WEARING a bulletproof vest and flanked by armed cops, Charalambos “Babis” Anagnostopoulos appeared in court last night after confessing to police that he had suffocated his British wife Caroline Crouch.

And the 33-year-old UK-trained chopper pilot admitted he had even killed the couple’s puppy Roxy to try to make it look like a robbery.

🔵 Read our Caroline Crouch live blog for the very latest updates…

Strung up by its lead and dangling from railings, the sight of the pet had shocked the usually unflappable officers of the Athens homicide squad.

Caroline, 20, was found dead in her family home last month in an upmarket suburb of the Greek capital, after being tortured and suffocated, with the couple’s 11-month-old daughter Lydia beside her.

On the ground floor, tied up and gagged with a sock, was Babis, Caroline’s husband of two years, who told police they had been attacked by a group of Albanian gangsters.

He said he had been forced to listen as the gang tortured his wife and pointed a gun at their baby’s head, forcing her to reveal where they kept cash and jewels before suffocating her with a pillow.

He had only managed to raise the alarm by wriggling to a phone and dialling a neighbour with his nose.

But two days ago his story came crashing down, as cops who had always had suspicions confronted Babis with sensational new evidence that confirmed there were no Albanian gangsters — he was the killer.

Dramatic moment

Health data downloaded from Caroline’s smartwatch showed she was dead an hour earlier than Babis had told police the gang had broken in, and his phone’s step counter showed he was moving around the flat when he said he had been tied up.

On Thursday, a month after Caroline’s death, detectives approached Babis as he attended a memorial service on the island of Alonnisos, where she had lived with her British dad David, a retired oil executive, and Filipina mum Susan.

They told him he had to return to Athens immediately as there had been a dramatic breakthrough in the case and officers at the HQ needed to speak with him urgently. Even then, knowing the game must have been up, he showed no emotion.

So shocking was the crime that when news emerged that Babis had confessed, Greek TV broke into coverage of the Euro 2020 match between the Netherlands and Austria. Last night a judge in Athens was also deciding whether Lydia should be temporarily housed with social services or with Babis’s parents.

Hariklia Theodorou, a local councillor on Alonnisos who has known Babis and Caroline since 2000, exclusively told The Sun of the dramatic moment when police approached him.

She said: “The church service had just finished and everyone was going to the cemetery where Caroline is buried to pay their respects. Babis was there with Susan but David was ill and wasn’t there. I was standing next to Babis and was about to hug him and give him and Susan my condolences when the police approached. They said to him quite abruptly, ‘You have to come with us to Athens now’.

“They were being very severe with him and I was surprised, as I thought it was unusual to behave this way at a memorial service for a man who has lost his wife. The officers told him again it was important and that someone had been arrested at Athens airport who was connected to the case and he had to leave the island and fly straight back to the mainland.

“Babis even said, ‘Now? I have to go now? Can’t I just go to my wife’s grave?’ But they were insistent. The last thing I see in my mind is Babis hugging Susan and saying he had to go, and then he kissed her and left with the police. He was showing no emotion at all and he must have known the police were on to him. Now I wonder if the hug for Susan was his way of saying sorry for what was about to happen.”

Back in Athens, Babis was questioned for six hours before breaking down and confessing he had snapped and suffocated his wife after a row in which she had threatened to divorce him and take Lydia with her.

A Greek police source said: “He tried to stick to the original story but after a while he knew it was futile. The evidence was overwhelming and he confessed to everything. By the end you got the impression he was glad he had unburdened himself.”

In extracts from his statement leaked to Greek media, Babis revealed how, despite outwardly seeming happy, the couple had regularly rowed and even a make-or-break holiday to Dubai just two weeks before she died failed to save the marriage.

He said: “On the night when everything happened, we had a heated argument once again. Caroline got out of bed and put the baby in a crib. She was shouting and I was shouting back.

“She said she wanted a divorce and she was going to leave. At that moment I immobilised her and closed her mouth with my hands. I do not know how much time. I was alone. I had no accomplice. When I realised she was dead, I just started thinking about how to cover it, because we have a baby and I did not know what to do.”

In further leaked extracts Babis told the prosecutor: “I did not want to go to prison, because I wanted to raise my daughter.

Angry texts

“I tied myself up. I did everything because when I realised I killed her, I thought of my child. I want everyone to understand that what I did afterwards I did so that Lydia and her father would stay together.”

According to police, CCTV cameras in their flat showed Babis holding Lydia on the sofa on the ground floor at 00:35 as he swapped angry texts with Caroline. Less than an hour later the memory card was removed, snapped in half and flushed down the toilet while Caroline texted friends to say they had been rowing and she was leaving him. At one point she even booked a hotel.

At 4am police said there was a buzz of heart activity on her smartwatch which they say was the time she was being murdered by Babis — and at 4.11am her pulse flatlined. For the next two hours Babis planned his cover-up. Detectives said he broke a latch on a downstairs window, then opened cabinets to make it look like a break-in, before strangling their puppy and hanging it on railings.

Then, tying his hands and feet, he blindfolded himself and nudged a sock into his mouth as a gag before calling neighbours. It was a pitiful end to the couple’s outwardly glamorous lifestyle, with Babis working as a flying instructor and helicopter pilot at Superior Air in Athens after training in Liverpool.

Caroline had put her hopes of getting a job in marketing on hold after giving birth to Lydia last year, just 12 months after their wedding at Praia Do Canavial in Portugal. Dressed in white and holding a bouquet, Caroline was the picture of happiness as she held hands on the beach with the man she had fallen in love with as a 16-year-old schoolgirl and then married within days of turning 18.

Last year on their anniversary she wrote: “When you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. Happy anniversary my love.”

But just a year later she was killed by the man who himself used the same photograph to pay tribute to her at her funeral service, writing: “Together forever. Have a nice trip my love.”

But by yesterday afternoon, less than 24 hours after his confession, there was a bitter backlash against him as more than 50,000 people had posted under the picture what they thought of him.

Alexander Kopsialis wrote: “To think we were so moved by your post and now the real truth and horror has emerged.”

Haralika said: “Even now I still can’t accept it — I feel as if I should be angry with Babis for what he did to poor sweet Caroline and how he has left her parents, they are heartbroken. I have known them both for years and I still can’t see what gripped Babis to do what he did.”

Local Mayor Vafinis Petros told The Sun: “This has hit us all very hard. Everyone on the island adored Caroline, and her mother and father are devastated.

“First they lost their daughter and now they have discovered who was responsible. Who knows what happens behind closed doors but from what I have heard, Caroline was very upset.

"She was at home with a baby and only just 19 while all her friends were out enjoying themselves.

“When the news broke there were whispers that maybe it was something more sinister but we all wanted to believe it wasn’t, and now our fears have been confirmed.

“Her husband was always working and she was at home with the baby and I think things just got worse and they started to row. I heard there were problems and pressures but no one ever expected this.”

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