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19 August, 2022
 
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Suspected motive in double murder draws skepticism

Criminologist says case closed in deaths of Russian women but MPs call for investigation into sex trafficking

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A top criminologist in Cyprus says machismo and ethnicity were proximate causes in the double murder of two Russian women who had gone missing last month, but a suspected motive in the case has drawn public disbelief and some parliament members are calling for investigation into possible sex trafficking.

Cypriot criminologist Andreas Kapardis said on Monday case closed in the deaths of two Russian women, whose bodies were found a day earlier buried in rural Limassol with fatal gunshot wounds.

A 32-year-old Syrian man is being accused of double murder in the deaths of 33-year-old Maria Gazibagandova and 43-year-old Hayat Al-Raisi (legal name Alraeesi Khaiat), both Russian nationals who were staying in Larnaca on tourist visas and went missing in mid-November.

Police say the sole suspect in the case, who was identified by an informant and arrested in late November in total secrecy, admitted shooting and killing the two women at a cottage in Kato Amiandos, where the two bodies were unearthed after they had been missed due to delays attributed to weather and ground conditions.

But police have been criticized for keeping the initial arrest on abduction charges and subsequent investigation under wraps, with defense attorney Katia Pieroudi, who represents the suspect, alleging her client had been roughed up by Larnaca interrogators.

The criminologist said foreign men with a different religion and worldview coming to Cyprus 'may have a stronger sense of their own machismo'

According to local media, the suspect described as a Cypriot national father of two, married to a Greek Cypriot woman, broke down during late night interrogation by Larnaca detectives and confessed the crime, purportedly saying he had lost his temper and shot the women after thinking they were laughing at him and trying to deceive him.

It was not clear why Larnaca detectives were interrogating the suspect as reports said CID Limassol had taken over the abduction case after it developed into double murder investigation.

But Kapardis praised the work of police saying investigators managed to identify the suspect quickly in what he considered “case closed.”

The criminologist went on to say on a private television network that foreign men with a different religion and worldview coming to Cyprus “may have a stronger sense of their own machismo,” adding that these were proximate causes for such serious crimes including femicide.

Case not closed for House committee, asks about sex trafficking

But the case is far from closed for members of the House human rights committee, who are raising concern over the investigation.

Committee chairwoman Irini Charalambides has sent a letter to Police Chief Stelios Papathedorou, letting him know that members of parliament wanted to “ensure that investigation into double femicide would continue.”

Charalambides went on to mention a number of reports in the media that raised questions as to how Gazibagandova and Khaiat ended up in Cyprus and whether human trafficking was involved.

“How will law enforcement act so that an investigation may take place in any criminal network that could be behind the case,” the letter asked.

Gazibagandova and Khaiat were reported missing last month with reports saying police had been told they went to the cottage to hook up with the main suspect and another unidentified male in exchange for money. It was also later alleged that the sum of €2500 to be paid for sex according to the 32-year-old was in fact cash destined to pay for illegal drugs and that things did not go as planned.

Two other unknown males, possibly Syrian nationals, are also persons of interest wanted by police for questioning after the suspect told investigators two workers had helped him unknowingly dig a grave in the yard of a cottage that belonged to a friend, where the women allegedly spent a night with him and another unidentified man.

Reports said a third individual could be another person of interest in the case after security camera footage suggested the suspect had a male passenger in the car when he was driving back to the cottage. A 23-year-old Syrian man named by the suspect, who was also arrested in the case, was quickly released after denying involvement but was re-arrested on other outstanding warrants.

Police on Monday night rejected foreign reports that a total of three suspects had been arrested in the case, telling Knews no other person besides the main suspect was in custody in connection with the case.

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