It’s July on the Greek island of Crete, and Dr. Suzanne Eaton has disappeared. Two days earlier, she was notably absent from a science conference and nobody has seen her since. But as police search for the former University of California biologist, two cave explorers stumble across something sinister underground.
Born two days before Christmas in Oakland, CA, 1959, Suzanne was delivered to mother Glynda, wrapped in a festive stocking. And from that moment on, her family says that she showed an exceptional interest in the world around her. In fact, it seemed clear that she was destined for a career in science from a young age.
As a youngster, Suzanne’s role model was actually Spock – the Star Trek character known for his rationality. However, she fostered a love of the arts as well. And when she was just eight years old, she began learning to play the piano. Eventually, she would become an accomplished musician.
But as she grew older, Suzanne struggled to choose a direction for her career. Would she pursue a future in literature, become a mathematician, or delve deeper into the sciences? Ultimately, she chose the latter, going on to study biology at Rhode Island’s Brown University. And in 1981, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree.
From there, Suzanne went on to study microbiology, graduating with a PhD in 1988 from the University of California. And that same year, she won an award for her work within the field from the Association of Academic Women. However, after her thesis, she decided to switch her focus and began studying developmental biology instead.
Still at the University of California, Suzanne relocated to the San Francisco campus, where she began researching the fruit fly. Specifically, she hoped to determine how the creature’s individual cells developed. And while there, she met fellow scientist Anthony Hyman, known as Tony, with whom she began a romantic relationship.
At the time, Tony was doing his own research into the behavior of chromosomes. Apparently, he was also passionate about music and cycling – both interests that Suzanne shared. And when he relocated to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, it wasn’t long before his partner followed. Typically, Suzanne even took her grand piano along with her.
In Heidelberg, Suzanne took a position at the same laboratory as Tony, working under the Finnish biochemist Kai Simons. “She wanted to learn epithelial cell biology and I was thrilled to get such a talented scientist to join the group,” Simons wrote in an article for the Max Planck Institute’s website in July 2019.
Apparently, it wasn’t long before Suzanne found her feet. Using her expertise in developmental biology and microbiology, she studied the cytoskeleton – a network of proteins within the cells. Then, in 2000, she relocated more than 300 miles east to Dresden. Here, she joined the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics as a founding member.
By that time, Suzanne and Tony had two children, Max and Luke. And together, the family settled into an apartment on the banks of the River Elbe. There, the couple were known for hosting swanky parties, during which Suzanne would cook for guests, and play the piano. But apart from that, and despite her scientific application, the Californian knew how to be tough.
Yes, because regardless of her professional success, Suzanne maintained a rich life outside of the laboratory. Astonishingly, she held a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, was a whizz at crossword puzzles and a voracious reader. And according to her sister, she was particularly accomplished at balancing her home life with her impressive career. But that’s not all.
For in 2006 Suzanne’s work was recognized by the American Society for Cell Biology. Indeed, it granted her the Women in Cell Biology Junior Award for Excellence in Research. And nine years later, she took a position at the Technical University of Dresden. There, she became a professor of developmental cell biology specializing in invertebrates.
As Suzanne’s work progressed, she began attending scientific conferences on the Greek island of Crete. And by June 2019, she had already visited the popular tourist destination on three separate occasions. Then, on June 30, the 59-year-old arrived in Chania, a city some 90 miles west of the capital at Heraklion.
Now Suzanne was in Chania to attend a convention at the Conference Center of the Orthodox Academy of Crete. And there, she planned to deliver a presentation about her latest findings. After arriving, she checked into her lodgings at the venue and prepared for the event to begin the next day. For now, it seemed everything was going according to plan.
Apparently, the first day of the conference was straight forward for Suzanne and her colleagues. Then, on July 2, she was spotted by other attendees indulging in one of her favorite pastimes around lunchtime. Yes, she began playing a tune on the venue’s piano. However, after that, she disappeared. But even though she did not attend that evening’s scheduled events, her friends were not overly concerned at first.
Mind you, the next day, there was still no sign of Suzanne. And by the afternoon, some of the other attendees had grown concerned about the scientist’s absence from the event. “We hoped that she had joined the conference excursion, but when they returned for the evening session without her we were really worried,” fellow speaker François Leulier told journal, Nature.
Hoping to locate Suzanne, some of the attendees decided to visit her room at the Orthodox Academy on July 4. But when they got there, they discovered a disturbing scene. Apparently, her telephone alarm was still active – implying that she had not returned to her room the previous night. Concerned, they reported the scientist missing to the local police, who launched an investigation.
And before long, officers were able to determine what Suzanne had been doing before she disappeared. Apparently, she had been in the habit of taking a walk around the area every day. So after lunch on July 2, she went to her room to get changed, before leaving for her regular outing. In fact, she left behind her personal possessions and her cell, police said.
However, it was there that the trail went cold. With concern for Suzanne mounting, police began searching the region around the conference center. Indeed, with the assistance of the fire brigade, the coast guard and the army, they searched by land and air. What’s more, volunteers mobilized to join the effort.
Then a Silver Alert was triggered across the country – a scheme which informs the public of a missing person. But despite the extensive search and publicity, investigators could find no trace of Suzanne. However, on July 8, two people exploring a historic, hidden bunker on the island stumbled across a gruesome sight.
Now back in May 1941, Nazi Germany launched an invasion of Crete as part of its plan to conquer Europe. Eventually, it turned into a full-scale occupation that would last for the next four years. And while they were on the island, soldiers constructed a series of bunkers beneath the surface.
