Police have arrested a third suspect in the double murder of two Russian women in Cyprus, where investigators are said to be relying on witness statements and phone data to crack the crack the case.
According to police, a 44-year-old male resident of Limassol was detained on an arrest warrant Tuesday in connection with the double murder of two missing Russian women whose bodies were unearthed in early December outside a cottage in Kato Amiandos.
The bodies of Russian nationals Mariia Gazibagandova and Alraeesi Khaiat, who had gone missing back in mid-November, were unearthed in early December after police said detectives managed to get a confession from the prime suspect, described as a 32-year-old Cypriot national of Syrian background.
Reports said after a late night interrogation by Larnaca detectives, the prime suspect broke down and allegedly admitted shooting the two women. Police then said he pointed them to their grave on the property days after police had abandoned the site following multiple unsuccessful searches.
Local media said the 32-year-old suspect says he shot the women after returning from a hunting trip early in the morning and overhearing them making fun of his sexual performance
This week’s arrest of the 44-year-old man, said to be the brother of the prime suspect, came about after it emerged that a another 30-year-old male suspect, described also as Syrian, was reportedly cooperating with police. Local media also said the 44-year-old man was present at the initial remand hearing of his brother, when he was remanded in custody in late November on abduction charges and false imprisonment in Larnaca.
All suspects have admitted being at the cottage and police say they have evidence placing them at the cottage. But the day and time of death has not been scientifically established in the case.
Additional reports have also offered clarification on initial information that DNA material from a used condom found at the scene was linked to the 30-year-old and one of the female victims.
The 30-year-old suspect has admitted being at the cottage on November 13 but reportedly insisted he was not there between the 16th and 17th, a time window when investigators believe the two women were murdered based on the prime suspect’s alleged statements.
Police say they have obtained data from mobile phone signals linking the suspects to the cottage on November 17, when the prime suspect purportedly said he shot the two women after losing his temper.
Local media said the 32-year-old father of two, who is married to a Greek Cypriot woman, reportedly told Larnaca investigators that he had just returned from a hunting trip early in the morning with a rifle in his hands and overheard the women making fun of his sexual performance, adding his lost his temper and shot them.
Larnaca police have kept the initial arrest on abduction charges under wraps while the case was later taken over by CID Limassol, with a lawyer of the prime suspect requesting that all hearings take place behind closed doors to protect the privacy and religious freedom of her client.
Police had publicly spoken of two suspects and two persons of interest in the case, including two male workers who helped dig the grave, while local media said the 44-year-old man was the fifth suspect and he has denied any wrongdoing.
Law enforcement authorities have been criticized over keeping the investigation including the initial arrest under wraps, while House human rights committee chairwoman Irini Charalambides has called on Police Chief Stelios Papathedorou to carry a full investigation including looking into criminal networks that may be involved in possible sex trafficking in connection with the disappearance and deaths of Gazibagandova and Khaiat.