CYPRUS: Justice Minister resigns after serial killings outcry

Cyprus Justice Minister, Ionas Nicolaou resigned on Thursday after a public outcry over the serial killings of five migrant women and two children by a 35-year-old military officer who has reportedly confessed to their murders.

Nicolaou tendered his resignation to President Nicos Anastasiades at a one-on-one meeting held on Thursday morning at the Presidential Palace.

Addressing reporters after handing in his resignation to the president, Nicolaou said that he resigned for reasons of political ethics alone, stressing, however, that he had no personal responsibility for investigating the complaints.

The Minister of Justice said that he was prompted to resign by mistakes in handling the cases made by law enforcement, firing at the way the force went about investigating the initial missing persons reports when the women disappeared between 2016-2018.

The police force is under the spotlight after what appears to be a failure to take reports of disappeared foreign women seriously after the body of one of the reported missing women surfaced at a mineshaft in Mitsero after heavy rainfall.

Police acting on information available to them more than a year ago were quick to find the culprit who admitted to seven killings.

“I will call on the independent police complaints commission, asking them to appoint an independent investigating committee to identify these responsibilities,” Nicolaou said, stressing that it is evident that police did not investigate thoroughly the reported cases.

He, however, called on society to maintain its trust in the Cyprus police force.

Nicolaou also pointed out there was a collective responsibly because of perceptions and attitudes that do not honour the society.

He said attempts to blame him and the government is be unfair.

Like everyone else, Nicolaou said he has been through difficult times because of the killings, while his conscience and principles led to his resignation.

Anastasiades has accepted Nicolaou’s resignation expressing his sadness over losing one of his closest associates in his government.

I share the shock and abhorrence of society over these unprecedented crimes. I wish to assure you that the Government is determined to resolve these cases, but also to fully investigate acts or omissions concerning complaints over missing persons, said Anastasiades.

Anastasiades has asked Nicolaou to remain in his position until he presents before cabinet the justice reform package, which is currently being look at by the state’s Legal Service.

Police Chief Zacharias Chrysostomou will meet President Anastasiades on Friday, with public fury over the handling of the cases growing. It is believed that Chrysostomou is likely to follow suit and also tender his resignation, assuming his responsibilities over the probe.

All victims, for which the suspect has reportedly admitted to killing, were reported missing by friends and family. According to the suspect’s confession, his first victims were a Romanian woman and her 8-year-old daughter, reported missing in December 2016.

The army captain held in custody has admitted to killing five foreign women and two children over a period of more than two years, disposing of their bodies in lakes in Mitsero and Xyliato.

The suspect has reportedly told investigating officers that he threw three of his victims in the lakes in travel bags.

Source: The Financial Mirror