Today, there are a number of Second World War bunkers scattered across the island. And while some are maintained as tourist attractions, others have sat empty and abandoned since the Nazis left Crete. However, the fascinating history of these underground structures has made them a magnet for urban explorers looking for an adventure. With that in mind, let’s get back to the discovery.
So six days after Suzanne went missing, two such explorers made their way down into one of these abandoned bunkers. Now the site is just six miles from where the scientist was last seen, close to a village outside Chania. And there, the heartbreaking truth behind her disappearance was finally revealed.
Yes, that evening the explorers told police that they had discovered a dead body within the bunker. And immediately after, investigators arrived on the scene. Tragically, they were soon able to confirm that the remains belonged to Suzanne. But how had she ended up in a bunker deep beneath the ground?
According to the autopsy, Suzanne had died soon after going missing on July 2. And while the cause of death appeared to be suffocation, there was additional evidence that suggested a violent altercation. As well as injuries to her hands, the scientist had also sustained broken bones in her face, and ribs.
Moreover, reports suggested that Suzanne’s body had been discovered draped in a cloth – further suggesting foul play. But had the scientist met her fate down in the bunker or had her remains been moved there by someone? As police searched for the truth, tributes for the deceased began to pour in.
Indeed, grieving colleagues from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, wrote, “There are endless things we will miss about her, but her genuine openness, her capacity to share and her collaborative spirit were truly special. “She was always someone we could exchange ideas with and be inspired in return. Her example of a joyous and graceful approach to science and life has enriched us all.”
And on the organization’s website, Suzanne’s son Max penned a touching tribute. “As I grew, her brilliance as a scientist began to dawn on me,” he wrote. “Always armed with a question, she would show interest in any topic broached. Many a time I discussed topics with her that I had studied at university, and within a week, she would be as well versed in that topic as any of my professors.”
As Suzanne’s sister went on to explain, the scientist’s love for her profession didn’t overshadow her love for her family. “She worried that it was impossible to give both her science and her family her all,” she said. “But anyone who read of her accomplishments in the field of molecular and developmental biology, or who witnessed her joy in tutoring, comforting, and inspiring her children… would not have suspected. With a deep sensitivity and compassion, she somehow made us all a priority.”
But while those who knew Suzanne grieved, police were edging closer to the truth behind her disappearance. Apparently, they had discovered vehicle tracks leading up to a drainage entrance into the shelter. And with this in mind, they theorized that the scientist has died elsewhere before being moved to the underground location. As we’ll soon see, officers started putting the pieces together.
That’s right, by speaking to witnesses and analyzing CCTV footage of the area, police began to hone in on suspects. And eventually, they were able to narrow their search down to just one individual. On July 15, investigators brought 27-year-old shepherd Giannis Paraskakis into the Chania police station for questioning.
Now Paraskakis, a married father of two, owned a property near where Suzanne’s body was discovered. But that’s not perhaps the most interesting, alleged link here. Reportedly, police discovered that he was a regular poster on social media, with an interest in adventure and martial arts. And when they took a closer look at his profile, specifically YouTube, they discovered a video which made them curious.
According to media, Paraskakis had posted a video showing him exploring the Second World War bunker where Suzanne was discovered. Now this allegedly proved he was familiar with the location, and potential scene of the crime. And when he was questioned about the scientist’s death, his contradictory answers raised further suspicion. Before long, he had “confessed his crime,” Police major general Constantinos Lagoudakis, said in an official statement. Despite the reported confession, the nature of the alleged attack sounded shocking.
Yes, because according to police, Paraskakis admitted to noticing Suzanne while driving his car to the nearby town of Kolymbari. And sickeningly, he made a split-second decision to incapacitate her so he could sexually assault her. Therefore, he quickly performed a U-turn and struck the jogging scientist with his vehicle.
Worse still, when Suzanne fell to the ground, Paraskakis then drove his car into her for a second time. After that, he bundled his victim into the trunk of his vehicle and drove away. And after traveling some six miles, he arrived at the bunker where her body was later found. According to police, Paraskakis claimed that Suzanne was merely unconscious at this point.
With Suzanne incapacitated, Paraskakis allegedly raped her before throwing her down a drainage opening into the bunker below. Afterwards, he used a wooden pallet to block the entrance to the war shelter. Then, police said, he tried to get rid of the evidence from his vehicle at a nearby graveyard. However, investigators were still able to find forensics “from all the identified scenes.” So what could have led Paraskakis, whose father was a priest, to commit such a horrific crime?
Well, according to Greek newsite Neoskosmos.com, he told police that he led a “miserable” existence. But more importantly, Paraskakis had been attempting to alleviate his suffering by watching hardcore pornography. And apparently, it was his porn addiction that led to Suzanne’s murder – which he branded an “act of despair.”
Now currently, Paraskakis is awaiting trial for Suzanne’s murder. However, soon after his confession police began to suspect that the attack might not have been an isolated incident. And within weeks, details emerged about a number of unsolved attacks that took place in the same region – by an assailant who used his vehicle as a weapon. In fact, police recorded three similar attacks in the year leading up to Suzanne’s murder.
That’s right, and after images of Paraskakis’ vehicle were made public, one of the victims claimed to recognize it. Apparently, a car matching the same description drove into her in the seaside town of Kissamos, some 23 miles west of Chania. Luckily, the woman managed to escape. What’s more, the two other incidents, which involved a Lithanian and a Greek woman, respectively, also saw narrow escapes.
So now, investigators are reportedly collecting evidence to establish whether Paraskakis might be guilty of the other attacks. Meanwhile, the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, Austria has established a memorial fund in Suzanne’s name. Through it, the organization hopes to support young scientists wishing to conduct research outside their core disciplines.