NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A Cypriot army captain who confessed to killing seven foreign women and girls will remain in custody after a court on Monday approved a police request to extend his detention for another eight days.
Investigators need more time to collect testimony and other evidence as authorities continue to search for the bodies of two of the victims, police investigator YIannis Georgadjis told the court.
The 35 year-old suspect, believed to be Cyprus’ first known serial killer, faces charges including premeditated murder and kidnapping in the slayings of three Filipino women and the daughter of one of them, a Romanian mother and daughter and a woman believed to be from Nepal.
The killings appear to have taken place over a period of 2 ½ years starting in September 2016 with the disappearance of 36-year-old Romanian Livia Florentina Bunea, and her 8-year-old daughter Elena Natalia.
Police are accused of failing to properly investigate initial missing persons’ reports that may have prevented the suspect from claiming more victims. Revelations of what the Cypriot president called “negligence” on the part of some police officers led to the justice minister’s resignation while the police chief was fired.
The suspect, who authorities haven’t formally identified, faces an additional charge of raping a woman he contacted through a social media platform. The woman, who was 19 in early 2017 when the alleged rape took place, told police the suspect had sex with her against her will in his car when he picked her up supposedly to give her modelling photographs he took of her.
The suspect is denying the rape allegation. Wearing a bulletproof vest, he represented himself in court on Monday and said he didn’t object to his detention.
The chance discovery of the bound body of Mary Rose Tiburcio, 38, from the Philippines, down an abandoned mineshaft triggered an investigation last month that led to the suspect’s arrest.
The suspect confessed to seven killings in a 10-page handwritten note and took investigators to where he dumped some of his victims.
They include a poisonous lake that is part of a disused copper mine where he said he disposed of the bodies of Bunea, her daughter and another Filipino woman after placing them in suitcases. Divers have so far retrieved two suitcases from the lake and are continuing to search for a third.
A separate search is being carried out at another lake where the suspect said he dumped the body of Tiburcio’s 6-year-old daughter Sierra Grace.
Investigators said the suspect, who is divorced and has two children, had a six-month relationship with Tiburcio before she and her daughter vanished in May 2018.
In April 2019, two German tourists entered an abandoned mine at Mitsero, where they stumbled upon a body. This was the start of an investigation that exposed the first serial killer in Cyprus. Shortly after a 35 year old Army officer, called Nikos Metaxas was arrested and the true horror was revealed.
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus’ new police chief has apologized to the families of seven foreign women and girls who an army captain has confessed to killing. Kypros Michailides said at a ceremony Tuesday to mark his appointment that he offered the apology because police had failed to protect the victims.
He said those who failed will be held accountable.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades fired Michaelides’ predecessor over the “negligence” of some officers. Police have been accused of failing to properly investigate initial missing persons’ reports.
Divers are continuing with a search of a body the suspect says he dumped in a toxic lake. On Sunday, search crews found a small suitcase that authorities believe contained the remains of an eight year-old girl.
It is about time that that official took responsibility for what may well be the greatest act of negligence since the Mari explosion. These women were reported missing and nobody did a thing!
Who were they reported to? Who decided to ignore the report of the missing women? Why have it taken such a tragedy to highlight the incompetence of the Cypriot Police force?
CYPRUS was reeling on Saturday when a second decomposed body of a naked and bound adult woman was pulled from the same mine shaft in Mitsero where authorities had brought up the body of missing Mary Rose Tiburcio, 39, from the Philippines only a week ago on Sunday.
Crews who worked all day Saturday to locate the body of Tiburcio’s missing six-year-old daughter Sierra Graze Seucalliuc at a small lake near the Xyliatos reservoir some 15 minutes drive from the Mitsero crime scene, failed to find the little girl’s body but will resume searching on Sunday.
Search operations were opened on two fronts late Friday, and went into full swing on Saturday morning after the suspect in the case, a Greek Cypriot National Guard officer aged 35, allegedly broke during interrogation and confessed to the killing of the mother and daughter last year.
