Police are pushing back on criticism over the arrest of a 23-year-old female in Sunday’s hit-and-run murder, where a Briton was run down moments after stopping the woman’s boyfriend from abusing her at a bar in Coral Bay.
The woman and her 35-year-old boyfriend were arrested on Sunday early morning on attempted murder and premeditated murder charges, following a hit-and-run that killed British tourist Charlie Birch.
But the Advisory Committee for the Prevention and Combating of Domestic Violence (ACPCDV) criticised the arrest of the female, citing a number of media reports and statements to police suggesting that she was a victim of abuse as well as a potential witness in Birch's murder.
Birch, a 39-year-old father of two who was on vacation in Cyprus, was with a 32-year-old friend Sunday night when the two men saw another man, the 35-year-old suspect, verbally and physically abusing his girlfriend at a bar in the Coral Bay area.
Police knew the female was living with the suspect and the state had a legal obligation to recognise her as a victim of violence and offer protection
Witnesses said the two friends stepped in to protect the woman and ended up getting into a fight with the 35-year-old who then left the premises.
The suspect later got into the car with his girlfriend in the front passenger seat and drove down on the Peyia-Ayios Georgios road, hitting the two tourists, killing Birch instantly and wounding his friend.
The car then sped away.
The hit and run took place around 3am and witnesses later said they saw the car going into the water and heard the woman calling for help. Passersby helped the woman out of the water while the suspect got out by himself, according to statements.
The ACPCDV said despite ample evidence that the female should have been treated as a potential victim, police arrested her on suspicion of murder and she is still in custody along with the main suspect.
The committee noted that police knew the female was living with the suspect and the state had a legal obligation to recognise her as a victim of violence and offer her protection.
Police issued a statement on Wednesday in response to the criticism, saying that this was a “very serious pre-meditated murder case” and investigation was being carried out in such a way as to ensure the best possible outcome in witness accounts of what exactly happened on Sunday.
“The 23-year-old has been arrested and remains in custody pending the investigation of the case, on the basis of a valid arrest warrant issued by a court of law and a subsequent remand order,” the police said.
The statement went on to say that police have proven many times they are sensitive to the human factor and insisted that all evidence and circumstances were taken into consideration “with the aim always being the most accurate and fair treatment of all parties involved in the specific case.”
Police on the receiving end of criticism
This is not the first time police came under criticism over handling serious cases.
In mid-May, police arrested two state doctors who were accused of medical malpractice and negligence only to admit days later that parading the medics in handcuffs was unnecessary. Then authorities were accused of double standards when no arrests were made two days later in the death of a Nicosia waitress, who was crushed to death while working in the pantry room, following allegations of safety violations.
Another case involved a recent double murder in Nicosia's Strovolos municipality where potential witnesses were not contacted promptly by police, while a second autopsy of the murdered couple -ordered by the state attorney general- had not been taken into consideration during a crucial stage of the investigation.