After an argument with his wife Natasha Hogan, John Hogan (33) took his two children onto the balcony of the holiday hotel in Crete, then pushed them off before jumping himself. Liam (6) died from head injuries as a result of the fall. Mia (then 2) survived with broken bones, as did John Hogan.
Hogan was put on trial in Crete and cleared of murder in January 2008, and is set to return to the UK soon. His ex-wife Natasha, now remarried and known as Mrs Visser, has called the preceedings in Crete a miscarriage of justice. At the UK inquest into Liam’s death, several witnesses have testified to the events of that evening, recalling that Hogan pushed the two children off the balcony, then leapt himself.
In a disturbing report, the psychiatrist treating John Hogan said his ex-wife (Natasha Visser) should be thinking about her own part in the story instead of blaming him. This is a most outrageous and unjust bit of woman-blaming.
The Times Online (26 Mar 2008 )
Witnesses ‘saw death leap father John Hogan push children over balcony’
Three witnesses told an inquest today that they saw a man push two children from a Greek holiday hotel balcony then jump after them.
Liam Hogan, 6, from Bristol, died of severe head injuries after he and his father, John, and sister, Mia, then 2, fell 50ft from the fourth floor of the Petra Mare Hotel in Crete.
A Home Office pathologist who examined Liam’s embalmed body after it was flown back from Crete said that the child had suffered severe skull fractures.
John Hogan and Mia survived with broken limbs after the plunge on August 15, 2006.
Mr Hogan was acquitted of Liam’s murder by a Greek court in January, in a verdict that his estranged wife, Natasha Hogan, called a miscarriage of justice.
Earlier accounts of the tragedy had suggested that Mr Hogan jumped with his children in his arms, but at the inquiry into Liam’s eath, which opened in Bristol today, heard evidence that appeared to contradict this.
Kerry Jackman, who was waiting outside the hotel with some friends for a bus to take them to the airport, described how she had looked up at the noise of a row issuing from an upper bedroom.
“It was almost like a maniac shouting, in a rage almost. There was a muffled voice from the background,” Ms Jackman told the inquest.
“I said ’something awful is going on up there’. As I looked up I thought it was two little girls stood on the balcony. We looked and said, ’There’s little children on the balcony’. I saw this figure behind them.
“Instantaneously, I knew something was wrong. I saw two little children coming off the balcony feet-first as if they had been pushed off.
“I looked at Sarah [Davidson], and as I looked back up I saw an adult man falling, slightly above the two children. I shouted, ’Oh my God, he’s killed his kids’.
“Then the little girl was coming down first. The little boy had his arms out as if they were trying to grab each other almost.
“It was just like slow motion, the adult male caught up with the two children, then you just heard thuds on the floor.”
Earlier, Ms Jackman’s friend Sarah Davidson has told the inquest that she had never heard such an horrific argument as the noise coming from the bedroom above.
“There was more of a male voice. . . so I looked up straight away. That’s when I saw two children stood on the balcony on the edge,” said Mrs Davidson, close to tears.
“I noticed they had clothing on. . . at first I thought they were between eight and twelve-years-old. They were stood there motionless.
“The male voice — I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but it was so horrific. . . That’s when the male came forward and pushed them off.”
At this point Mrs Davidson broke down and asked to leave the Coroner’s Court. The coroner asked Mrs Davidson to take her time and describe the moment in more detail.
She said: “He was shorter than they were, like he was standing on the floor, so they were taller than him. Then he just came out and shouted something and went to push them off.
“As they fell, he grabbed the railings and plunged himself off. He went down head first. He didn’t have his arms out to stop himself. I couldn’t comprehend why he pushed them or didn’t try and reach out for them. I just couldn’t believe it.”
After a short break Mrs Davidson returned to continue her evidence. She said: “I was screaming, I couldn’t stop screaming. I told my husband to go in and help. “I couldn’t do anything for them. I ran to the reception and called for an ambulance.”
Mrs Davidson’s husband, Iain, told the inquest that he too had looked up to see the two small children standing on a small wall.
“It all happened so quickly — trying to calculate why there were two small children on the wall, what the noise was,” said Mr Davidson.
“The children were on either side of the wall, one on the left-hand side, one on the right-hand side. Almost in the same instance as an adult appeared, the children went over. There was lots of commotion on the floor at this point.”
Mr Davidson disagreed with his wife, saying that the man had appeared to try to stop the children falling.
