Dramatic allegations that underworld figure George Louca was poisoned in prison have emerged in a new book by journalist Mandy Wiener, titled Ministry of Crime.
"He said to me that the last time I visited him in the prison... 'My brother, I'm sure that they poisoned me. They found one way and they poisoned me. It's not possible,' he said to me, 'to get sick so quickly'," Louca's brother Demetris Panayiotou is quoted as telling Wiener during a phone interview.
Panayiotou says the conversation took place after he had flown back to South Africa to see his brother, who was due to stand trial for the 2010 murder of Lolly Jackson, the owner of strip club Teazers.
However, Louca died in custody in April 2015 when an application to be released due to ill health was denied. At the time, the Cypriot national was suffering from stage-four cancer.
Louca, who had been extradited from his home country to stand trial, was alleged to have initially confessed to the murder; however, he later said the killer was convicted Czech criminal Radovan Krejcír.
In her book, Wiener details how Panayiotou told her that while he was not sure who was behind the alleged poisoning, he did claim: "I'm sure that people from underworld and some police co-operate together".
Wiener says that Louca's attorney, Owen Blumberg, also previously had raised allegations that Louca had died from poisoning.
"Blumberg was eccentric and fired up about the case, so I was never quite sure what to make of his claims that Louca had been poisoned and that his ill health was not because of cancer," Wiener says in her book.
Moreover, she adds, medical reports that were given to the courts also explicitly spoke of Louca's cancer diagnosis.
Blumberg died from a sudden heart attack soon after Louca's death.
When asked about the claims, investigating officer Colonel PW van Heerden denied their veracity: "I don't think poison can duplicate the symptoms of lung cancer."
Wiener does however cite another unnamed police source who says that there was a belief that Louca might have been intentionally poisoned.
"The information that we've got is that he was poisoned. One of the 205s [a subpoena under the Criminal Procedure Act] that we had done on the phones that we got from Krejcir, there was a shit load of calls made to Cyprus from prison. The prison guard that Krejcir had made friends with in prison, he gave Louca whatever it was that they used," the source is quoted as saying.
Former Teazers spokesperson Sean Newman also tells Wiener he believes that poisoning was a possibility.
"I saw from the guy I met that first time and how quickly he degenerated. If you want the honest truth, I think he was poisoned and I'm not the only one who is going to tell you that," he is quoted as saying.