According to state broadcaster Cybc, the suspect, who was remanded for eight days on Friday, told police that he had strangled Tiburcio in his home, before dumping her body in the mine shaft. She and her daughter were reported missing in May 2018.
The fact that authorities were searching specific areas on Saturday – the reservoir and back at the mine – indicated early on that they might be looking for more than one victim, though they did not state this publicly. On Saturday neither did they rule out that there might be even more victims. Reports were already emerging that there may be two more bodies in the mine shaft.
The developing scenarios have already prompted speculation that Cyprus might be experiencing its first recorded incidence of serial killings, but authorities would first have to link the murders to the suspect, and find a common thread or modus operandi if there are more bodies found. One angle they are likely to look at in the case of the second victim is her social media accounts since Tiburcio met the suspect on Badoo and had arranged to meet through that medium.
Reports on Saturday said police had already located the Badoo accounts of additional women that have been reported missing, and would be assessing whether they were also in contact with the 35-year-old suspect, who is a father of two but estranged from his wife.
A post-mortem will be carried out on Sunday on the second woman’s body, which reports said was badly decomposed, indicating that it may have been thrown down the shaft before Tiburcio was. Police spokesman Andreas Angelides told reporters: “The priority now is to identify the woman. It would be premature to say anything else at this stage”.
The first step will be to identify the woman and establish if she is also on the list of missing persons. There are 32 women on the police missing persons list. Only three are Cypriots.
In addition to Mitsero and Xyliatos, police have signalled that other searches in open areas might be on the cards, reports said. Police expect to take more than 100 statements, Angelides said.
Speaking at Mitsero, just after crew had pulled up the second body, Nicosia CID chief Neophytos Shailos confirmed they had located a second victim and that it was a woman in the 125-metre mine shaft. He confirmed that the search for little Sierra would continue at Xyliatos at first light on Sunday.
Search crews had begun early on Saturday at the lake, having sent an advance team late Friday
At noon, state Cybc reported that the search in the Xyliatos area had been called off after no sign of the child was found but the search resumed two hours later with boats and divers.
At the same time in Mitsero, crews from the emergency response unit Emak, the civil defence, the police anti-terrorism unit Mmad, and firefighters were preparing to use special equipment to get further into the mine shaft after bringing a former manager on board for expert advice.
They too had to stop working before midday due to heavy rain but resumed after a couple of hours. Underwater cameras with lighting had been sent down into the shaft at the beginning of the operation.That was how the body was discovered and later retrieved.
When news emerged that two state pathologists had been called to the scene, it was clear that a body or bodies had been discovered, even without police confirmation. A heavy police presence led by Nicosia CID ensued, which confirmed the find well before police went public with the information. The fact that it was a second woman’s body that was found shocked many people, since the expectation was that they would find the body of the little girl, and not a second adult victim.
Also on Saturday, a 30-year-old man who was also being held in connection with the case was released. It is believed his photo was used unbeknownst to him by the suspect – a colleague – on the Badoo platform where the 35-year-old made contact with Tiburcio last year.
Responding to criticism from various quarters on the police’s failure to conduct thorough investigations at the time when the mother and daughter were reported missing in May last year, the justice minister Ionas Nicolaou also weighed in on Saturday, saying that actions taken by police regarding the specific case would be examined, though what was important at the moment was that the case be solved, he said. He also fended off the notion that because Tiburcio was a foreign woman, that police did not give the case the same amount of attention as they would had she been a Cypriot.
Nicolaou stressed that police do not discriminate members of the public on the basis of their ethnicity or place of origin. “Now is not the time for assigning responsibility, but for ensuring that the police fulfil their duties,” he said.
On Friday, police released Tiburcio’s Romanian ex-partner who had been arrested initially.
Tiburcio, had been reported missing on May 5, 2018, by her roommate, who told police that on the previous day she had gone to meet a man she had met on social media, taking her daughter with her. They never returned.
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Police in Cyprus recovered a second suitcase containing human remains Sunday from a contaminated lake where a military officer who confessed to killing seven foreign women and girls told authorities he dumped the bodies of three victims.
