Three men in custody over murder of British soldier

Thug 'knifed British soldier to death in bar fight in Cyrprus while high on drugs after North-South row' as three UK tourists are arrested over murder.

A British soldier killed in Cyprus was targeted by a gang of thugs high on drugs and carrying flick-knives who had a ‘score to settle’, a court heard yesterday.

Private David Lee Collins, 18, was allegedly stabbed through the heart by Mohamed Abdulkadir Osman when the pair met in a nightclub following an earlier row sparked by North-South rivalry.

The fight between the trio and the soldier had begun earlier in the day when Private Collins, from Manchester, taunted Londoner Osman about his home region.

Osman told detectives that he was holding the weapon that killed the off-duty soldier in the early hours of Sunday but claimed he was acting in self-defence.

Yesterday Cypriot police re-arrested the 19-year-old and friends Tukki Abbas Shah, 17, and Umar Anwar, 17, all from London, on suspicion of premeditated murder.

Osman, who is of Somali origin, is alleged to have confessed to possession of high-strength cannabis and buying 11 flick-knives and two brass knuckle dusters in the popular holiday resort of Ayia Napa.

However, he has claimed he was intending to take them back to London for friends.

He admitted there had been a previous altercation between the off-duty soldiers and the trio before the fatal fight in the Black ’N’ White nightclub.

But Osman maintained that Mr Collins, from Manchester, had ‘jumped on to the blade’ which he had drawn in an attempt to ‘scare off’ the soldier, who was enjoying a last night out before being sent to Afghanistan.

Famagusta District Court heard the police claim that three British passport holders had ‘a score to settle’with Mr Collins and his comrades after an angry exchange in a pub in Ayia Napa Square, which was supposed to be out of bounds for British service personnel.

Cypriot newspaper Phileleftheros claimed that the exchange was ‘racist’, while another, Simerini, said it was the culmination of a petty argument.

Detectives are analysing CCTV footage of the area.

Lieutenant Stelios Christodoulou told the court: ‘They had a score to settle.

‘We are investigating whether the argument was about their different backgrounds, or whether they had met their victims before in England.

‘The fact that they took knives with them when they went out was suspicious.’

Police found two flick-knives – one with blood on the blade – outside the club following the fatal attack, the court heard. Lieutenant Christodoulou added that Shah – who, like Anwar, is of Pakistani origin – was seen dropping items shortly afterwards at the spot where the knives were later discovered.

Osman, who had a bandage around his right hand and a bruised right eye, told police that he did not mean to hurt the soldier and was sorry for what happened.

The accused had arrived on the popular holiday island just three days before the alleged murder last Thursday.

They were staying at the five-star Adams Beach Hotel in Ayia Napa. Police found the butts of three cannabis joints in an ashtray on the balcony and a sizeable quantity of the drug in the room along with the weapons. Osman admitted he had bought the weapons at a shop in the resort.

Yesterday the suspects arrived at the tiny Famagusta court in handcuffs. Shah and Osman covered their faces while Anwar looked up at two English-speaking women of Asian appearance –believed to be family members – who had been waiting outside the court for several hours.

The Britons have not been formally charged with the alleged murder but were remanded in police custody for a further eight days while detectives investigate the incident.

If charged they will stand trial in front of a judge without a jury.

A murder conviction in Cyprus carries a life sentence.

Mr Collins, of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, died from a ‘ruptured heart caused by a sharp instrument’, according to a post-mortem examination carried out yesterday.

The fusilier was stationed at the British Army base at Dhekelia but was set to fly to Afghanistan early on Monday to take part in combat readiness training.

The soldier’s family have said that they have been ‘devastated’ by his death.

A Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday: ‘We are aware of the arrest of three British nationals in Ayia Napa and we are providing consular assistance.’

The centre of Ayia Napa was declared off limits to soldiers after the rape and murder of Danish tour guide Louise Jensen by three British servicemen in 1994.

Up to 9,000 British military personnel and their family are stationed in Cyprus at bases retained after the former British colony gained independence in 1960.

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