CRIME: Cyprus police search for more women in suitcases

Cypriot authorities on Monday were seeking to retrieve a second suitcase believed to contain a woman’s body dumped in a toxic red lake by a suspected serial killer, the hunt for bodies recovered one victim in travel luggage the day before.

The search of two lakes southwest of Nicosia for foreign women, follow the confessions of a suspected serial killer, named in local media as Nicos Metaxas, a 35-year-old Greek Cypriot army officer, allegedly confessed to having dumped the bodies there.

The army captain told investigators that he put the bodies of three of his victims into suitcases and threw them into the toxic water.

According to police sources, the search for victims on Orthodox Easter Monday began at the Memi lake in Xyliato but authorities expect to retrieve a second suitcase at another location called the Red Lake in Mitsero.

Police said they expect to bring the second suitcase to shore sometime later on Monday but will also search for a third travel bag in the lake.

The suspect has admitted to killing five foreign women and two underage girls on the Mediterranean holiday island, according to police.

“Our aim is to fully investigate these cases,” police spokesman Andreas Angelides told the Cyprus News Agency on Monday.

He said more than 250 witness statements have been taken since the beginning of the investigations, another 150 are expected to be processed, while 202 pieces of evidence have been collected and sent for forensic examination.

British police experts � called in by Nicosia – are also expected to join Cypriot authorities on Monday to help solve the complex case which is a gruesome first for Cyprus.

They include a forensic specialist, clinical psychologist, a special advisor and investigator with experience of such crimes.

Angelides said the British experts will attend a meeting at Cyprus Police Headquarters, where they will be informed about the background of the case.

On Sunday, Cypriot investigators retrieved the first suitcase containing the decomposing remains of a woman from the bottom of a lake.

The body is believed to be that of one of the victims. The suitcase was weighed down by a concrete block and said to be that of an adult woman in a badly decomposed state.

“After a long and persistent effort and a lot of difficulties, a travel suitcase was pulled from the lake, which contained a woman’s body and also a cement block, senior police inspector Neophytos Shailos told reporters on Sunday.

He said tests would be conducted to determine the woman’s identity.

Victims in the lake are believed to be Maricar Valtez Arquiola, 31, from the Philippines; Florentina Bunea, 36, from Romania; and Bunea’s eight-year-old daughter, Elena Natalia.

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”.

One of them was retrieved last week 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.

The mines-turned-lakes are swollen after record rainfall in Cyprus this winter, posing an extra challenge for investigators.

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-metre (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.

Growing outrage over the murders pushed some 400 people to gather outside the iron gates of the presidential palace in Nicosia last Friday evening for a candle-lit vigil -� both for the dead and those still missing.

President Nicos Anastasiades in a statement has condemned “these hideous crimes” against foreign women.

Police have come under criticism for not acting quicker as the crimes went undetected for nearly three years, despite the women being reported as missing.

Source: The Financial Mirror