The lake is part of an abandoned copper pyrite mine where a woman’s body was found by chance last month in a flooded shaft, setting off an investigation that police say led to the island nation’s first known serial killer.
The 35-year-old army captain told investigators he killed five women and two girls, and disposed of three bodies — those of a Filipino woman and a Romanian mother and daughter — in the man-made lake. A suitcase with the remains of a woman was found at the bottom a week ago.
Several hundred people gathered at the site Sunday to light candles and lay flowers in memory of the two first victims, both of whom were from the Philippines. Some wept as tributes to the two victims were read.
A coroner will examine the remains found Sunday to try to identify the victim, police spokesman Andreas Angelides said. Divers are scouring the lake bottom with a sophisticated sonar device for another suitcase, Fire Service Chief Marcos Trangolas said.
The search for bodies and evidence started weeks ago in a case that has shocked the eastern Mediterranean island nation, brought allegations of police negligence, and cost the country’s justice minister and the police chief their jobs.
Police have been accused of failing to properly investigate when a victim was reported missing 2½ years ago, allowing the suspect to keep killing. Several of the women were reported as missing to police.
Earlier Sunday, Criminal Investigation Department Chief Neophytos Shailos told a court in Nicosia that the suspect allegedly raped a woman in early 2017 after he picked her up in his car, saying he wanted to give her the photographs he took. Shailos said the suspect recorded video on his cellphone.
The woman, a 19-year-old foreign citizen, called the suspect’s wife at the time and told her what had happened, Shailos said. He did not elaborate on what the suspect’s wife did with that information. The couple, who have two children, are now divorced.
Shailos said investigators are trying to secure additional testimony from a female friend of the alleged victim, who has since left the island. He did not state her nationality.
The court on Sunday extended the suspect’s detention for another eight days. He has not been named because he has not yet been charged in what authorities are calling the most horrifying multiple-slayings case that Cyprus has seen.
The suspect, who represented himself in court Sunday and wore a bulletproof vest, said he had no objections to the detention renewal.
Investigators have been speaking with everyone the suspect had contacted online since 2016, when the alleged first victims vanished: Livia Florentina Bunea, 36, from Romania; and her 8-year-old daughter, Elena Natalia Bunea.
Only two of the victims have so far been positively identified; 38-year-old Mary Rose Tiburcio and Arian Palanas Lozano, 28, both from the Philippines. Their bodies were discovered in an abandoned mineshaft last month six days apart.
Authorities are also looking for the body of Tiburcio’s 6-year-old daughter Sierra in another reservoir. The decomposed remains of a woman who is believed to be Ashita Khadka Bista, from Nepal, were found at the bottom of a pit in a military firing range after the suspect led investigators there.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, who on Saturday called the suspect a “serial killer,” last week apologized to diplomats of the countries of the victims and vowed to bolster protections for foreign workers in Cyprus.
Critics claim the police in Cyprus did not put much energy into the missing persons reports because the victims were low-paid foreign workers.
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — It’s more than the grizzly body count that’s numbed people on the small east Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus.
The country may have experienced mass killings decades ago during inter-ethnic conflict, but the self-confessed crimes of a military officer are something new for the island of around 1 million people.
The army captain told authorities over several days last month that he killed five foreign women and two of their daughters. Police have found bodies in a flooded mineshaft, the abandoned mine’s toxic lake and a pit at a military firing range.
The officer is widely acknowledged to be Cyprus’ first serial killer. Authorities haven’t named him publicly.
Questions about police ineptitude or indifference possibly allowing the suspect to keep killing for about 2 ½ years after the first victim was reported missing have been part of the painful fallout.
At a second vigil for the seven slaying victims outside the presidential palace in Nicosia on Friday, participants also expressed concerns that racism and economic inequality were other factors; many women from the Philippines work as housekeepers in Cyprus, and four of the victims were Filipino.
“I mean, if it would be a Cypriot woman missing for so long, they would definitely do something,” Katarzyna Kyrlitsias, who is from Poland and married to a Cypriot citizen, said. “But because we’re foreigners, they think nobody would find them, nobody would look for them.”
