The fiasco of EL.AS. with Sorin Mattei in 1998: The live broadcast of the hostage situation and Amalia Ginaki, who died from a grenade (images & video)

The fiasco of EL.AS. with Sorin Mattei in 1998: The live broadcast of the hostage situation and Amalia Ginaki, who died from a grenade (images & video)
The fiasco of EL.AS. with Sorin Mattei in 1998: The live broadcast of the hostage situation and Amalia Ginaki, who died from a grenade (images & video)

Today marks 24 years since the death of Amalia Ginaki in the air. The whole country was transfixed in front of a television, watching SKAI broadcast live the hostage situation of the heroin-addicted Romanian Sorin Matei, Nikos Evangeliato in the “role” of a negotiator, and the 58-year-old hostage finally being killed by a grenade.

It was the evening of September 23, 1998 and all of Greece is glued to the television. In homes, cafes, shops, everyone has connected to SKAI, which broadcasts live the hostage situation at 4 Niovis Street in Kato Patisia. Everyone, with bated breath and anguish painted on their faces, wishes and prays that the fatal mistake will not be made and the Romanian Sorin Mattei, who is under the influence of heroin, throws the grenade with which he threatens the four people, in whose house invaded. “A flash you will see… nothing else” he threatened.

The police on that fateful night made tragic mistakes, the main one being the conviction of the Leader of the EL.AS. Athanasios Vassilopoulos, that the Romanian’s grenade was fake. He ordered a raid” and Amalia Ginaki, who a few months later would marry her fiance, lost her life in a brutal and tragic way from the carnage. According to one version, Mattei, who had tied her hand with his, put the grenade in her pants and pushed her towards the police. After 17 days of hospitalization, he did not make it and “passed away”.

The 6th escape and the police hostage

Sorin Matei, who had the nickname “butterfly” from the many escapes he had made, about two weeks before the fatal hostage situation in Niobe, had escaped from the police for the sixth time, managing to take one of the policemen hostage in Chalkida, Thanasis Krystalogiannis.

The Romanian thug, convicted of thefts, robberies and other crimes, put the hostage in a car under the threat of a grenade and they took the road to Athens. When they arrived in Piraeus, Mattei took a taxi – leaving the policeman behind – and went to Kato Patisia on Niovis Street.

4 Niovis Street

The police found him there. He lived in the basement apartment at number 4 with a friend of his. Both were heroin users. The police authorities did not immediately proceed with a raid, but waited for the right moment. They finally decided to break into the basement on the afternoon of September 23rd. The (then) Minister of Public Order Giorgos Romaios, who was away on a trip abroad, had even been informed about this, while the prosecutor Sakkas had given an order not to shoot anyone.

The “du” of the police and the escape from the traffic light

Just before the hands of the clock struck 7:00 in the afternoon, the Special Forces of the police “boomed” into the basement apartment using a stun grenade. Sorin Mattei had just used heroin and was lying on a bed, with a police officer hitting him on the head with the butt of his gun.

It is unknown, even today, how Matei – after all this – managed to rush to the toilet, lock himself and escape from the light fixture. Seconds earlier, he had taken the grenade from the bedside table.

From the skylight he climbed to the first floor and broke into the family’s apartment. Inside the house at that time were the mother of the family Sultana Ginaki, her 24-year-old son Vangelis, her daughter Amalia and her fiance Apostolis Makrinos. Amalia and Apostolis would be married six months from now.

Shocked, surprised and frightened, the four hostages obeyed what the Romanian thug told them. He showed them the grenade, but told them he didn’t mean to hurt them. The mother, Sultana Ginaki, kept her composure and treated the wound on Matei’s head. Then, using shoelaces, Mattei bound Amalia’s wrists. One wrist with her fiance and the other with his own hand. The girl found herself tied between the perpetrator and her lover.

He took SKAI and went on the “air” with Evangelitos

The next step of the heroin addict was to call the TV station SKAI and after connecting with the news director (at the time) Stamatis Malelis, he demanded to go on the live “air”. The news presenter at the time, Nikos Evangeliatos, began to chat live with the thug and act as a… negotiator.

They talked for an hour and the police said that Nikos Evangeliatos calmed him down. A crowd of people had gathered outside Niovis Street, thousands were watching live from their television receivers while the Deputy Police Chief Theodoros Plakas was at the control next to Malelis.

“Last time they respected the policeman’s life and let me go. Now I am holding four people,” said the Romanian thug to Nikos Evangeliato and continued: “Don’t be afraid, I won’t harm anyone. I want to negotiate and be let go.” He had asked for 500,000 drachmas, about 1500 euros, saying that these were the costs of his escape.

The mistake with sleeping pills

Security Commander Theodoros Papafilis arrived at the scene for on-site negotiations, following a personal order from Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Sorin Mattei asked the police, who had blocked off the road below the apartment on Niovis Street, to send him amphetamines so that he could recover from the heroin.

