Since April 14, police have recovered three bodies, all believed to be Filipina domestic workers, in what local media has dubbed Cyprus’ “first serial killings.”
The search focused on two lakes southwest of Nicosia where the suspect, named in local media as Nicos Metaxas, a 35-year-old Greek Cypriot army officer, allegedly confessed to having dumped the bodies.
The suspect has admitted to killing seven foreign women and underage girls on the Mediterranean holiday island, according to police sources.
One of them was retrieved Thursday after the suspect showed investigators the spot where he had dumped a body in a well at an army firing range outside the capital.
The stepped-up search at the lakes—water-filled craters of former mines now normally used as picnic sites in the foothills of the Troodos mountains—coincided with the day that Greek Cypriots mark the Orthodox Good Friday.
Police cordoned off the area and a sole diver entered Memi Lake in Xyliantos, descending into the emerald-green water.
“We are searching step-by-step,” fire department spokesman Andreas Kettis told AFP.
The mines-turned-lakes are swollen after record rainfall in Cyprus this winter, posing an extra challenge for investigators.
At a second crime site at Red Lake in Mitsero, a 10-minute drive away, Kettis said robotic equipment might also be sent in to search its acidic waters.
The case came to light after a German tourist taking photographs of the mine spotted the first body, brought to the surface of the 150-meter (500-foot) shaft which flooded after unusually heavy rains.
The suspect reportedly met the Filipinas, through Badoo, an online dating site.
Police are still searching for the body of a six-year-old Filipina girl, daughter of one of the murdered women, according to local media.
They are also probing the cases of a missing Romanian mother and her young daughter as well as unidentified Asian woman also on the list of Metaxas’s suspected victims.
‘Where are they?’
Growing outrage over the murders pushed some 400 people to gather outside the iron gates of the presidential palace in Nicosia Friday evening for a candle-lit vigil—both for the dead and those still missing.
Holding placards calling for “justice,” the crowd held an extended moment of silence, closing down the main road in front of the gates as Cypriots and members of island’s sizeable Filipino community continued to pour in.
Organizers used a loudspeaker to read a list of names of dozens of women believed to have gone missing in Cyprus since the 1990s.
“Where are they?” the crowd chorused after each name.
Holding an unlit candle, head of the Federation of Filipino Organizations in Cyprus Ester Beatty said the community “was still coming to terms” with the “brutal” murders.
“Right now everyone is very scared,” she said, urging “vigilance” amongst the community.
President Nicos Anastasiades in a statement condemned “these hideous crimes” against foreign women.
“Shocked by the revelation of so many shameful murders against innocent foreign women and young children,” the president said, expressing “deepest sorrow and strong concern.”
At the vigil, Lissa Jataas, who heads a solidarity group for domestic workers in Cyprus, said the saga has been “devastating” for the entire Filipino community.
Activist Maria Mappouridou, who put out the call for the protest yesterday on Facebook, said the deaths should serve as a wake-up call for usually quiet island.
“This is big. The women have been missing for years and no one has been asking where they’ve been,” the 43-year-old said.
“Someone has to take responsibility for this.”
READ: Cyprus serial killer slays 3 Filipinas
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