Cyprus, 1956


Sometimes a photo is famous, not just because of the contents of the photo, but also because of the photographer behind the lens. Nicos Sampson has a dubious claim as an established photographer who had the most (in)famous second career. In the 1950s, as a reporter and photographer for the Times of Cyprus, Nicos Sampson would run to the scene whenever a policeman was murdered in Nicosia. His photos were raw and timely, as if he preternaturally knew where the next murder would happen.

In many instances, he did. Cyprus was then still ruled by Britain, and a militant group called EOKA was calling for an union with Greece; EOKA would regularly attack and killed civilians and British policemen in Nicosia’s Ledra Street. Nicos Sampson would scoop Ledra murders time and again, as he was secretly a member of EOKA and involved in the killings. He would twice face the death sentence as “the executioner of Murder Mile”, as Ledra Street was then infamously known.

Later, Sampson would also be accused of atrocities during the 1964 post-independence fighting that tore the Greek and Turkish communities apart on the island. He conspired with the Greek junta to violently overthrow Archbishop Makarios, the moderate president of the island who was amenable to both communities. After this overthrow, Sampson was himself president — something in the words of one Turkish Cypriot leader, “as unacceptable as Hitler’s becoming president of Israel”. In any event, Sampson’s presidency lasted for eight days, as Turkey invaded Cyprus and his patrons the Greek junta fell.


I could not find Nikos Sampson’s photos, but both photos on this page were taken by Robert Egby, also working at The Cyprus Mail. The photo above was taken on September 28, 1956 just outside Cyprus Mail office on Ledra Street. Two slain men were newly-arrived British intelligence officers. The assassin, who ran away just out of frame, was thought to be Sampson himself.


Another famous Egby photo showed the death of a Turkish Cypriot man Bonici Mompalda. Momplada’s Greek Cypriot fiancée Drosoulla Demetriadou sat beside the body in a photo which made the front page of all British dailies (except The Times, which didn’t feature a photo on the front page until a few years later). Egby received an Honourable Mention in The British Press Pictures of the Year 1956 for this photo. Sampson was again thought to be the culprit for this murder.

More details here.




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