Police in Cyprus are scrambling to locate and identify bodies of foreign women following the arrest of a suspected serial killer, while the total number of slain victims is unknown with critics accusing law enforcement of not doing enough.
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Following the discovery of two female corpses in an old abandoned mine shaft elevator in Nicosia district, the image of a suspected serial killer began to emerge a few days ago that has shocked public opinion in Cyprus and communities overseas.
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While laws prohibit law enforcement from going through a missing person’s phone records, experts say the circumstances of a case ultimately dictate how it should be handled
One of the victims has been identified as 38-year-old Marry Rose Tiburcio from the Philippines, whose body was retrieved on April 14 in a stage of saponification. Her alleged killer, a 35-year-old Greek Cypriot suspect described as a professional military man and amateur photographer, is in custody after he confessed to killing a second woman, 28-year-old Filipina Αrian Palanas Lozano.
A second female body, whose identity remained unknown or undisclosed, was retrieved on April 20 in the same exact location. Forensic anthropologists were called in on Tuesday to use their expertise to help determine the cause of death, which is believed to be the same as the fate of Marry Rose. A friend of the first victim, who also reported Marry Rose and her daughter, 6-year-old Sierra Graze Seucalliuc, as missing on 4 May 2018, quickly helped authorities identify the body through an earring and unique dental information.
Despite a lack of positive identification, it was widely reported that the second body belonged to Arian. She was last seen on 21 July 2018 when she left her residence in Aglandjia, Nicosia, to go on an out-of-town trip for a few days. Arian was reported as missing by her employer, a former police deputy, in early August after she failed to show up or answer her phone.
The suspect admitted he choked Arian to death as he was reaching climax while the two were having sexual intercourse. Marry Rose is believed to have met her demise in the same exact manner, but there has been no official word as to the cause of death in both cases besides the suspect’s confession, who denies killing little Sierra or other women. Reports said the suspect initially spoke of five killings but later retracted his statements. At least four adult women are thought to have been killed and dumped in Mitseros while the fate of the little girl is still unknown.
Third FIlipina feared dead may have been a victim
But a third body believed to be inside the flooded mine shaft in Mitseros could belong to another possible victim, 30-year-old Filipina Maricar Valdez Arquiola who went missing on 13 December 2017.
Maricar’s mother, who has been searching for her daughter, has met with Cyprus Housemaids Association president Louis Koutroukides, who wrote an open letter to the justice minister last year urging political figures to push for more aggressive investigations. The mother reportedly told Koutroukides, according to his account, that she was crying while telling him she thought her daugther might be dead.
Koutroukides says he was told off by Limassol police when he tried to inquire about Marry Rose and her daughter. He also wrote on his Facebook wall on Sunday that “eight months ago I, Louis Koutroukides, in my Politis story, spoke of a serial killer. They thought I was crazy. Today, it’s real!”
Reports said Maricar’s distraught mother also attempted to contact the suspect online through his social handle “Orestis35” on a social networking site. But he reportedly refused to talk to her or share any information. The suspect had also texted back and forth with another Filipina, promising her to disclose important information about Maricar if she agreed to meet him in person, but the woman never went through with it.
Justice minister issues statement
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou issued a statement on Monday saying he was never contacted by Koutroukides on the disappearance of Marry Rose and her daughter.
“I want to clarify that we never had contact either by phone or letter regarding the specific issue with Mr Koutroukides, while we did talk about other issues that which been addressed,” said Nicolaou.
Limassol calls for reopening of missing cases
The Limassol Intercultural Council has also weighed in, calling for a thorough investigation into missing foreign women thought by authorities to have left the country with their cases never solved.
In a statement on Tuesday, the group alleged that many cases concerning foreign women, mostly from the Philippines and Vietnam, have not been thoroughly investigated, on the basis that these women were viewed widely as having crossed into the north or travelled to another EU country.
A similar claim was made by police in Marry Rose’s case, where school administrators were told that their 6-year-old pupil and her mother had left the country. Critics pointed out that there was no basis to conclude departure, citing their belongings and passports were left behind in plain sight and phone records were never checked.
While laws could prohibit law enforcement officers from going through a missing person’s phone records without a warrant, legal experts say the circumstances of a case ultimately dictate how it is handled and whether police can seek a warrant based on the telecommunications act.
The council, which has 20 members who are either Cypriot citizens or permanent residents, meets with the city’s mayor on occasions to offer consultations on a number of problems and social integration issues. The statement came days after shocking revelations in the Mitseros murders, where despite the suspected killer confessing to killing two Filipinas, police said there could be more bodies in the mine shaft.