But the police sent a box of sleeping pills. He understood it. He even asked Amalia to read the pills for him. They wrote “hypostenton”. Tragic mistake, as he would fall asleep and drop the grenade from his hand…

This “trick” of the police infuriated the thug… “You will only see a flash and nothing else” he shouted: “You will scoop up five people here. You will see a glow.”

Free the first hostage

He told Nikos Evangeliato over and over again “I’m not a criminal” and so he seized the opportunity for the presenter to tell him, “make a good move and prove it, release a hostage”. So it happened. Matei left the family’s son, who was also facing health problems.

The Leader of EL.AS. he thought the grenade was fake

At 21:00 in the evening, the police chief Athanasios Vassilopoulos also arrived in Niovis and his first move was to interrogate Matei’s girlfriend, P. Athanasopoulos, in order to establish whether the grenade was real. After questioning the girl, who was also under the influence of drugs, Athanasopoulos decided to raid the house. He thought the grenade was fake.

The television crews were immediately removed, the live connection of SKAI was also ordered to be cut and the organization of the operation began. According to Stamatis Malelis, deputy chief Plakas, who was next to him, whispered to him that this decision was not correct and that the assessment of the fake grenade was wrong. Unfortunately, it turned out in the most tragic way.

At the time the policemen entered the building, Mattei had just released, as he had promised Nikos Evagelatos earlier, Sultana Ginakis, the mother of the family. He and the two hostages tied (with him) were now in the apartment. When the policemen entered the apartment, they pulled Apostolos Makrinos with force, cut the cord and managed to free him, but at the same time Matei grabbed the girl who started shouting “meee”. Everything could be heard from the television and the open phone…

The fatal explosion both versions

A few minutes later, the fatal grenade explosion was heard, injuring the police chief himself. There are two unconfirmed versions of how it exploded:

According to one, Matei put her in Amalia’s pants and then pushed her towards the police.
The relatives of the deceased girl, who had followed the investigations that followed, reported that the grenade exploded right behind her legs, which is why she was amputated. According to this version, it was the police officers who urged the thug to throw the grenade on the ground.
Police Lieutenant General Ioannis Georgakopoulos, who was present at the raid, denied that he was one of the officers who shouted at Roumanos to throw the grenade.

They moved the cars with their hands

Amalia’s body was almost cut in two, Matei was also injured by the explosion, while chaos had been caused outside in the street. Ambulances could not get close because of the crowd and many tried to move the obstructing vehicles, even with their hands.

Amalia Ginaki was transferred to the Red Cross after an hour, the injured policemen to military hospitals and Mattei initially to the Red Cross and a little later to the General State of Nice. Doctors tried to save the girl’s life, but they failed. Amalia Ginaki passed away after 17 days of hospitalization. After his injury Matei received a large dose of sedatives and the doctors kept him under sedation.

Mattei was given a suppressant for… elephants

Then, following the order of the director of the surgery clinic, who judged that the patient was not in danger, Matei was taken to the hospital of the Korydallos prison. According to the doctor on duty there, Ioannis Koutras, the amount of sedative drug administered to Roumanos was “for elephants”, while the supine position at the same time as the tying was wrong.

Before Doctor Koutras could do anything, he found Mattei dead in his bed, on the night of September 26. As stated by the medical examiner Marios Mitsakis, the death of the thug came from aspiration of gastric fluid, combined with prolonged sedation.

Some politicians rushed to the hospital and were strongly disapproved.

The acquittal of the police officers

After the tragic failure of the operation with Amalia Ginaki losing her life, the Chief of Police submitted his resignation, while taking responsibility for his mistake and the misinformation of the other police officers acting under his orders.

Athanasios Vassilopoulos was suspended for one year on the grounds of involuntary manslaughter due to negligence. The other police officers who took part in the failed operation faced the same charge.

All the policemen were exonerated in May 2000, by the Three-Member Council of Misdemeanors. The Ginaki family filed an appeal, after which only Athanasios Vassilopoulos was brought to trial.

The court sentenced the former police chief to 12 months in prison, but on appeal he was acquitted in 2005.

Harsh criticism of SKAI

SKAI and Nikos Evangeliatos received criticism for the live broadcast of the case, while the presenter said in an interview that if he was given the chance again, he would not go on air and that all he thinks about is the life of the girl who was lost.

The ESR imposed a fine of 50 million drachmas on SKAI for the live broadcast and since then the relevant legislation has been changed.

The relatives of the dead girl received a sum of money as compensation, but what they are repeatedly asking for is the punishment of those responsible.

The article is in Greek

Tags: fiasco EL .AS Sorin Mattei live broadcast hostage situation Amalia Ginaki died grenade images video

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