Updated 3:35 pm, June 20, 2012
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By Paul Cunningham, Europe Correspondent
In the ever-sunny Turkish resort of Kusadasi, conversation is returning to last year’s dark double murder of two women from Newry, County Down.
In August, shocking news came that regular visitor Marion Graham and her friend Cathy Dinsmore had been stabbed to death. The bodies of the women, both 53, were found in a wood overlooking the city of Izmir, around 100 kilometres to the north of Kusadasi.
Worse was to come – a Kusadasi waiter, Recep Cetin, quickly became the prime suspect.
Cetin, also known as Alex, had been the boyfriend of Marion’s then 15-year-old daughter, Shannon. It was Shannon who called the police¬† after she returned from a boat trip but couldn’t make contact with her mother.
By the end of the year, Recep Cetin’s father Eyup, who is 43, would also be detained. And all this in a tourist town which trades on its reputation for summer fun. Now with the trial pending, the awful events of last year are being remembered in conversations in cafes and restaurants.
Police sources say that Recep Cetin initially claimed Marion Graham and her friend Cathy Dinsmore had been kidnapped by a “Turkish mafia” and that he only managed to escape after being slashed on the hand by a knife.
However, he later told a preliminary court hearing that he was responsible for the brutal killings. The reason why is the subject of much rumour and speculation.
At the time of his arrest, Recep Cetin claimed he was 17 years old. This wasn’t automatically believed because in south east Turkey there is often a lengthy delay between a birth and it being registered with authorities.
Subsequent bone tests earlier this year found he is actually¬†five years older – 22. Yet when the test results were presented to the court, the judge decided they needed to be re-checked after defence lawyers argued that the assessment should have taken place at a forensic laboratory rather than a state hospital. Those confirmatory results are still pending.
The issue of age is of significant importance because if Recep Cetin is tried in an adult court, rather than in a juvenile one, he could receive a far stiffer sentence if found guilty. Legal experts say that instead of facing an eight-year sentence as a juvenile, he could face life imprisonment if convicted in an adult court – which in Turkey is a maximum of 24 years.
A lawyer close to the trial says Recep Cetin will also be in court today. Father and son on a double murder charge. Last month, the Turkish prosecutor published an indictment which revealed that a so-far secret witness claimed to have seen Eyup Cetin at the crime scene and DNA evidence on a shoe also suggested that a member of the Cetin family was there. Baris Kaska, the Izmir-based lawyer for the both Graham and Dinsmore families, said the evidence revealed by the prosecutor confirmed his long-held belief that two men had to have been involved in the brutal killing.
Eyup Cetin’s trial is due to begin¬†this morning at eight o’clock Irish time. It’s anticipated that Recep Cetin will state his father was not in any way involved in the killings. The Cetins will be taken into the main Izmir court house by police van.
While the public and media can attend the hearing, cameras are not admitted. Under Turkish law, a judge rather than a jury will deliberate on the matter. It’s expected that the trial will last several months, with a verdict due before the end of the year.
However in such cases, judges have great freedoms and so it’s impossible to be precise about the duration.
Members of the Graham and Dinsmore families have returned to Izmir for the opening day of the trial. They include Shannon who is now 16-years-old and her brother David. The Dinsmores will be represented by Cathy’s brother, George, and her nephew Robert. The¬†four family members are due to attend all of¬†today’s proceedings and then give a news conference afterwards.
These legal proceedings are being followed very closely by the Turkish media. The fact that two tourists could be brutally murdered while on holiday in Turkey sent shock-waves through the country. For the Graham and Dinsmore families, the terrible events of the 18th August last year will be played out in the glare of the international media spotlight.