New details suggest the main suspect in the double murder of two Russian women may be covering up for someone else, after it was reported that the shooter was far closer to the victims than previously thought and questions remained about a car passenger.
Last week a 32-year-old Syrian man was purported to have broken down during a late night interrogation by Larnaca detectives, admitting that he shot and killed two Russian nationals, Maria Gazibagandova and Alraeesi Khaiat, at a cottage in rural Limassol.
The bodies of the two women, who had gone missing back in mid-November, were unearthed in early December after police said detectives managed to get a confession from the suspect, who also allegedly pointed to the grave days after it had been missed during multiple searches on the property.
The suspect, described as a 32-year-old father of two and Cypriot national married to a Greek Cypriot woman, reportedly told police previously that he shot the women from a distance of 10 meters after returning from a hunting trip early morning and losing his temper after hearing the victims on the ground floor talk disparagingly about him.
The suspect says the unknown male was hitchhiking, while police say the image of the mystery person was not clear
But local media say new evidence suggest at least one of the two women had been shot at close range, with investigators trying to sift through several versions given by the suspect of what had taken place including a possible motive.
A mystery accomplice is also thought to have been involved in the murders after security camera footage was said to have captured an unknown male in the front passenger seat as the Syrian suspect was driving back to the cottage.
But the suspect says the unknown male was hitchhiking and he offered him a ride, with police saying the image of the mystery person was not clear.
Previously, while the two women were still missing, a 23-year-old Syrian man was arrested after the main suspect named him early on in the investigation, saying the younger male ought to know their whereabouts.
But the 23-year-old, who was also arrested in the case, was quickly released after denying involvement but was re-arrested on other outstanding warrants.
Two workers who appear to have helped dig a grave, unbeknownst to them that two women had been killed based on the suspect’s account, are also wanted by police, who say the two persons of interest would be integral parts in the investigation.
But the suspect insists they were unknown men who did odd jobs for wages and that he drove them back to Limassol after digging a hole in the ground for what they were told would be an outdoor grill.
Police criticized over handling case
Police have been criticized in the way they handled the investigation, which began in Larnaca as an abduction case with the arrest of the suspect in total secrecy and later developed into a murder case in Limassol.
Officials say delays in locating the burial site, which was discovered in the cottage yard after police had left the area following multiple searches, were due to weather conditions and landscaping at the holiday home.
Local media said the suspect had access to the home, said to belong to a man in Nicosia, who reportedly had given the keys to the suspect and asked him to carry out some construction work at the property.
There were also questions raised in the case over possible sex trafficking, after a House human rights committee sent a letter to the Police Chief urging him to investigate any criminal networks linked to the women’s disappearance and murders.
Unlike the remand hearing in the abduction case, the remand hearing on murder charges took place behind closed doors after a lawyer appeared for the suspect and filed a gag order request, citing data privacy and religious rights.
Police sift through various statements & evidence in the deaths of two Russian women in Cyprus, questions remain on scope and motive