My deepest thanks to everyone who sent or offered to send a translation of this article.
An interview to Stavros Theodorakis
Published Saturday March 27, 2010
She agreed to meet with me under one condition: that I pick her up from the metro station. We could have a cup of coffee and discuss whatever I wanted, but after that I was to return her back to the metro station. She did not want to walk by herself on the streets of Athens.
As I waited for her at the exit of the Megaro Mousikis metro station, I wondered how it was possible for a woman to be so scared. I had read her whole story in the papers: she was a tourist in Athens in 2005. At the Acropolis she was drugged and then raped. The police mishandled it, the trial still has not taken place.
On her blog, Natalie announced that she was returning to Athens, in an ultimate effort to put her rapist in trial. Men and women from Montreal have sent her messages of moral support and are writing harsh comments with respect to the Greek Justice system. Everybody knows that her effort to bring her rapist to justice started in August 2005. A picture on her blog has a message for all men: “Real men don't rape”. It is written in red ink on the belly of a half-naked woman.
The day of our meeting is Natalie's 33rd birthday. She is wearing a light dress and sandals, of course – Canadians are always warm in our city, even in March – and carries two bags. One holds the paperwork of her case. She has a hesitant smile, until we reach the coffee place. Her look is investigative. She is a journalist herself, at CBC radio. She's also writing a book. "About the whole trip I took, not just what happened to me here," she clarifies. She is surprised by my interest on her adventure.
Do you feel uncomfortable talking about that day?
Not at all. You may ask me whatever you like.
Could you talk about it at any time? Even from the first day?
At any time, but maybe I was a little hesitant at first.
So, what happened?
I was traveling: a trip around Europe that lasted one year. One of my stops was in Greece.
I was not alone. I made friends at every stop.
And what happened in Athens?
I met a man during one of my walking tours around the city . He asked me something … I do not know exactly what. As if he were looking for a street. When he realized I was not Greek, he offered to guide me a little around the city.
Natalie Karneef (left) in summer of 2005 with a friend in Athens. The trip changed her life.
Did you trust him?
I was not suspicious. There was no reason to be. It was going to be a small tour around the Acropolis, in public. He was around 45 years old, neither attractive, nor unattractive. A regular man - at least that’s what he looked like.
How did you get from the Acropolis to the hotel?
At some point he said he was hungry. He bought a cheese pastry snack. [Tiropita.] I saw him enter a snack store [note: this is incorrect - I didn't see him enter, the shop where he bought the pie from was not within sight] and when he returned he offered me half of it. When someone shares the food he is eating, there is no reason to worry!
So you ate it without understanding anything?
It was a little bitter but I did not pay attention. Afterwards, I started feeling foggy. My head was heavy, but my body wasn't. I could walk normally, but my head continued to get foggier. The next thing I remember, I woke up on a hotel bed with this man next to me. I can only remember that as an image. I could not react. My head was still feeling very foggy. We left the room and he took me to the hostel where I was staying, probably by taxi. The images are confused in my head. I remember a friend of mine in the hostel being worried. When I recovered, I realized I had been raped.
When did you go to the police?
Right away. In the first police station, they basically told me that they could not do anything. I insisted, and went to a second police station. Eventually they told me to go to a hospital. I visited three hospitals so they could be certain I was raped and to find out which drug substance I had been given. [note: this is incorrect. I visited three hospitals because none would examine me, each claiming not to have a forensic doctor on staff.] I felt very uncomfortable going from one doctor to another, repeating the same story.
Didn’t the doctors support you and advise you of what you should do?
Not at all. I visited one private doctor from the UK later on. He told me to take the morning after pill and how long I should wait before being tested for STDs.
What had he put in the cheese pastry snack?
A very strong sleeping drug, Stillnox. He had used the same substance to drug the other young women too. That is how he became known to the police - as "the cheese pie rapist".
Did you file a complaint before you left?
Yes, I left. But I was in constant contact to find out if they had captured him. [note: I wasn't in contact. I learned he'd been captured when a friend in Montreal saw an article off the Canadian wire.] Finally I found out that he was arrested for raping a Danish young woman. He was convicted, stayed in prison for a short while, and then he was released. [note: we have since learned that the accused has served no prison time.]
Tell me about your own adventure in the court.
I was not even notified about the first two trials. The third time I was subpoenaed was past the point they were legally supposed to subpoena me. I could not make the trip and I was fined 220 Euros. A strike of the court employees and a sickness of the accused followed, and here we are today with another postponement - the sixth.
