The top legal advisor in the Republic of Cyprus has recommended that criminal charges be included in the prosecution against a number of police officers involved in a suspected mishandling of missing women complaints in the Orestis serial killer case.
Police Chief Kypros Michaelides told state radio RIK on Tuesday morning that he had a phone conversation with Attorney General Costas Clerides on Monday evening, after the top legal advisor completed his review of a long and protracted investigation.
The probe, which began with three investigators, identified members of law enforcement for failing to do their job in handling cases of missing foreign women and children in Cyprus who were later found murdered. The investigation initially named 23 individuals serving at different levels, primarily police officers at Criminal Investigation Departments, including supervisors in those offices as well as administrative officers who oversaw the handling or closing of missing cases and did not intervene.
Investigators came across signs of possible failure and dereliction of duty on the part of police in connection with the case, pointing to possible disciplinary offences for nearly two dozen front line officers and their superiors. A fourth member was added to the team as the probe included additional depositions before handing over the long-drawn probe to the attorney general.
The AG recommended both criminal charges and disciplinary action but it was not clear how many exactly would face criminal prosecution
Based on the Constitution, only the state’s attorney general can order a criminal prosecution of the officers named in the probe.
Clerides has recommended both criminal and disciplinary charges while the number of individuals named in the final report reportedly ranged from 13 to 20. Official statements later pointed to 15 individuals expected to face criminal charges.
Authorities were heavily criticized in the wake of gruesome discoveries last year, after bodies of foreign women and children -who had been reported as missing- revealed a failure on the part of police to properly handle disappearance complaints.
The authors of the report said they found “tragic mistakes” during the course of investigations into complaints of missing women, who were later found murdered. Convicted serial killer Nikos Metaxas, a Greek Cypriot army captain and skilled photographer also known online as Orestis, is serving multiple life sentences on seven counts of murder.
Investigators reportedly concluded that in some cases police had not even bothered to check to see if the missing women’s phones had been working. In other cases, officers allegedly dismissed disappearance concerns while claiming that the women had left Cyprus through the north.
On 14 April 2019, a group of bikers went on a Sunday road trip in rural Nicosia when one of them looked down an abandoned mineshaft and saw what appeared to be a decomposed body. It later emerged that the body belonged to 38-year-old Marry Rose Tiburcio from the Philippines, who had been reported missing along with her daughter, 6-year-old Sierra Graze Seucalliuc whose body was tossed into a nearby lake. The body of Αrian Palanas Lozano, 28 years old also from the Philippines was found along with Marry Rose, while another Filipina, 30-year-old Maricar Valdez Arquiola, was found in a red lake near the mineshaft inside a suitcase.
Two others were found in suitcases in the same red lake, Romanian mother Livia Florentina Bunea, 36, and her 8-year-old daughter Elena Natalia Bunea. All six victims died of strangulation while another woman from Nepal, 30-year-old Asmita Khadka Bista, died of head trauma and parts of her body were found in a remote pit on a military firing range also in rural Nicosia.
The case initially had come to be known as the Filipina murders, as more women from the Philippines were missing and it was reported that Orestis admitted to police he “had a thing” for Filipino women. Adult females came forward after his arrest was made public, saying they were approached physically or online by a persistent man known to them as Orestis.
The Cypriot government has apologized to the families of the victims, pledging assistance and vowing to get to the bottom of what actually happened that led to missing complaints being mishandled by police.
After a long criminal investigation, Cypriot police said they did not believe there was any evidence that Metaxas committed any other murders.