The suspected serial killer in the Filipina murders is facing an additional charge of felony murder with intent, after police found solid proof linking him to the kidnapping and killing of a third victim.
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Maricar Valdez Arquiola, a 30-year-old Filipina who went missing in December 2017, is believed to have been one of the first victims in the horrific killings of Filipina women, a series of unprecedented crimes that shocked public opinion and raised questions over how local authorities handle reports of missing women.
Prosecutors spoke openly in court of 'four murders' without clarifying about the little girl, while initial reports spoke of four adult Filipinas as murdered victims
A 35-year-old Greek Cypriot suspect, known by his social media handle Orestis, has already admitted to two murders so far and appeared in Nicosia District Court on Thursday morning to face a third count of murder. The judge ordered the suspect in remanded custody for two days, until his next appearance on Saturday to face a hearing on all three murder counts. The suspect reportedly waived his right to be represented by a lawyer.
Police are convinced that Orestis was the last person who saw Maricar alive, after investigators examined his computer data and phone records and were able to link him directly to the victim.
Three women, two bodies, one identified
Investigators are not certain whether they have Maricar’s body. Only two female corpses have been recovered at an old and abandoned mine in Mitseros, Nicosia district earlier this month. Orestis, an army captain and skilled photographer, is currently in custody for the murders of two other Filipinas, 38-year-old Marry Rose Tiburcio and 28-year-old Αrian Palanas Lozano.
Marry Rose's body has been confirmed with DNA evidence, while DNA test results are expected on the second body. The suspect previously admitted to investigators that he killed Marry Rose and Arian and then dumped the bodies in the mine shaft.
Incontrovertible evidence in Maricar’s case
But investigators believe they have incontrovertible evidence against the suspect regarding Maricar, including a witness saying the suspect met with the victim on the day of her disappearance, as well as image files found in his residence and phone records such as messages, timestamps, and location data.
According to media reports, a suspicious text message sent from Maricar’s phone right after her disappearance was at the centre of the investigation, along with a photo screen capture of the victim’s pink slip (immigration document) found on a device belonging to the suspect, possibly stored as an image file on a USB drive.
The pink slip was retrieved by police on 23 February 2018, where it was spotted in Nicosia’s Ayioi Omoloyites borough over two months into her disappearance. Reports said an investigation into Maricar's document did not yield anything suspicious at the time.
The suspect reportedly admitted to interrogators that he met with Maricar on 13 December 2017 but denied killing her.
Suspicious text under scrutiny
The message was sent from Maricar’s mobile phone to a Filipina friend of the victim in Cyprus, saying that she was in Ledras, downtown Nicosia, and suggesting she would run away because she wanted to be with someone. But the short message was written in Tagalog, the official Filipino language and had some grammatical errors. Maricar’s friend told reporters the two of them would always speak in their local dialect, one of more than 170 languages spoken in the Philippines.
Police believe the message was written by the suspect, who may have used an online translation tool to couple some words together in order to mislead Maricar’s friends immediately following her disappearance. It was not clear whether an IP address related to translating the short text was found to be associated with the suspect or presented in court.
Search for more bodies continues
In the meantime, search efforts were set to continue Thursday and Friday in search of other bodies including Marry Rose’s 6-year-old daughter Sierra Graze Seucalliuc. The suspect, who says he did not kill Sierra but argues she choked on her own vomit, says he dumped the little girl’s body in Memi lake, Xiliatos, which is a few miles west of Mitseros.
An initial search with the use of a high resolution camera did not yield anything in the last ten days, while a diver with a deep sea diving suit is expected to spend more time underwater on Friday to inspect difficult areas on the lakebed inch by inch.
The suspect is expected to appear in court again on Saturday, while prosecutors on Thursday spoke openly of "four murders" without clarifying whether they included the little girl as the fourth murdered victim. Initial reports spoke of four adult Filipinas having fallen victims of a serial killer, while it was reported that police would take the suspect to visit a new scene or scenes.
Specialists from the United Kingdom, including a forensic expert and a clinical psychologist, were reportedly requested by authorities for providing assistance in the case. An expert with murder cases involving a serial killer is also expected to be part of the British team.