What happened this week?
The trial was postponed for January 2011. The defendant’s lawyer claimed she is busy with another trial outside Athens - a case she took on only last week. I told them that I had traveled from Canada, but they already knew that. I asked them if they could have a break and have the trial the following week. No result. [note: I never asked this as the trial was officially postponed and neither Dana nor I were allowed to make any sort of statement in court.]
Were you disappointed?
Well, the court did everything possible to avoid having a trial. Even if the defendant’s side did not ask for a postponement, the case could not proceed, because the official interpreter was absent!
Did the defendant come to court?
Yes. He appeared self-assured, as if he were certain that nothing could happen to him. He didn't show remorse... he walked around the courtroom as if he owned the place.
Will you feel better if he is imprisoned?
I do not believe “an eye for an eye” always works. But I believe we should not allow him to do the same thing to other women that he did to me.
In how many rape cases is he involved?
Besides mine, he has done the same to two young women: one from Australia and one from Denmark. [note: there is another Australian victim who has chosen not to come forward.] But to be honest, I believe there have been more. There have to have been more. They are simply afraid to talk or have been disappointed by the authorities and did not wish to continue. This is the reason I talk about my adventure: to instigate women to talk.
Will you be present in the following trial, in 2011?
Definitely. Even though I had told my husband that, if there were no trial this time, I would put all of this behind me and never deal with it again. But I cannot do that. I will keep insisting until he faces the court. But I've never wanted anything to be over in my life more than this.
Have you found supporters in your adventure?
Many. But not from the Justice system. In the court room I was feeling that everybody was looking at me with hostility. Aside from Panagiotis Dimitras and Nafsika Papanikolaou from the Greek Helsinki Monitor, who were by my side and made me feel secure, I have a bad opinion about your courts. Greek justice to me is an absolute oxymoron.
Will you keep coming to Greece for vacation?
Of course. I am married to a Greek-Canadian from Nafpaktos! I never said that all Greek men are bad.
When did you meet your husband?
A long time ago. [note: not that long!] When this happened to me, I thought, "I know a good Greek who could help me with all this bureaucracy."
Does he speak Greek?
All Canadian Greeks speak Greek! They speak Greek, cook Greek, and live as Greeks even though many of them have no contact with Greeks from Greece. In Canada we say that for Greeks the time stopped in 1957! [note (esp. to all Greeks): I didn't say it quite like this and certainly meant no offense by saying this!]
Are you afraid to walk in Athens?
Yes. I do not like walking by myself in Athens. I cannot tell you exactly what I am afraid of, but I am afraid. I know that the odds of something similar happening to me again are very slim. But then I think: this man is walking free. What if I see him? How will I react?
The rapist hides behind postponements
The man accused for repeatedly raping the Canadian Natalie Karneef is also accused for raping two Australian women.
In 2005, the police arrested the man (whose initials are E.A.) with the help of a fourth victim from Denmark. He was sentenced then to five years in prison for raping the Danish tourist, but was released from prison after approximately 18 months. [note: again, as far as I am aware, he never served any prison time.]
For the first two trials (in 2006 and 2007) the victims were subpoenaed at the addresses of the hotels where they were staying as tourists in 2005! For the third time, the Justice notified the victims in their countries but past due time! In 2008 the victims were finally notified properly, but the trial was canceled due to a strike of the court employees.
The next trial was set for 2009, but the defendant became sick and the trial was postponed for March 22, 2010.
The Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) who provides legal assistance to Natalie Karneef free of charge, believes that from 2005 until today the Justice system took actions and made decisions that “facilitated” in a consistent way a person accused for repeated rapes.
The GHM also denounces the absence of an interpreter for the second trial in a row, something that, in a way, ensured that it was impossible to proceed with the trial.
The court did not in any way punish the interpreter who was absent, even though he was officially requested by the District Attorney’s office (the same had happened during the trial in 2009). At the same time, the court ignored Natalie Karneef’s request to recall her conviction for having been absent during the trial set in 2007, even though it was obvious from the documents that she had not been notified properly in Canada. The GHM also denounces the Medical Examiner for not having filed a report after examining Natalie Karneef in 2005, and asks the indictment against police officers, court judges and District Attorneys, who tolerated for years the absence of the report from the legal brief.
For all these, GHM will turn to the European Court of Human Rights, and seek a conviction of Greece for not properly serving justice.