life.
Within minutes, the Police had a wealth of evidence, but with every witness held by a code of silence, no-one was convicted. All were released, but it lit a bright spotlight on the café, Christos and Savvas.
On 12th April 1943, three weeks later, Christos was at it again.
The place was a rival gambling den called the Anchor in Hayes Bridge, his targets were a croupier called Chris and a gambler known only as ‘Australian Joe’, the reason was petty, and armed with a broken table leg, he left six men bleeding and one man hospitalised for a week. Twelve arrests were made, but with the witnesses silent, no-one was convicted. And again, Christos was bailed out by Savvas…
…but this wasn’t the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back.
In late April 1943, roughly two weeks later, Christos – who would rarely pull his weight, who had let his pals pitch the café into debt and who had frequently been bailed out by Savvas (whose personal savings had often propped up the business) – said that he had seen Savvas pocket some money from the café’s till. Savvas denied it, Christos was adamant, but by May their partnership was dissolved.
Unable to find a common ground, or to simply apologise, the two former best-friends split-up, refused to talk and went their separate ways, but with both men being Greek-Cypriots with the same pals and past-times - as the bad blood festered - the chance of them bumping into each other again was high.
Six months later, Savvas Demetriades was dead over matter of just £1 and 15 shillings...
...but for Christos Georghiou, it was a matter of pride.
On Sunday 24th October 1943, one day before his death, Savvas caught the 10:30am train from Cardiff to Paddington and hopped in a cab to Soho. As a familiar face in its betting shops, patisseries and coffee bars, who had lived in a Cypriot enclave on nearby New Compton Street only a few years earlier, to Savvas, Soho was like a second home and his visits here were frequent and welcome.
Since their partnership had dissolved, for an astute investor like Savvas, business had been good. The café was in profit, the gambling den was civilised, the police surveillance had ceased and he was here to collect a £200 winning from a £1 bet. That’s roughly £6000 he’d won off a dog he hadn’t even seen.
Looking sharp in his black tailored suit, mirror-shined shoes and starched white shirt - although he carried a bank-book with a balance (in today’s money) of £40,000, with £11,500 in his bag, £10,000 in a cash box, two gold lighters in his pockets and a 24-carat gold ring on his finger with a diamond big enough to cause blindness – he knew no-one would mug him, as he was connected and respected.
But being a cultural melting pot, as not everyone in Soho was Cypriot, Savvas left the bulk of his cash with Kristacos Dichomides; an old pal known as ‘Kiki’ who owned the Blue Water Café at 18 St Giles High Street, who – being like a brother – he knew he could trust him with his money and his life.
At 5pm he left. At 7pm he met a cousin called Harry at the College Café on Gower Street, where they drank tea and discussed dog-racing. And at 8pm, they met a buddy called Nicola Costas, headed to a Greek tavern on Rathbone Place and ate heartily from the foods of their homeland. It was an ordinary evening for the party of four. So, needing a strong coffee and a few games of cards to see them through to the wee small hours, they headed to a friendly little café called Nico’s at 42 Dean Street...
...just a few doors down the pavement outside of 23 Old Compton Street, where barely sixteen hours later, Savvas Demetriades would be stabbed to death.
As he casually strolled in, suddenly it was as if all of the air had been sucked out, as the room fell silent and cold. Like the British and Continental Café, Nico’s was a legal family eatery by day but an illicit den by night, where cards were played, items were fenced, money was made and no questions were asked.
Full of Europe’s more hot-tempered patrons, tempers flared and fights were frequent as no-one liked to lose face. Only now, everyone’s eyes were fixed on two men, stood just a few feet apart, who hadn’t uttered a single word to each other in the last six months and now they were standing eye-to-eye.
As a tight-knit community, everyone knew about the rift, the break-up and the café, they even knew about the £1 and 15 shillings which Savvas had supposedly stolen from the till, according to Christos.
That was what the beef was about, £1 and 15 shillings, which today doesn’t even add up to fifty quid...
...but for the short, dumpy and moustachioed Christos, whose puffy pale face was profusely sweating and whose trembling hand was creeping nearer the blade in his boot, it was a matter of pride...