“There was screaming as the children fell,” he said. “The adult appeared to try and grab them and the momentum appeared to take his body over the side.
“It was quite strange. The three were in the air, then they hit the ground separately. There were three loud thuds. There were three bodies there.”
Earlier Liam’s mother, Natasha Hogan — who has since remarried and told the inquest she wished to be addressed as Natasha Visser — described how her husband had behaved erratically on the day of the tragedy, growing more agitated as they discussed the end of their marriage.
In the moments before her son’s death, Mrs Visser said, she had returned to her room and was organising suitcases when Hogan came in in an “extremely upset” mood.
“John said, ’What the f*** are you doing?’ I said I was trying to close them [the suitcases] and sort them out. He stared at me with a crazed look, which I did not know.
“Suddenly he had his back turned. He was charging round the room. All I could hear was, ‘John’s packing is s***, John’s packing is s***’. Then I turned around and there was noone there. I just heard screaming, ’Oh my God’, down below. I knew at that point he had gone over.”
At the start of proceedings Mrs Visser and her family were criticised by the coroner for making prejudicial comments before the inquest.
The family issued a statement on Mrs Visser’s behalf yesterday, saying that three witnesses who were not called by the Greek court would cast new light on the case. It added that reports that Liam fell to his death clutched in his father’s arms could be proved wrong.
Paul Forrest, the Avon Coroner, said that such comments were unacceptable before an inquest.
“It tries to influence the conduct and verdict in these proceedings,” said Mr Forrest, adjourning the proceedings for a few moments to respond to the statement. “At the very least I would expect an apology from those responsible for issuing this release.”
Later, he made clear that he would not take any action over “the rather shocking press release”, but he added: “I make it clear I will not tolerate this in the future.”
Hogan, 33, originally from Bristol, told a Greek court in January that he felt “no guilt” over his son’s death as he was not in his right mind when the tragedy occurred.
He has been receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital near Athens since the court cleared him of murder, ruling that he was suffering an “earthquake” of psychosis at the time of Liam’s death. He is not attending the inquest.
After the inquest heard that Liam’s father had suffered a long history of psychosis and depression, Hogan’s lawyer, Matthew Barnes, invited the coroner to consider his mental state in coming to his verdict. He said: “He was not aware of what he was doing because of the disease of his mind.”
Elizabeth Steel, Mrs Visser’s mother, said that it was not “undisputed” that Hogan was suffering from severe psychosis.
The coroner adjourned the case and will announce his verdict tomorrow.
The Sunday Express (30 Mar 2008 )
By Hilary Douglas
More Agony for Balcony Mother
The British father accused of killing his son by throwing him off a hotel balcony in Crete could be released as early as this week.
The move came as the psychiatrist treating John Hogan said his ex-wife – who wants him tried in Britain for murder – should be thinking about her own part in the story instead of blaming him.
Greek lawyers acting for Hogan, who is in a secure psychiatric hospital in Athens, will petition for his repatriation to the UK.
The 33-year-old former tiler, controversially cleared of murder by a court in Crete in January, may be back in Britain within weeks.
“He is making steady progress and I will ask the court to permit him to return home very quickly,” his lawyer Dimitris Xiritakis said. Hogan’s imminent return opens the way for a retrial after his ex-wife Natasha Visser urged the Crown Prosecution Service to consider putting him before a jury.
The hospital nurse, who has since remarried, appealed for the “miscarriage of justice” to be corrected after a Bristol coroner ruled last week that six-year-old Liam had been unlawfully killed.
The boy died from head injuries in the 50ft fall from the fourth-floor balcony. Hogan then leapt off the balcony with his four-year-old daughter Mia, but both survived.
The coroner’s verdict came amid suggestions that the Greek court had been overly lenient. The judges, initially against Hogan, were swayed by his history of clinical depression.
Now Greek officials are furious that their judgment is being called into question. Speaking to the Sunday Express, Dr Ioannis Nestoros, the psychiatrist treating Hogan, said the court had made a good judgment.
“I really don’t understand why his wife is trying to create a case against good justice,” he added. “She should be thinking about her own role in the whole story instead of simply blaming John.
“John has tormented himself trying to remember what happened and has been totally unable to,” he said. People who suffer acute psychotic episodes have no recall of what they have done and, as in his case, there is complete confusion.
“He is not a cruel criminal. What happened to John could happen to us all.”