A British holidaymaker has been killed and four of his friends injured on the Greek island of Zakynthos after a row with a taxi driver.
Robert Sebbage, 18, from Tadley near Basingstoke, was stabbed to death at 3am in the resort of Laganas. Police said fighting broke out after taxi drivers were harassed by tourists as they ate at a fast-food restaurant.
“The Greek driver got angry when the Britons, who were obviously drunk, started shining lasers at him outside the restaurant. He and another driver got into a heated argument [with them] and then it seems he just lost it and went on the attack with a knife,” said Athanasios Nistas, the duty officer at the island’s main police station. “It’s unprecedented, totally unbelievable. I am at a loss for words.”
Four other British teenagers were wounded in the attack. They are also thought to be from Basingstoke.
“Most of them sustained back wounds and are now recovering at the hospital,” Nistas said.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We can confirm that five British nationals were involved in a serious incident in Zakynthos, Greece.
“Sadly, this resulted in the death of one British national and the hospitalisation of four others, one in a serious condition. We are in regular contact with the families of those involved, and are providing consular assistance.”
The taxi driver, who has not been named, allegedly confessed to the stabbing at his home a few hours later. Another driver is also expected to be charged.
Both men, who are in police custody, appeared before a magistrate on the island and asked for the summons to be delayed in order to prepare their defence. Under Greek law they could be given up to three days before being formally charged.
“His line of defence seems to be that he was provoked,” said Dimitris Angeloudis, the duty officer at Laganas. “Nothing like this has ever happened before. People are in a state of shock.”
Sebbage, a devoted football fan, was chosen to be a mascot for the England team in a friendly against Brazil at the new Wembley Stadium when he was 14 and posed for photos next to David Beckham. He was picked by the Rays of Sunshine children’s charity because he suffered from a bowel disorder called Eosinophilic colitis and gut dysmotility. He spent much of his life with stomach pains and had had to have part of his intestine removed.
Laganas is notorious for the alcohol-fuelled antics of the thousands of young Britons who visit it every year. A number of deaths involving holidaymakers have occurred at the resort in recent years. “A lot of police officers are frightened to drive through the town at night, because inevitably they become the target of young, drunken tourists throwing bottles at cars,” said Nistas. “But I can tell you that this has really shocked us all.”
Outraged British holidaymakers prepared to stage a protest rally in the resort. Police said the stabbing threatened to turn the resort from a place of simmering, if tolerated, tensions between locals and Britons into a potentially explosive cauldron.
“I have worked in Zante [as Zakynthos is also known] for the past six years and during this time there have been many problems with taxi drivers,” said a local British DJ who claims he beaten up by a group of drivers two weeks ago.
“They steal customers’ money, drive dangerously, or drop off people in random places far away from their hotel,” he told the Guardian. “These crimes seriously need to be dealt with and exposed. Zante is a very corrupt place. The police seem not to care about these problems for fear it will affect tourism.”