...only for Savvas it wasn’t. He was a businessman, a family man and a loyal friend, not a two-bit hood. So bellowing (Savvas) “Christos, my brother” across the room, scooping up his old pal in his big arms, wrapping him in a bear-hug and kissing both cheeks, for Savvas, family was family and all was forgiven.
That night, the two men laughed like they did in the old good days. With the cards out, Christos on the beer and Savvas supping a lemonade (as he liked to keep sharp when money was at stake), the two men chatted about their ex-girlfriend ‘Peggy’ and mutually agreed to split the cost to bail her out of prison. And as this calm and pleasant night rolled on, at 4am, they all headed home to their beds.
At 10am, the next day, Savvas, Harry and Nicola met at Nico’s café, but Christos didn’t show. Each man put in £300, but - with Christos missing - the pile was short, so (as always) Savvas covered his debt. He wasn’t angry or upset, he was just disappointed, but he knew that Christos couldn’t be trusted.
Which was true...
...Christos stumbled out of bed just shy of noon, too late to be any use, too hungover to care and with his wallet suspiciously light, Christos headed out to a pub to grumble about his misfortune... but mostly to fume about Savvas. (Christos) “Savvas and his suits”. “Savvas and his gold”. “Savvas and his money”.
Spitting venomous curses like “he take from me”, “he cheat me”, “we like brothers”, and never once hearing the irony in his paranoid fuming, as he angrily shuffled into a pub to sink a few pints and having got so staggeringly drunk he could hardly stand-up straight, at 3:20pm, as the seething wreck shuffled out of the Coach & Horses on Greek Street - still furious over the £1 and 15 shillings that “I know he stole” – Christos headed north up Dean Street towards Old Compton Street with a blade in his boot.
The paths were bustling, the shops were buzzing and it was broad daylight when Savvas Demetriades and his friend Christos Costas headed south down Dean Street and entered Old Compton Street.
In short, this should have been a simple case for the Police to solve, but with every investigation being reliant on eye-witnesses and with a deep mistrust of the British authorities among the Greek-Cypriots, as the strict code of silence crept in... suddenly the eye-witnesses turned blind, deaf and mute.
The murder itself was self-explanatory...
... as outside of the Helvetia pub at 23 Old Compton Street, seeing Savvas, Christos punched his bitter rival in the back, a scuffle ensued with fists and feet flying, pulling his blade Christos stabbed Savvas once in chest, both men fell and Savvas was stabbed two more times. And as the blood-spattered man stumbled east towards Charing Cross Road, at the busy intersection, he hailed a taxi and fled...
...and that was it, but very few eye-witnesses could recall even those simple details.
Within minutes PC George Newman had arrived on scene, where he saw a large crowd congregated around Dr Calvin Lambert (a passing doctor) who was attending to the profusely bleeding man.
As a lone constable awaiting back-up, he tried to make sense of it all and to preserve the crime-scene as best he could, but he was just one man. Many witnesses walked away, many were unsure what they’d seen and many stated “I don’t recall”, “I didn’t see” or gave a vague description. Even Christos Costas (who had dined with both men the night before) claimed “I never seen that man before” and even as Savvas lay dying – with a punctured stomach, three broken ribs, a collapsed right lung and his left lung failing – he used one of his last breaths to protect his fellow Cypriot, his brother and his friend.
Savvas Demetriades was rushed to Charing Cross Hospital, but owing to blood loss, he died on arrival.
The investigation struggled to find the assailant, as although the Police had secured several witnesses to the attack, their memories would prove to be flaky, vague or mysteriously absent. Especially for those who had families, homes, livelihoods and a selfish desire to keep breathing.
A US solider called Private Hoornastra saw Savvas but not his attacker. Martha Zurrer, a waitress at Brown’s Hotel saw most of it, but only from behind. Ellen Bennett, a receptionist at The Queensbury saw everything, except she was three stories up. And a milkman called Alwyn Childs who saw the whole incident (from soup-to-nuts) and gave a full and detailed description of the murder and the culprit, even down to the fact that the attacker was so drunk he had stabbed himself in the left leg.
