Alki Kampanou's parents: When I learned about his murder, I was overcome with pain
Heartbreaking - The parents of Alkis Kampanos describe the moment they learned about the murder - "I folded in pain"
A few days after the decision of the Mixed Jury Court of Thessaloniki, by which twelve young men were unanimously convicted for the murderous attack with the victim 19-year-old Alkis Kampanos, his parents speak to ERT.
"I folded under the pain, crying and agony I felt at that moment when I heard it," says Alkis Kampanou's father. His parents talk about the first moments when they were informed that their son was the victim of a hooligan attack in the early hours of February 1, 2022, until the trial.
They describe what they experienced during the 49 days in court, "pure sorry without any empathy", until the sentencing of the twelve youths or "military, raiding party", as the father described them. Unanimously and without mitigating factors. The seven in life and all in multi-year prison sentences.
Melina Kakoulidou and Aristidis Kampanos welcomed ERT, Adriana Paraskevopoulou and Costas Kantouris at their home in Veria. Where Alkis seems to be present. Through the world's dedications and the love that has been expressed after his murder... A wave of solidarity has developed after the unprecedentedly brutal incident.
It was 20 days before his murder, when 19-year-old Alkis went to the animal shelter in Thessaloniki to adopt a cat. Full of love, he wanted to provide and care. Besides, it wasn't the first time. The cats instinctively followed him the safety they felt with him since he was small.
“A child…there are no words, there are no words. He respected everyone. He wanted to get a kitten for a long time and now that he came down to Thessaloniki he found an animal shelter and got one. He sent us pictures of her and asked his friends what he should do to make the kitten feel comfortable," says his mother.
"Alkis even now that I bring back the memories was a real angel, a child full of joy, full of light. A pure, innocent child. Always happy and always smiling. He was friends with all the kids, no matter how many schools he changed. Everywhere he created friendships, kept his friendships, his company. We were and are a very loving family. Full of love towards his parents, his sister, his friends. He knew how to give."
A year and a half after Alki's murder, his things are at his father's house in Veria. The notes for his courses in the Economics Department of the Aristotle University where he studied are placed reverently by his parents on his desk. Just like he left them just before he went out for his last ride. He wanted to take a break from reading because he had an exam the next day.
“When I went to pack, you see now… he had left his notes because he was teaching the next day. I packed them up and brought them over here to Veria's office."
"Here are some moments of Alkis when he was younger," says his mother, showing his childhood photos and messages from the world in his memory.
"The messages we received from all over the world are so many that we managed to single out a few of them here. I wish we had a huge space to spread it all out. It's good for them to see. Let the world see them, especially the children, so that they understand that violence leads to the wrong roads, to the wrong paths", says his father.
1/2/2022 "Don't Hit Me Again"
On the afternoon of the first of February 2022, Alkis goes for a walk with his friends in Harilaou, Thessaloniki. Shortly after midnight, he is sitting on the steps of an apartment building at 18 Theodorou Gazi Street, which has now been renamed Alki Kampanou Street, when two cars pull up in the alley. Hooligans come down holding a scythe, knives and clubs. They start with rage and brutality beating and stabbing the group of boys. Two of Alki's friends manage to escape and two are stabbed and taken to surgery. Alkis keeps yelling at them "Don't hit me anymore". The killers do not stop and the child falls dead. The police find a knife thrown on the street, next to the garbage, a few meters from the crime scene.
Question: How did you find out what happened?
Aristides Kampanos: I received the phone call from my brother. It was around 2-3 o'clock. When I received the call it was with a shout from my brother that they killed Alkis. It was a voice that I felt like I had heard before. I believed it from the first moment, while my wife did not believe the fact that this thing happened to Alkis. I folded under the pain, the crying and the agony I felt at that moment when I heard it. During the drive to the hospital to find my brother, to tell us exactly where Alkis was...it was one of the worst moments of my life.
Question: On the way, did you then know that the child's life was already lost?
Melina Kakoulidou: As a mother, when I was informed about it, when my husband told me, I said it was a mistake. It cannot be my child, because I know my child's character very well. He was a kid who didn't get into fights. He didn't like fuss. I don't remember him ever fighting with any of his classmates or here in the house, with us, with his sister. He was a kid who hated fighting and I thought it was a mistake. It is impossible for my child to have been involved in a fight. I didn't believe it until we arrived. I prayed to Panagia as a mother myself and until we got to the hospital I said that it couldn't be mine. Something went wrong.
Question: When you got to the hospital were you told exactly what had happened?
Aristides Kampanos: Essentially, the information that Alki's life was lost was given to me by a nurse and that it happened after a fight, as it was said by a policeman who was there... from whom I apologize, even after all this time, because I started to yelling things at him about the police and not protecting my son.
