IANNIS Revenikiotis thought he could cheat justice by fleeing hundreds of miles across Europe at the wheel of the car he used to kidnap Stephanie Hammill.
He hid in his hometown in Greece – but detectives never gave up on catching him and justice has now been done.
Their investigation became an international manhunt that spanned several countries and continents. It took nearly two years of tireless work before the man they were hunting could be arrested. It also took months of sensitive negotiation with the Greek authorities and a landmark diplomatic agreement before he could be brought back to the UK to face justice.
In the early hours of Saturday, November 29, 2003, travel agent Stephanie, aged 20, and her fiancé James Garland, finished a night out clubbing in Wakefield.
About half a mile from the home they shared they tried to flag down a car they thought was a taxi.
When Revenikiotis’ Mercedes C180 pulled up, the unsuspecting pair, who were due to marry the following year, were unaware that the Greek engineer was not a passing taxi driver and instead had a sinister motive for stopping.
He had spent the preceding few hours propositioning women in Huddersfield – including in the town’s red light area – but had been turned down. He then trawled the streets of Wakefield trying to chat up women and lure them into his car.
Undoubtedly attracted by pretty, blonde Stephanie’s looks, Revenikiotis was clearly intent on whisking her away, in all likelihood, to sexually assault her.
Stephanie had been walking ahead of James as the pavement was narrow. As soon as she climbed into the back seat of the car, Revenikiotis sped off with the rear nearside door still open, leaving shocked James behind.
He frantically ran after the vehicle but had no chance of catching it.
While no-one other than Revenikiotis will ever know what took place or was said in his car as he sped away with Stephanie, it is clear she would have been terrified and fearing she was being abducted to be sexually assaulted or even murdered.
As the Mercedes headed into darkened countryside Stephanie made a desperate bid for freedom by opening the door.
She fell to the ground where she was almost immediately hit by a taxi heading in the opposite direction and was killed instantly.
All the evidence indicates that the taxi driver, from Wakefield, could not have avoided the collision. But he cost the investigation valuable time by not reporting his involvement to the police until some days later.
As a result of that failure, he was subsequently convicted at court of failing to stop at the scene of an accident and failing to report it. He received community service and a driving ban.
Experts analysed a CCTV camera and worked out the car was most likely to be a Mercedes C180 saloon.
The major breakthrough came when the boss of TQ Environmental, an engineering firm based in Flanshaw, Wakefield, where Revenikiotis worked, contacted detectives to say staff member Ioannis Revenikiotis had suddenly disappeared over the Christmas period and he drove a black Mercedes saloon.
Almost a year after Stephanie’s death, Greek officers traced Revenikiotis’ Mercedes to a scrapyard in Nea Moudania, Halkidiki. He had crashed the car in an accident in April 2004 and it was left a wreck.
West Yorkshire officers then travelled to Greece in mid-December 2004 to haggle with the scrapyard owner for legal ownership of the vehicle, eventually paying 1,000 Euros for it and brought it back to England
A specialist team at the Forensic Science Service’s laboratories in Wetherby found Stephanie’s thumbprint on the inside glass of the rear offside quarter-light window of Revenikiotis car. It is thought she left the print as she pushed open the door to escape from the moving car.