Hoax crash SMS: Man freed
17/08/2005 18:41 - (SA)
Thessaloniki - A court convicted a 32-year-old man on Wednesday for falsely claiming he received a text message from a passenger on a Cypriot airliner shortly before the plane crashed killing everyone on board.
But, Nektarios Voutas was freed after a judge suspended his six-month sentence for filing a false report to authorities.
Voutas had called several private television stations after Sunday's crash of Helios Airways Flight ZU522 north of Athens, saying he had received the message from his cousin.
He said the message on his cellphone read: "Cousin, everyone is unconscious. We are all frozen ... the pilot is dead ... I bid you farewell."
Voutas was arrested on Monday after the man he named as his cousin - Nikos Petridis - did not match any name on the list of passengers on the Helios flight from Larnaca, Cyprus, to Athens and onto Prague, Czech Republic.
Voutas says 'I am very sorry'
He claimed he had accidentally erased the text message on his phone. Police also summoned him for questioning after Voutas gave differing versions of the text message in his various television interviews.
Voutas said: "I am very sorry, very sorry."
He later told the court: "I don't know what happened. Everything was a blur."
Voutas was cleared on a second charge of dissemination of false information.
Although accident investigators did not question Voutas, his claim had fuelled early speculation that the Cypriot plane's passengers and crew had frozen to death before the crash.
Coroners later ruled out that theory.
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