Question: When you first saw the video, did you see it on TV? Were you informed about this?
Aristides Kampanos: I saw it for the first time in the courts. I didn't want to see it. I wasn't sure at that moment what emotions would surface… would it be rage, anger… and I wanted to have right thoughts, as many right thoughts as you can have…
Melina Kakoulidou: The mind was so clouded. Which I couldn't see. I saw it much, much later… I saw this horror at the expense of my child.
Aristides Kampanos: It was a military group, a commando group which acted premeditated. In other words, the way they moved, the way they used their mobile phones... Some stopped communicating just before they reached the place where Alkis was with the other children. It looks premeditated. When my child they hit Alki repeatedly and he shouted and shouted at them.. He told them don't hit me anymore.. I mean, my kid... What hatred someone must feel.. when he yells at them don't hit me anymore... and they keep hitting.
49 days of trial: "Why my child?"
On January 23, 2023, the trial began at the Mixed Jury Court of Thessaloniki. After 49 days the 12 defendants were unanimously found guilty of the murderous attack. The decision changed the basic charge from direct to potential fraud. The court sentenced seven defendants to life and multi-year sentences for the manslaughter and wounding of the other two youths, while the five convicted accomplices were sentenced to 19 to 27 years in prison. The trial was covered journalistically for ERT by Kostas Kantouris.
Question: You started testifying at trial. You turned completely towards the 12 defendants and asked them: "Why Ton Alki. Why my child?' after 49 days of trial. Did you get an answer to this?
Melina Kakoulidou: This question was expected. I wanted to know why all this happened. Why this vicious attack on my child, But unfortunately I received no response. On the part of the condemned... a pure apology. I did not receive an explanation for this whole event. What I received was a pure apology without any empathy, any trace of remorse.
Aristides Kampanos: No one can know if the apology they asked for is superficial or if it is after an empathy of what they have done. Only they know this thing. But even this apology, even in this way, is also a part of his justification. Now if it's real...only God knows.
Question: Did the decision, the first decision vindicate you?
Melina Kakoulidou: For me it was a moral justification, as I said, but Alkis will not come back for me. He can't go back.
Aristides Kampanos: Yes, the court's decision is vindication. There is actually a crime. A crime has been committed and there must be punishment so that such crimes do not happen again in this country.
Question: Does the administration of justice settle down even a little bit?
Melina Kakoulidou: For a moment something calms down, but the loss of the child is so intense that it comes back, it's only for a moment, it's a moment of vindication. But the loss of the child is there. Alkis does not turn back.
Aristides Kampanos: Yes, I felt vindicated. I felt vindicated. It calms down, it calms down the pain a little. But as Melina said it is temporary. After all, it doesn't matter what Melina and I feel as justification. It is how the entire Greek society feels about this event. I read somewhere - you will say that what I am about to say is too strong - that society prepares a crime and murderers carry it out. That is, not only for the matter of Alki, but also for the rest of the murders that have been plaguing Greek society lately, such as femicides. That is, as a society... as a society, something was wrong. We must change as a society and let these events of the murders be an end and a new beginning for this country, for Greece.
Question: For the defendants that you had to see every day during the 49 days of the trial and their parents, what did you think?
Aristides Kampanos: There were moments when I saw them and they gave me mixed feelings. Sometimes I was angry and other times I felt sorry for them. They are now carrying their own personal cross, but this cross they carry they had to think about beforehand... the way they raised their children. They are the second thoughts they had to have for their children, because to get to murder, to get to crime, they had to go through some other stages, which were twisted. In other words, they should get some messages from their children and tell them "my child, you are doing something wrong".
Question: Do you consider them complicit?
Aristides Kampanos: Of course. I consider the parents more guilty, because they had to give their children what we have to give in Greek society: moral education. It is not possible for them to go to organized clubs full of knives, crowbars... and not know where their children are going... And if they didn't know, they are twice as guilty... Twice as guilty.
Question: Have you ever had second thoughts? I ask as a mother.
Melina Kakoulidou: No, no. Because no mother can ever think of such a thing for her child. Not even a thought.
Question: Did you have second thoughts? Say that maybe if I had called him at that time..
Aristides Kampanos: They passed, second thoughts passed, if I did something or didn't do something... if I should have done something different so that it didn't get to this point. Maybe even the choice of Thessaloniki as a school. Maybe not making him love Aris... I remember the first time when he was a very young kid we went to Aris stadium and he loved that atmosphere. I was saying maybe I shouldn't tell him to do this sport, because I liked sports very much, but football for me is maybe the third fourth sport. I like classical sports. Did I also do something crooked, wrong or make a wrong decision in my life?
