A woman convicted of bashing a pensioner to death with a Virgin Mary statue will walk free from jail years after being arrested.
Katia Pyliotis has always denied she was involved in the death of lonely widower Elia Abdelmessih, whose bludgeoned body was found alongside a tin of mangoes and a Virgin Mary statue inside his home in Kew East, Melbourne, in 2005.
On Wednesday, Pyliotis will walk free from Dame Phyliss Frost women’s prison after being granted bail in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
He successful bid for bail was not opposed by prosecutors, who accepted the alleged killer was not an unacceptable risk to the community.
Her release came as shocking new evidence was revealed indicating Pyliotis may in fact be innocent.
Katia Pyliotis (pictured) was jailed for 19 years in 2019 for the murder of lonely widower Elia Abdelmessih
Mr Abdelmessih’s bludgeoned body was found alongside a tin of mangoes and a Virgin Mary statue
Her barrister, Dermot Dann QC, told the court a missing police diary which contained crucial information about another woman’s confession to the crime had revealed she confessed to the murder not once, but three times.
The diary of Victoria Police homicide investigator Warren Ryan was located in police archives last month.
The detective had previously testified that Susan Reddie had confessed and then recanted it.
He claimed under oath to have made notes of it in his diary, which at the time of Pyliotis’ fourth trial was still missing.
Instead, the diary has revealed Ms Reddie told Mr Ryan she hit Mr Abdelmissah with a blue and white statue of Jesus.
A statue of the Virgin Mary was used to bash the lonely pensioner’s skull in (stock image)
In reality, Mr Abdelmissah had been murdered with a blue and white statue of the Virgin Mary.
Mr Dann described the development as ‘stunning’.
He told the court that not only had Ms Reddie made an until now unknown third confession to the murder, she had described in great detail a religious statue she claimed to have used to kill her victim.
Furthermore, the missing diary contained not a single note of Ms Reddie’s supposed recantation of her confession.
Mr Warren’s notes state Ms Reddie claimed she had been ‘drunk and angry’ when she attacked Mr Abdelmissah with the statue.
Ms Reddie died in 2012 and was never treated a serious suspect in the case.
In 2016, Katia Pyliotis was required to give DNA for a minor infringement in South Australia.
Her data immediately matched with DNA found at the 2005 crime scene, and she was extradited to Victoria where she was convicted.
Pyliotis was jailed for 19 years, but the sentence was quashed on appeal after the defence argued the judge interfered with the jury by labelling the questioning of a witness ‘boring’.
She had remained behind bars awaiting a fifth trial.
Mr Dann said he was in the process of making an application that could see his client cleared of the murder once and for all.
If successful, it could clear the way for a massive civil case against Victoria Police over the years she has spent caged.
The DNA of Katia Pyliotis was found inside a glove left at the murder scene. Her DNA would be found after a routine stop in South Australia years after the murder
Justice Paul Coghlan called murder accused Katia Pyliotis’ defence a ‘red herring calculated to mislead’ and told lawyers that’s what he would tell the jury
Mr Dann described the diary notes as a ‘very, very significant development’.
If a fifth trial is to go ahead, prosecutors claimed they would continue to assert that Ms Reddie backed down on her confession despite Mr Warren having made no note of it in his diary.
Crown prosecutor Angela Ellis said the development did not ‘substantially weaken’ its case.
Mr Dann said it was ‘extraordinary’ that Mr Warren failed to remember a murder confession to a case he had been investigating.
Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth went a step further.
‘But he can remember the recantation,’ she replied.
Justice Hollingworth said although she would not comment on the merits of a fifth trial, she conceded the prosecution case had become weaker since Pyliotis’ previous bail application.
She released Pyliotis on a $100,000 surety paid for by her mother.
Pyliotis’ defence have always argued Ms Reddie was likely the killer, but said Pyliotis did visit Mr Abdelmessih’s home the day he was murdered and found his body.
Ms Reddie claimed she would visit Mr Abdelmessih’s home occasionally, where he would pay her for sex. She said he was rude to her on the day in question.
There was never a clear motive for Pyliotis to kill Mr Abdelmessih that was made known to the public.
The homicide detective who claimed Ms Reddie recanted her statement to him said notes of the conversation were recorded in a police diary which he had since lost.
At the time of the conversation, he knew DNA evidence found at the crime scene did not belong to Ms Reddie, and she was dismissed as a potential suspect.
The case remained open and unsolved until Pyliotis’ DNA was linked to a glove which was found near the victim’s body.
Her blood was also found throughout the house, police claimed.
Despite the physical evidence, it took four separate murder trials before she was eventually convicted.
When the Court of Appeal quashed that conviction, it paved the way for a potential fifth Supreme Court murder trial.
‘It will be a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions whether the applicant faces trial for a fifth time,’ the three judges ruled.
Any such trial is likely to be delayed until anywhere up to late next year due to the COVID-19 restrictions and huge backlog of trials moving through Victoria’s clogged justice system.
The Court of Appeal ruled the final trial judge, Justice Paul Coghlan, made several fatal blunders – some in the presence of the jury – during the alleged killer’s last trial.
Mr Dann said the judge made a ‘negative and scathing assessment’ of the defence case, which he shared with jurors.
At one point, the trial judge said the defence case was a ‘red herring calculated to mislead’ and told the barristers he would later share that view with the jury.
At one point while trial barrister Richard Edney was questioning a witness, Justice Coghlan interjected to tell him ‘this is even more boring than the other parts of your cross-examination’.
He made other remarks in front of the jury, including that they’d ‘still be here 13 years later’ hearing crime scene evidence, and that ‘I’ll have to start answering these questions myself’.
Pyliotis, a former Kew McDonald’s worker, met her alleged victim at the fast-food store shortly after his wife’s death.
But the reason why the then ‘unsophisticated and unworldly’ 23-year-old allegedly killed her customer at his own home in a ‘frenzied attack’ has never been revealed.
Barrister Dermot Dann QC said the judge made a ‘negative and scathing assessment’ of the defence case, which he shared with jurors
A new trial is expected to take place after the Court of Appeal overturned Katia Pyliotis’ conviction of murder