Residents, immigrant rights activists and government officials say they want to know if and exactly how police failures contributed to killings instead of preventing them.
Yiota Papadopoulou, whose husband is a prominent Cypriot politician, said she asked in October 2016 for help learning the whereabouts of a Romanian woman and her child after the pair vanished.
A police officer told her authorities had good reason to believe 36-year-old Livia Florentina Bunea took her 8-year-old daughter to the ethnically divided nation’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, Papadopoulou said.
“I believe that maybe, some other women could have been saved,” she told public broadcaster RIK.
It was only the chance discovery of 38-year-old Mary Rose Tiburcio’s bound body down the mineshaft on April 14 that sparked a full investigation. Authorities detained the suspect soon after tracking the dead woman’s online message exchanges with the army captain.
The head of the Cyprus Domestic Workers’ Association, Louis Koutroukides, has recounted that when he reported Tiburcio missing last year, a police officer said he was “too old to concern himself with Filipino women.”
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has promised the government would scrupulously investigate both the “abhorrent murders” and the “actions or failures” of police in following up on missing person cases.
Anastasiades fired Police Chief Zacharias Chrysostomou on Friday for what he said was “possible negligence” in carrying out swift and thorough investigations that could have saved lives.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, who resigned Thursday, also spoke of “possible mistakes” by law enforcement. He also alluded to darker “attitudes and perceptions” pervading society “that honor no one.”
Cyprus has a Filipino community of about 14,000 that experiences discrimination and exploitation, according to civil rights advocate Lissa Jataas. Four of the people the suspect said he killed, including Tiburcio and her 6-year-old daughter, were Filipino.
A noticeable number of Filipino immigrants earn 400 euros ($450) per month working long hours as housekeepers for employers who hold their passports and work permits.
“We’re very vulnerable to abuse and harassment at work because our workplace is our home as well,” Jataas said, adding that many workers keep complaints to themselves for fear of being deported.
Ester Beatty, chair of the Federation of Filipino Organizations in Cyprus, said she hopes the killings “serve as a wake-up call to those nasty employers” to adhere to European employment standards.
It’s a view shared by others at Friday’s protest vigil. Guarab Nepal said he feels as if people from Asian countries are ignored in Cyprus
“The government should respect the people who came here to work,” he said.
Even the police’s most ardent supporters concede that the investigation of the initial missing persons’ reports were insufficient. Police Support Association head Neophytos Papamiltiadous acknowledged a lack of proper oversight by those officers’ immediate superiors.
However, Papamiltiadous rejected the notion that racism was a major factor, noting that foreign workers do cross into the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north without notifying authorities.
Divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece, Cyprus’ northern third is an unrecognized entity and Cypriot police have no jurisdiction there. The legal vacuum affords those who want to disappear a way out.
But Papamiltiadous said that’s certainly no excuse for lackadaisical police work.
With no real voice, it is easy for some police officers to ignore foreign worker complaints or missing person reports if they’re under no pressure to do so, said Stefanos Spaneas, a professor of social work at the University of Nicosia.
Spaneas said in his experience with working with migrants and refugees it’s less a matter of police racism than one of “stupidity” within a disorganized force made up of officers earning low pay.
Kyrlitsias, the Polish woman with a Cypriot spouse who attended the vigil outside the palace, said the killings have changed how she feels in Cyprus regardless of what comes out of the serial killer investigation.
“Cyprus is a nice country and actually is very safe,” she said. “But what happened now, it’s very difficult to feel safe because you never know who will text you.”