Question: On the fateful night had you spoken with Alkis?
Melina Kakoulidou: I had spoken at 7:30. He made me a Viber call. We talked a lot, we talked about the lessons... What are his plans after he finishes the exams... If he will come to Veria to see us. I tell him "okay, take it easy. I came to see what you're doing, if you're all right.”… “How's school going mom?” Everyday words. That was the last, the last contact I had with Alkis.
Question: Are Alki's friends who were with him that night in contact with you? Do you keep in touch?
Melina Kakoulidou: Yes, we were together in the courts. We have communication with the families, of course.
Question: Did you feel the need to ask them again and again if there was anything else, if they thought of anything, if they remembered anything?
Melina Kakoulidou: No, no. I think everything was told to the courts in such detail... I think it's very difficult for them too. It is a tragic night that will accompany them throughout their lives.
Question: Are you talking to Alki's friends who were with him on the fateful night?
Aristides Kampanos: No, I'm not talking, I'm not talking to anyone. I have closed myself off. I'm stuck here on Alki's stuff. I don't know if I'm doing it right. I don't want to ask. After all, as Melina said, everything that needed to be said was said in the courts. I don't want to know anything more.. everything was told in the courts. Alkis was also the voice of conscience for me. I learned from the son. First time... I don't know if father has felt it... I was learning from my child. And that's why I try to say now that I'm a worthy father.
Question: This very difficult part, for a parent to mourn the loss of his child, you experienced it in another dimension, it was pan-Hellenic. The whole of Greece mourned with you. And I want to ask you, did that make it even harder for you to want to isolate yourself? Were there times when the words of some unknown people were unbuttoned?
Aristides Kampanos: We received the love of the whole world, who supported us and that was our support. Let the world see the words of support we have received all this time. I don't know if we would have been able to bear all this burden of the legal battle if it weren't for the common people and the words of support and love of the people. That's why I said earlier that I feel like something is changing... Maybe I'm a little selfish, but I think something is happening, my child. Something is happening, something is changing.
Melina Kakoulidou: The support of the world. Simple people, simple young children came to support me, to shake my hand. So simple. But also from what I see outside, especially here in the local community with the actions that are taking place, with the work plans in the schools where I work... The whole society wants to change something.
Question: Hard trials either tear people apart or make them stronger, unite them or divide them.
Aristides Kampanos: For me it was a support. I mean, if it wasn't for Melina, there was no way I could make it. She does the man's job, that is, I don't know... I said it initially and on the channels that you are perhaps stronger in such difficult situations... Maybe my Melina was strong, she was my support. Now that I have managed to be a little more on my feet, I also support her.
Melina Kakoulidou: Me too. The husband is the only support. We are Alki's parents. We had to be next to each other because that's exactly how Alkis wanted to see us.
Aristides Kampanos: He wanted to.
Melina Kakoulidou: I had to endure. I had to endure because it was for Alkis. I had to endure and be present. I also wanted to know what really happened that night. To hear at least one truth that I believe no truth has been heard. That is what I believe.
Aristides Kampanos: Essentially, Melina took the position that I had to take. That is, in court, it was from beginning to end, except for the testimony of the medical examiner. This whole fight was also our fight, that is, to be able to stand in court and show with our attitude how much harm this did to us, how much harm they did to our family. Melina took the right attitude and was my support.
Melina Kakoulidou: Of course, both together... we had to.
Aristides Kampanos: The whole legal battle was a Golgotha for us too, you must understand that. It was very difficult. There were some moments when I couldn't stand it in the court too, when I reacted, when he reacted.
By direct fraud in the Court of Appeal
While waiting for the Court of Appeal, in the court decision for the 12, the head of the Appeals Prosecutor's Office of Thessaloniki filed an appeal, considering that the court should not have changed the basic charge. That is why at the Court of Appeal the 10 young men will be tried again for manslaughter with direct intent and only the two for complicity.
Question: Court is over. However, you still have a judicial Golgotha in front of you, it is the Court of Appeal.
Melina Kakoulidou: It is the Court of Appeal. Until then, we need to gather strength. Whatever the legal process dictates. This is what we will follow.
Aristides Kampanos: Yes, there is also the continuation with the Court of Appeal. We expect and believe that the Court of Appeal will do its work.
Question: Don't you dread having to relive those moments?
Aristides Kampanos: Certainly, it will certainly be a difficult part, but we must overcome it just as we passed the rest, the previous part of the court. We will make it.
Melina Kakoulidou: It will definitely be something very painful. But we must endure, we must endure. For Alkis. This is what gives us strength, Alkis.
Question: He appeared as Appellant's counsel and appealed at your request, and the main thing he says is that what happened in his view was direct murder, with direct malice and not contingency, as the court ruled. What do you think about that?
