Three British tourists ‘armed with flick-knives and knuckles dusters’ in custody over Cyprus murder of UK soldier the day before his deployment to Afghanistan
David Collins, 19, stabbed during fight ‘between four off-duty soldiers and three British holidaymakers’
Three tourists appeared in court but have not yet been formally charged
Mohammed Abdulkadir Osman, from London, is alleged to have knifed the teenage soldier in the chest with a switchblade
Fight broke out in a part of Ayia Napa that is off-limits to soldiers
Mr Collins served with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
By Phil Vinter
PUBLISHED: 13:14, 5 November 2012 | DAILY MAIL
A teenage gang of UK tourists armed with flick-knives and knuckle dusters stalked British soldiers around the night spots of Cyprus while high on drugs and looking for a fight, a court heard today.
Mohammed Abdulkadir Osman told police he was holding the blade that killed 19-year-old fusilier David Collins but claimed he was acting in self-defence.
Osman, 19, from London, confessed to buying 11 flick-knives and two brass knuckle dusters in the popular holiday resort of Ayia Napa. He also admitted possession of a quantity of high-strength cannabis.
Accused: Tukki Abbas Shah and Umar Anwar, both 17, and Mohammed Adulkadir Osman, 19, all British tourists from London are escorted into a court in the town of Paralimni in Cyprus yesterday.
And he admitted that he and friends Tukki Abbas Shah, 18, and a 17-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons had had a previous altercation with off-duty soldier Private Collins and three of his comrades before the fatal fight in a nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning.
But he maintained that Mr Collins, 19, from Manchester, had ‘jumped onto the blade’ which Osman had drawn in an attempt to ward off the soldier, who was enjoying a last night out before being sent to Afghanistan.
Mr Collins, from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was stationed at an Army base in the Dhekelia area of the island.
A local police spokesman today said the three men appeared at Famagusta District Court where they were remanded in custody for eight days.
They have not been formally charged with the murder and will continue to be detained while detectives investigate the incident, he added.
The soldier’s family told the Manchester Evening News they were ‘devastated’ by his death. It is understood his father has already flown out to the Mediterranean island.
Mr Collins was off-duty with three other soldiers when they became involved in a brawl with the three holidaymakers in the early hours, it is claimed
One of the tourists stabbed the soldier with a knife, according to police spokesman Georgios Economou.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said yesterday: ‘It is with great sadness that the MoD must confirm that a soldier from 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers has died in an incident in Cyprus.
‘An investigation is being conducted by Cyprus police and it would be inappropriate to comment any further. The family has been informed and our thoughts are with them.’
Mr Collins’ battalion was due to leave for Afghanistan on Saturday but the mission was delayed for 24 hours, according to reports.
He had left his base at Dhekelia, with three other off-duty soldiers from 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, for a final night out after the delay.
But the infantryman was stabbed in the chest following a row at the popular Black & White Club, an area off-limits to British troops.
Mr Collins was given first aid but was pronounced dead on arrival at Famagusta General Hospital in nearby Paralimni.
A fanatical attack on off-duty British soldiers is one motive being considered.
Patrick Mercer MP, the former chairman of the House of Commons counter-terrorism committee, said: ‘The possibility that off-duty British soldiers have been targeted by fanatics is extremely worrying. I hope this does not prove to be the case.’
One Cypriot TV station has speculated that the row which led to the stabbing was over race.
A knife was recovered at the scene and it has been sent to a forensic laboratory for tests.
Mr Collins’ family have been informed of his death, the Ministry of Defence said.
South Manchester MP John Leech said today: ‘I have known David’s family for many years. I phoned them this morning to offer my support in the upcoming days, and to offer my condolences.
‘I hope the people who did this are brought to justice quickly.’
A source close to the battalion described the soldiers’ anger that their comrade had been murdered and frustration at the delay that led him to be at the nightclub.
The source said: ‘The whole of the base is on lock-down. Feelings are running very high.
‘No one is allowed out because it is feared that his comrades would take matters into their own hands and track down the culprit. It’s absolutely tragic.
‘David was not drunk. He got into an argument with these three guys and when he walked away he got stabbed.
‘You have got to ask yourself, who goes to a nightclub with a knife in their pocket?
‘They are not supposed to go to Ayia Napa but it’s got to be wrong that he would have been safer in Afghanistan than in a nightclub in Cyprus.’
The ban on soldiers visiting Ayia Napia Square was imposed by military authorities on all army personnel and their relatives stationed on the island following the rape and murder of 23-year-old Danish tour guide Louise Jensen in 1994.
Three soldiers – Allan Ford, Justin Fowler and Geoffrey Pernell – were sentenced to life imprisonment but were freed on appeal in 2006 after serving 12 years.
The ban was partially lifted in 2009 allowing troops to visit the bar-filled square during daylight hours. British Military Police patrol the resort at night.
The 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, are currently the ‘theatre reserve battalion’ for Afghanistan.
In Cyprus the battalion is based in Dhekelia, one of two bases Britain retained after the former colony was granted independence in 1960.
A Foreign and Commonwealth spokesman said: ‘We are aware of the arrest of three British nationals in Ayia Napa and we are providing consular assistance.’
Tributes have been paid to Mr Collins on Twitter while a Facebook page has been set up in his memory.
One Twitter user wrote: ‘Gutted to hear the death of an ex-army cadet and soldier, RIP David Collins, good memories from Camp 2010.’
Another added: ‘Rest In Peace David Collins, You Was A Perfect Solider, Sleep Tight!’
Connie Pierce, a British military spokeswoman, said the attack took place in an area of the Eastern Mediterranean island that British soldiers are told to avoid because of previous incidents.
After the rape and murder of Danish tour guide Louise Jensen by British servicemen in 1994, the centre of Ayia Napa was declared off limits to soldiers by military top brass on the island, which is a clubbing resort with a reputation for sex, drugs and violence.
About 3,000 British military personnel are stationed in Cyprus at bases retained after the former British colony gained independence in 1960.