April 14: A naked and bound female body was found in a Mitsero mine shaft by two foreigners taking photos, body retrieved at 8.30pm
April 15: Evidence emerges the dead woman is Mary Rose Tiburcio, 39, from the Philippines reported missing by her roommate on May 5, 2018, along with her daughter. Search for Tiburcio’s daughter Sierra, 6, begins
April 16: Former partner of Tiburcio and father of the girl, a 33-year-old Romanian national is arrested, passport of missing daughter found at his home
April 17: The suspect is remanded for eight days
April 18: Authorities plan draining the mine shaft to look for the body of Sierra but the plan is abandoned because of fears the structure may cave in
April 18: Police arrest two more suspects, both Greek Cypriot officers in the National Guard, aged 30 and 35
April 19: The court remands the two men and releases the Romanian man, saying they are close to solving the murder after reports surface that the 35-year-old Greek Cypriot suspect confessed
April 20: A second decomposed naked and bound female body is found in the same mine shaft while crews search without success for Sierra at a lake in Xyliatos reservoir where the suspect says he threw the child. The possibility of more bodies is mentioned by police as evidence emerges that the victim met murderer on social media site Badoo. The 30-year-old suspect is released. His photo had been used unbeknown to him on Badoo.
April 21: The 35-year-old’s name is unofficially publicised as Nicos Metaxas, a father of two who is estranged from his wife.
April 22: The post-mortem on the second woman fails to identify her, but she is believed to be Arian Palanas Lozano, 28, from the Philippines, reported who went missing on July 21, 2018 . The search for Sierra continue at Xyliatos. Underwater cameras are used but find nothing.
April 22: The search for more bodies in Mitsero is postponed for safety reasons pending repair of metal beams. A representative of the Filipino community in Cyprus suggests 30-year-old Maricar Valdez Arquila who went missing in December 2017 may also be a victim
April 23: A new post mortem is carried out on the second body in the presence of anthropologists. It determined she was Asian woman but fails to establish that it is Arian
April 24: Police are investigating a third murder case following analysis of the suspect’s phone data. It is believed to be related to the disappearance of Maricar. Metaxas is taken to court in connection with the date evidence and remanded for two more days.
April 25: In the afternoon police find a third decomposed body of a woman at a firing range at Orounta after being led there by Metaxas, police sources suggest number of victims could be as high as seven. The suspect reportedly said he killed an Indian or Nepalese woman in the summer of 2018 and dumped her body in Orounta. He also reportedly admitted to killing a Romanian woman and her daughter at a time he did not specify. The Romanian is likely to be Livia Florentina Bunea, 36, the other victim her daughter Elena Natalia, 8 both of whom went missing on September 30, 2016
April 26: Efforts begin anew to find four unaccounted for victims in the red lake at the Mitsero mine. The search continues at Xyliatos for Sierra. Specialised divers are deployed.
April 27: Metaxas appears in court and is remanded for a further eight days. The court heard that he gave police a 10-page handwritten confession. Investigators also named the Orounta victim as possibly Kata Anou, a woman from Nepal who was not reported missing.
April 28: One of three suitcases being searched for at the Mitsero red lake was retrieved, containing the body of a woman either that of Livia or Maricar. The identification process was taking place at the morgue in Nicosia. The retrieval of the second suitcase will happen on Monday April 29 and the search will continue to locate a third suitcase believed to be in the lake.
April 29: Efforts to retrieve the second suitcase are hampered by near-zero visibility in the red lake in Mitsero. A post mortem conducted on the body found in the first suitcase is inconclusive. A five-member team of Scotland Yard was on the island to assist in the investigation.
April 30: The team of Scotland Yard experts is briefed on the case. The search for the second and third suitcase in the lake is resumed. A second post-mortem on the body found in the suitcase is expected to be carried out.
Authorities on Wednesday were searching a mine in Mitsero for traces of a six-year-old girl whose mother was found dead there, in a well on Sunday, apparently murdered. Fire service personnel used cameras to search the water-filled well where the mother was found accidentally by a photographer taking pictures of the area.
The body had been bound and wrapped in a sheet before it was dumped in the 130-metre deep well. It is understood that the heavy rainfall this winter filled the well with water, revealing the body. Though police are very careful with the information they release, media reports suggested the body belongs to a 38-year-old woman from the Philippines who was reported missing from her Larnaca home, along with her six-year-old daughter.
Police arrested her 33-year-old partner who appeared in court on Wednesday and was remanded for eight days.