NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A two-month search for the victims of a confessed serial killer in Cyprus came to a close Wednesday when divers discovered the decomposing body of his youngest victim in a lake.
The discovery of the remains of the girl, believed to be 6-year-old Sierra Grace, brings to an end the search that began when an army captain confessed to killing seven foreign women and girls on April 25.
Fire Department Chief Marcos Trangolas told The Associated Press that the remains, which were wrapped in a bed sheet and tied by rope to a cement block, were found among reeds six meters (20 feet) down the lake that was part of a former copper pyrite mine.
He said divers had searched the exact spot where the 35-year-old suspect pointed to investigators earlier Wednesday while on site. Police have said they’ve found no evidence to suggest the suspect has killed anyone else, but investigators are still trying to track down anyone who had been in contact with him online.
The army officer, who police haven’t formally identified yet, had been in contact with several of his victims through online chat rooms. He is widely acknowledged to be Cyprus’ first serial killer. The chance discovery of the body of Sierra Grace’s mother, Mary Rose Tiburcio, 38, down a flooded mineshaft on April 14 triggered an investigation that led to the suspect through his online communications with the Filipino woman with whom he had had a six-month relationship.
The body of Arian Palanas Lozano, 28, also from the Philippines, was found down the same shaft six days later.
The killings took place over 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. Their bodies were found inside suitcases at the bottom of a toxic lake that was part of another copper pyrite mine.
Another body, believed to belong to Ahita Khadka Bista from Nepal, was found down a dry well in a military firing range. The suspect is due to appear in court Friday, but it’s unclear whether investigators will ask for another custody extension or formally charge him.
Bunea and her daughter will be buried Thursday in a village outside the capital Nicosia. The Cyprus government has said it will cover the funeral and burial expenses of all the victims.
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) — 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.”
Kokkinolimni (Red lake) or Kokkinopezoula (acid lake) near Mitsero old mine
If you’ve ever heard anyone talk about the magnificent ‘red lake’ of Cyprus, they are by no means exaggerating. South west of the capital and about a 28 km drive out towards the village of Mitsero, you’ll come across the old copper mine of Mitsero, which operated between 1953 and 1966. And once you get to the area, you’ll be taken aback by the ‘acid lake’, seeping up minerals and ore which turn it red. Do not touch the water under any circumstances! But do take as many pictures as you can- it’s a rare site if ever there was one.
During the 1950’s pyrite deposits were found in the area of Kokkinopezoulain . In a period of economic decadence and unemployment a new breath in the area of work was given to the village. The population of Mitsero as well as the surrounding villages stopped seeking work in the town or abroad, while other villagers had moved to Mitsero for work. Even though the working conditions in the mines were exhausting and dangerous, it was a solution for a lot of people who were seeking for work in order to feed their families.
TheKokkinopezoula Mine stopped operating in 1967. The explosions which were created in order to find the minerals, left many injured while many also lost their lives. At the same time the area had filled with toxic dust that was dangerous for people as well as the environment. Many miners were not able to breathe, walk and many eventually died. The destruction was also dramatic for the environment. The acid and the contamination in the lake and the soil resulted in the fact that the birds and he surrounding trees were not able to survive.
The scene around the area of the mine may show remains of devastation, however during the last few years nature has begun to heal its wounds and shows signs of life. Trees have begun to grow around the lake creating greenery. Let’s hope that with time the fauna and flora in the area will be restored completely giving the abandoned and destroyed area a new scenic beauty
On April the 14th 2019, two tourists were in the Mitsero mine taking photos, when they discovered a body, 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.
This was the start of a gruesome discovery, that exposed the first serial killer in Cyprus.