Three tourists from the UK appeared in court in Cyprus yesterday accused of murdering a young British soldier.
David Lee Collins, 19, from Manchester, was stabbed to death after a fight broke out at a nightclub in the popular resort of Ayia Napa.
Mr Collins, from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was said to be stationed at an Army base in the Dhekelia area of the island and was out with three fellow soldiers when the brawl broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Three suspects, 19-year-old Mohamed Abdulkadir Osman, 17-year-old Umar Anwar and another 17-year-old who has not been named, appeared at Famagusta District Court where they were remanded in custody for eight days.
They have not been formally charged with murder and will continue to be detained while detectives investigate the incident, a local police spokesman added.
The court hearing was told that Osman admitted to police that he stabbed Mr Collins in self-defence after he and his friends were attacked, but said he had not meant to hurt him.
Osman is said to have told investigators that Mr Collins and his friends had accosted him and the other two suspects, saying that they were from Manchester and wanted to pick a fight with them.
Osman said that he pushed the tallest of the soldiers back and pointed a switch blade at them to “scare them off”. When one of the soldiers came towards him the switch blade lodged in his chest, he said.
Police said they found marijuana, two brass knuckles and 11 switch blades when they searched Osman’s hotel room, which he said he had bought from a local shop to take back to give to his friends.
The three suspects also face charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of a knife and possession and use of a controlled substance.
Mr Collins’s family said they were “devastated” by his death. It is understood his father has already flown out to the Mediterranean island.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said: “It is with great sadness that the MoD must confirm that a soldier from 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers has died in an incident in Cyprus.
“An investigation is being conducted by Cyprus police and it would be inappropriate to comment any further. The family has been informed and our thoughts are with them.”
Mr Collin’s battalion was due to leave for Afghanistan on Saturday but the mission was delayed for 24 hours, according to reports.
Connie Pierce, a British military spokeswoman, said the attack took place in an area of the Eastern Mediterranean island that British soldiers are told to avoid because of previous incidents.
After the rape and murder of Danish tour guide Louise Jensen by British servicemen in 1994, the centre of Ayia Napa was declared off limits to soldiers by military top brass on the island, which is popular for its nightclubs and has a reputation for sex, drugs and violence.
About 3,000 British military personnel are stationed in Cyprus at bases retained after the former British colony gained independence in 1960.