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article imageCyprus police in first apology over serial killings

By Charlie Charalambous (AFP)     May 7, 2019 in Crime

Cyprus's new police chief issued the force's first apology on Tuesday for its handling of the killings of seven foreign women and girls, acknowledging officers had failed to protect them.

The murders -- dubbed the Mediterranean island's first serial killings -- have sparked anger against the police over its failure to act on missing person reports that allowed the killer to carry on undetected for nearly three years.

New chief Kypros Michaelides issued the apology as he was sworn in to replace Zacharias Chrysostomou.

Chrysostomou was sacked by President Nicos Anastasiades on Friday over what he called police "negligence and incompetence", a day after Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou resigned.

"The recent painful developments and the loss of defenceless innocent women and children who had come to our country in search of a better future have greatly damaged the prestige, honour and reputation of the Cyprus police, highlighting weaknesses, gaps and omissions," Michaelides said.

New police chief Kypros Michaelides apologised to families of victims of Cyprus's "first s...
New police chief Kypros Michaelides apologised to families of victims of Cyprus's "first serial killer" as he was sworn in by President Nicos Anastasiades
STAVROS IOANNIDES, PIO/AFP

"That is why, as representative of the police force, I want... to convey a big apology because we did not manage to protect these innocent and defenceless souls who died in a tragic and disgraceful way."

In his dismissal letter to Michaelides' predecessor, the president decried "the apparent negligence and dereliction of duty of the police in investigating reports of missing persons".

"Some of the horrific crimes that shocked Cyprus could have been prevented," he wrote.

There has been a series of angry protests outside the presidential palace in Nicosia, with demonstrators accusing police officers of routinely disregarding missing persons reports involving foreigners.

The killings came to light in mid-April when unusually heavy rains brought the body of 38-year-old Filipina Mary Rose Tiburcio to the surface of the disused mine shaft where it had been hidden.

That triggered a murder investigation which led to the arrest of Greek Cypriot National Guard captain Nicos Metaxas on April 18.

Metaxas, 35, who has not yet been formally charged over the murders, appeared in court on Sunday and was remanded in custody for a further eight days.

The suspect, who has allegedly signed written confessions to the seven murders, although not to separate allegations of rape, has been helping police to find the bodies of other victims.

Police have so far recovered two from a disused mineshaft, one from a well near an army firing range outside the capital Nicosia, and two from suitcases dumped in an acidic manmade lake.

Investigators were continuing to search the lake near the village of Mitsero on Tuesday for a third suitcase, using a robotic camera brought in from the United States.

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