Seventh Victim Found in Cyprus Serial Killing Investigation

By Reuters

ATHENS—Police in Cyprus found a body on Wednesday thought to be the seventh and last victim of a serial killer who preyed on foreign women for almost three years without detection.

Police said they had found the remains in lake Memi southwest of the capital Nicosia, where they had been looking for the body of the six-year-old daughter of the first victim discovered.

“Human remains have been found and forensic pathologists are on the scene,” a police spokesman said.

A 35-year-old Greek Cypriot army captain has been in custody since late April on suspicion of killing five adult women and the young daughters of two of the victims.

Police say they have written confessions from the suspect, who met the women online. Most were employed as housekeepers on the island and disappeared between September 2016, and July to August 2018.

The case, the worst peace-time atrocities against women in Cyprus in memory, has triggered outrage and horror on an island where serious crime is relatively rare.

The police chief was sacked and the justice minister resigned following accounts of bungled investigations by police who did not take the disappearances seriously because the women were foreign.

Police had been scouring the lake for weeks looking for the daughter of 38-year-old Marry Rose Tiburcio from the Philippines, who was found dead by tourists shooting pictures at a mining shaft in late April.

The body of Tiburcio, who disappeared with daughter Sierra in May 2018, was the first victim to be discovered.

The funeral and burial of Livia Florentina Bunea, 38, from Romania, and her eight-year-old daughter Elena, found dead last month at another lake locally referred to as the Red lake, were to be held in Cyprus on Thursday.

Cyprus
Philippine women cry as they take part in a memorial for the victims at the mineshaft where two female bodies were found near the village of Mitsero outside the capital Nicosia, Cyprus on May 5, 2019. (Petros Karadjias/Photo AP)

The Cyprus government said it would cover the costs of the victims’ funerals.

Police Chief Apologizes Over Serial Killer Case

Cyprus’ new police chief apologized on May 7 over the handling of the country’s serial killer case amid accusations of negligent police work that may have allowed the suspect to claim more victims.

Kypros Michaelides offered the apology to the families of seven foreign women and girls who an army captain has confessed to the killing. He said that police had failed to protect the victims, adding that those who failed to properly investigate their disappearances will be held accountable.

“We fully understand the public’s justified reaction,” Michaelides said at a ceremony marking his appointment.

“I’ll do whatever is humanly possible…to restore the ground we lost, to restore the public’s trust in the police,” Michaelides said, adding that the force operates without prejudice, racism or sexism.

A week earlier, President Nicos Anastasiades fired Michaelides’ predecessor while the justice minister resigned amid strong criticism that police failed to properly investigate initial missing persons’ reports that could have tracked down the 35-year-old suspect before he could kill again.

Among the victims were a 36-year-old Romanian woman and her 8-year-old daughter who disappeared in 2016. But police apparently told people who inquired about the whereabouts of the mother and daughter that they had good reason to believe both had absconded to the breakaway, Turkish Cypriot north of the ethnically divided country.

Five of the suspect’s victims disappeared after that. The bodies of two Filipino women were discovered by chance last month in an abandoned mineshaft, sparking the investigation.

The suspect told investigators he dumped three of his victims—the Romanian mother and daughter as well as another Filipino woman—in a toxic lake after placing their bodies in suitcases.

Divers have so far recovered two suitcases from the lake, including a small bag that authorities believe contains the remains of the 8-year-old.

The suspect also led police to the decomposed body of a woman believed to be from Nepal down a pit in a military firing range. Authorities are also looking in a reservoir for the body of the 6-year-old daughter of Mary Rose Tiburcio, 38, who was found in the shaft.

Michaelides said police will spare no effort until the case is fully solved.

“We’ve dug in our heels and that’s why we’re here and we’ll stay here until the very end,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.