Aristides Kampanos: I am saying what the prosecutor said. We agree that the prosecutor essentially did his duty so that the accused, the convicted, the murderers of Akis get what they deserve.
Melina Kakoulidou: There was deception. It was no accident. There was deception. Of course, we agree with the prosecutor, that's what we asked from the beginning, that there was malice in this whole atrocity.
Question: That it was a murderous attack? Is that what you think?
Melina Kakoulidou: Exactly. It was all pre-planned, from what we heard and gathered inside the court.
Aristides Kampanos: Fraud is direct fraud and not potential fraud, as was the original decision of the court.
Put an end to senseless violence
Aristides Kampanos: There are no magic wands and magic solutions. Suddenly the whole context of our football, the fans, the fans, will change. I think that some right moves have been made both on the part of the state and on the part of the people. And the show of support we've received all this time shows that something is changing my child, something is changing. There are certainly brainless people. Those who will think to commit acts of violence... For football, for sports and all that over here... And the correct judicial decision made in the context of justice, not ours, but of the whole society, will scare and make them to think again... that is, the severity of the punishment should help prevent such phenomena from occurring again.
Melina Kakoulidou: We must hope that something will change through the school, through the local community, the associations, the actions. The whole society wants to change something.
Question: If this happens and if things really change, will it put your mind at ease?
Aristides Kampanos: Yes. Yes of course. I wrote on Alki's little house and also on the monument "ray of light for a better future". To change as a society. To change.
Melina Kakoulidou: Put an end to senseless violence. The violence my child felt that night was senseless, unnecessary. No more impunity. Because I believe that if there are severe penalties for every crime, everyone will now start thinking about the consequences as well. As long as I am going to do something illegal at the expense of another, I will know that this has severe consequences.
Question: When you hear about an incident, whether it happens in Athens or Thessaloniki of fan violence, how do you feel at that moment?
Melina Kakoulidou: Shocking. I'm just reading the headlines. I don't have the courage to take it any further. I wonder how it is possible after Alkis that the same events repeat themselves.
Aristides Kampanos: It makes me feel sorry, sorry for these kids who keep going. Essentially, a new moral education of the entire Greek society is needed, but starting first with the children. First from the children. These are the receivers. We must become the transmitters or broadcast of the good messages and the children the receivers to accept these messages. This is the only way I believe we will change. And children learn not by talking all the time, but by leading by example. Children learn by example. So we adults must set the example that we are good people, good sports fans, good in our work and this is how the children will learn and in this way there will be a new moral education of the entire Greek society.
"Alkis would become your best friend"
Question: If after years some of these defendants are released from prison and you find them in front of you what will you say to them?
Melina Kakoulidou: I haven't gotten that far.
Aristides Kampanos: I had said it and I am not changing what I said. I will tell them that I am sorry that they did not meet Alkis. "He would become your best friend." This. And if they happen to have a conscience and some remorse of conscience, if they run after them like Erinyes, they can ask for forgiveness at Alki's tomb and he will certainly accept it.
Question: You told me before that you didn't believe it because Alkis was a kid who never got into a fight.
And I will ask you what kind of child was Alkis?
Melina Kakoulidou: Full of love towards his parents, his sister, his friends, he knew how to give. There are no words for Alkis. That's why I ruled out from the first moment the fact that my child has gotten into a fight.
Question: How was he as a friend?
Melina Kakoulidou: The best. Giving, loved, respected, gave. From what the children tell me, whenever a commotion was about to break out, Alkis would get in the middle and try to solve the issue of the commotion. I was told a feature from the Lyceum... There was a disagreement, a strong disagreement among the children of the Third Lyceum. And Alkis intervenes and tells them "Stop. We will settle our differences with arguments.” He was a very happy child, without ego. He wasn't holding back. Very giving, very giving. In the house we rented in Thessaloniki, he lived alone. He asked us to buy him a big TV so the kids could come and watch the games, not go out to the shops, and he had told his friends 'This is the party house'. He didn't say my house, he said the company's house... to share, to give. They didn't go out and shop for things like that.
Aristides Kampanos: From the beginning he also wanted to host children, friends of his who had financial problems and "Dad, can I host them for 1-2 months?"
Melina Kakoulidou: And to help.
Question: I want to ask you one last question. If you had the opportunity, to everyone living in this country, to a person you know, to a stranger, to talk to them about your child and tell them how Alkis was, what you would like to say to him and what you would like to keep, what would you like to stay?
Melina Kakoulidou: Lack of ego. Pure, unfailing, sincere, giving.
Aristides Kampanos: And these over here, let them transmit. Let them take this. That's all. These things over here are what will take us forward as a society, as people. Dignity.