But when they were called in to attend a Police identification parade with Christos in the line-up; the soldier was absent, the waitress’s testimony was dismissed, the receptionist couldn’t identify the man at all, and the milkman (who served many of the Green-Cypriot businesses in and around Soho) flatly refused to walk down the line of suspects, nervously stating “he’s definitely not here”. As for evidence, the knife was lost, the taxi was never found and the blood stains on the street were washed away.
And there, the murder investigation came to a close... (End)
...or, at least, it should have done.
But a code of silence in a tight-knit community requires a level of honour for those to respect it. Being a businessman (even though his earnings weren’t always legitimate), Savvas was a good, decent and loyal man who treated every Greek-Cypriot as his own, as to him - family was family. Whereas Christos was a reckless gambler and an angry drunk who left debts all over town and had spilled blood on a public street over the paltry sum of just £1 and 15 shillings... which wouldn’t feed him for one day.
All it took was one person to say his name and the whole code collapsed. A cousin of Savvas called Joannis Mina spotted Christos in the shop of a Mrs Christina Douglas on New Cavendish Street and (after a brief bit of surveillance) he was arrested the next morning at her home at 26 Marlborough Hill in Wealdstone. He was pale, hungover, agitated and had a fresh stab wound to his left leg. And although the Police had no viable witnesses, it became a moot point, as Christos gave a full confession.
Christos Georghiou was tried at the Old Bailey on 10th December 1943, at which he pleaded ‘not guilty’. But having deliberated for 55 minutes, the jury returned a verdict of ‘guilty’ and he was sentence to death. As Christos left the dock, the 36-year-old gambler wept (as he did during his confession) stating of Savvas (Christos) “I don’t know why I did it, he was so good to me, my friend, my brother”.
On 2nd February 1944 at 9am, with his appeal dismissed, he was executed by hanging at Pentonville Prison and in his final days alive, not one single friend from his close-knit community paid him a visit.
So many people attended the funeral for Savvas that the service was standing-room only, but having shamefully killed in broad daylight for a few coins, the friends of Christos Georghiou refused to take the short trip to see him in prison, as - to them – his life wasn’t even worth the price of a bus ticket.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Up next, we have some extra info about this murder case, there’s a little quiz and a chat about tea and cake, as well as the usual pointless waffle. It’s not compulsory, so feel free to switch off now. If not, pop on the kettle and join me for a cuppa.
Before that, a big thank you to my new Patreon supporter who is Kevin Price, I thank you very much, as well as a thank you to two very kind people who have donated to keep Murder Mile alive, they are Tracy The Cat Lady (who donated via Supporter) and Anne-Marie Griffin (via Murder Mile eShop). I thank both of you hugely. As well as a thank you to everyone who continues to listen to the show.
Murder Mile was researched, written and performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER
The Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast has been researched using the original declassified police investigation files, court records, press reports and as many authentic sources as possible, which are freely available in the public domain, including eye-witness testimony, confessions, autopsy reports, first-hand accounts and independent investigation, where possible. But these documents are only as accurate as those recounting them and recording them, and are always incomplete or full of opinion rather than fact, therefore mistakes and misrepresentations can be made. As stated at the beginning of each episode (and as is clear by the way it is presented) Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast is a 'dramatisation' of the events and not a documentary, therefore a certain amount of dramatic licence, selective characterisation and story-telling (within logical reason and based on extensive research) has been taken to create a fuller picture. It is not a full and complete representation of the case, the people or the investigation, and therefore should not be taken as such. It is also often (for the sake of clarity, speed and the drama) presented from a single person's perspective, usually (but not exclusively) the victim's, and therefore it will contain a certain level of bias and opinion to get across this single perspective, which may not be the overall opinion of those involved or associated. Murder Mile is just one possible retelling of each case. Murder Mile does not set out to cause any harm or distress to those involved, and those who listen to the podcast or read the transcripts provided should be aware that by accessing anything created by Murder Mile (or any source related to any each) that they may discover some details about a person, an incident or the police investigation itself, that they were unaware of.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards", one of The Telegraph's top five true-crime podcasts and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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