Police are searching for a person of interest in the case of two missing females from Russia, with a detained suspect insisting he drove the women back home and investigators searching the forest after not having ruled out murder.
(Click here for an update to the case)
Investigators at a cottage under construction in Kato Amiantos, Limassol district, have reportedly found blood stains belonging to one of two women who were reported as missing two weeks ago.
Police say they have evidence that 33-year-old Mariia Gazibagandova and 43-year-old Alraeesi Khaiat, both Russian nationals, visited the cottage after investigators saw a video on social media that shows one of the women sitting on a sofa inside the house next to a 32-year-old man, described as Cypriot national of Syrian origins.
The Syrian male, who was detained last Friday on abduction and false imprisonment charges, says he picked up the women in Larnaca and drove them to the cottage, where he is carrying out contracting work, but insists he brought them back home.
On November 25, a day prior to suspect’s arrest, an unnamed individual pointed law enforcement authorities to the Kardama forest and implicated the 32-year-old man in the missing case, which was initially reported to police on November 19 by a different unnamed person.
The person who filed the missing report is believed to be Khaiat’s live-in boyfriend, who told police his girlfriend and Gazibagandova had not been seen since November 17. Photos of the two women were released to the public on November 20.
Police declined to make any comments on the case but reports said investigators were still searching for a link between the suspect and the two women, after local media reported that Gazibagandova and Khaiat had no known ties with the suspect.
According to Philenews, which broke the story on Monday, a source had told the daily that the women had agreed to hook up with the Syrian suspect and another male in order to spend a week together in exchange of €2500 cash. But other media said the agreement was to spend only one night at the cottage.
Unconfirmed reports about DNA stains also pointed to blood stains found both inside and outside the cottage, while similar evidence taken from an excavator was also tested.
The 32-year-old suspect has reportedly dismissed any blood evidence against him, insisting the meeting was uneventful between them.
He reportedly also said that he drove the women back to Larnaca on the same day on the 19th and further told investigators that a 23-year-old Syrian male would know about their whereabouts.
Police told Knews on Tuesday morning that a 23-year-old male, described as a person of interest, was wanted for questioning in connection with the case but stopped short of describing his nationality or calling him a suspect.
Videos taken at the cottage and around the Kardama forest showed law enforcement agents and sniffing dogs searching the area, with local media suggesting police were searching for bodies, while drones were also being used to scan the forested area from above.
Police are also looking into credit card activity in the name of one of the missing women, with three small-amount transactions taking place in gas stations on the day that the suspect said they went back, with the last one taking place at a gas station in Larnaca.
Reports also said investigators were trying to reconcile video footage showing the suspect pumping gas with additional information that the signal from one of the women’s phone had been in Limassol district at the time when he said they were back in Larnaca.
The two women came to Cyprus on a tourist visa, with one of them being on the island since the summer and the other arriving about two months ago according to local media.