ATHENS—The suspicious deaths of three girls from the same family in just three years has shocked Greek society over the past few months. But what started as a tragic story of an ill-fated young family soon turned out to be one of the most horrible cases of alleged murder the country has seen in recent years.
After months of speculation, Roula Pispirigkou, the 33-year-old mother of the family was charged with killing all three of her daughters, one of whom had survived childhood cancer.
She allegedly suffocated her two younger children, and then police believe she killed her older daughter Georgina by allegedly giving her a fatal dose of Ketamine—originally an anesthetic drug usually used by veterinarians on animals.
Cops re-examined the deaths of the two youngest kids once they saw evidence that the eldest child was murdered.
Pispirigkou is also charged with attempting to murder Georgina months before she finally died, in an alleged attack that left her quadriplegic.
According to the prosecutors Antonis Eleftherianos and Apostolos Andreou, who have taken under consideration several testimonies of doctors, nurses, and members of the family, Pispirigkou is charged with what they call locally the serial crime of intentional homicide in a calm state of mind.
Last April, a test of the eldest daughter’s muscle tissue revealed that the 9-year-old, who was hospitalized in a child’s hospital in Athens as quadriplegic last January, had been given around 6.5 mg per liter of blood of the drug, which had not been prescribed to her by her doctors.
Immediately after that, investigations into the deaths of her two younger daughters were opened. Three-year-old Malena, who survived a rare form of cancer (cervical lymphadenitis of the right jaw), was initially thought to have died of liver failure in April 2019. Iris, who was 6 months old, was originally believed to have succumbed to a heart defect in March 2021.
In late June, two new medical examiners, Nikolaos Karakoukis and Nikolaos Kalogrias, delivered their results to the Greek homicide department, stating that they are certain the younger girls were murdered and had not died of pathological causes.
Pispirigkou, who has been given the nickname of “modern Medea” by Greek media and social platforms, has already been jailed over the death of her eldest daughter since early April in the high-security Korydallos prison near Athens, where she has been placed in pre-trial detention.
Through it all, Pispirigkou has denied the accusations against her. According to one of her two lawyers, Konstantinos Zardas, “she is devastated and cannot believe what’s happening.” She has asked for a third round of genetic testing to be done on her children—the first two didn’t show any signs of genetic malfunction.
Along with the body of Georgina, the family had buried “the kid’s favorite item,” a computer tablet that was exhumed in early April. According to anonymous police sources who spoke to local media, Google searches for drugs similar to Ketamine were found on the computer. The local newspaper Peloponissos reported that Pispirigkou had a computer technician related to the family erase digital traces of searches she had made on the internet, something she denies through her lawyer.
Georgina’s drawings are also under investigation. After witnessing the deaths of her two sisters, she drew them as angels and her mother with a black head. There was no father in the picture. “It seems that the child was terribly frightened, terribly depressed,” psychiatrist Dimitrios Souras, who has been following the case since the very beginning, told The Daily Beast.
Greek police are now focusing their efforts on trying to track the source of the Ketamine that killed Georgina. “Ketamine can be found in the black market, in drugstores, but also in the neighborhoods of drug addicts. One can find it,” said Souras, who has done research on the drug issue in Greece in the past. The trafficking of hallucinogenic substances is rampant in the city of Patra, where the family was living.
For weeks before the arrest, Pispirigkou and her husband, Manos Daskalakis, had been in the spotlight, constantly giving interviews and talking with local journalists about the death of their children. “In laboratories abroad, they are looking for the most rare genes [that caused the deaths] and from what they have told us they might never find them,” the mother said in the couple's very first interview for STAR TV about a month and a half after Georgina’s death. “We want an answer about what happened with our children,” Daskalakis said in the same interview.
Since the arrest, however, the couple has become estranged and Daskalakis is now supporting the case against his wife.“The evidence is incontrovertible. The evidence against Roula is too much,” he told reporters outside court in April.
The Greek newspaper Mpam revealed some messages the couple had exchanged throughout the past three years, which show their on-and-off-again relationship. In April 2021, about a month after Iris’ death, Daskalakis wrote to Pispirigkou, “Will we have a loss every time we separate?”
In television interviews, Pispirigkou showed the tattoos she got each time one of her daughters died. She said it proved that she loved the children when suspicions began to emerge that she was involved in their deaths. After the first alleged attack on her eldest daughter, Georgina, which left her badly sick, she also added an image showing her cardiogram and the quote “Life goes on.”
All members of the couple's close family circle have been questioned once again by police for hours over the past month, in the hope of shedding light on the life of the couple and what might have led to the murders.
In the meantime, the woman’s mother and sister are her only visitors in the prison. Both of the women have been victims of verbal attacks in their hometown following Pispirigkou’s arrest. For days, locals gathered outside the family’s house in Patra, calling them “murderers” and leaving flowers on the doorstep. “I cannot believe what people were shouting, because I know my child. I do not believe that my child has done anything,” Pispirigkou’s mother, Eleni Legatou, said in an interview with STAR TV in March. “She has our full support. Until I close my eyes, I will be by her side.”