Kiwi says he was kidnapped, beaten by Greek police

By Celeste Gorrell Anstiss

Joel Sterling. Photo / Michael Craig
Joel Sterling. Photo / Michael Craig

A kiwi traveller has told of an overnight ordeal at the hands of police on the idyllic tourist island of Crete.

Joel Stirling, 29, says he was was kidnapped, beaten and robbed by Greek police after being set up by a seemingly friendly local in a restaurant in the town of Chania.

Stirling and his two friends were holidaying in Greece after a six-month stint working on super yachts and had befriended the man over dinner. Stirling stayed out without his friends, but soon was confronted by two police officers, who cuffed his hands behind his back, pushed him into a car and put a sack over his head.

At the police station, he says he was kicked to the ground, beaten and robbed of his wallet, carrying around $200.

"It quickly escalated into a really serious situation," Stirling said. "They starting punching me, just laying into me. I think I got hit in the face with a police baton. They were very menacing. They kept saying 'no one's going to save you, you're not going to leave alive'.

They wouldn't tell me why I had been arrested or what I had done."

Left alone in a tiny cell, Sterling retrieved his mobile phone from the back of his pants, where he had hidden it during the drive.

Back in New Zealand, Stirling's parents were distraught to receive a whispered message from their son.

Clive Stirling said: "It was very disturbing. He said he'd been hijacked and that they wanted to kill him. He sounded quite scared, which is unlike Joel.

"We phoned 111 straight away. The police were excellent, they got on to Interpol straight away."

Now back in New Zealand, Stirling advises others travelling to Greece to stay in pairs and not be lulled into a false sense of security by friendly locals. He won't set foot in Crete again.

- Herald on Sunday

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