Authorities are continuing to look for the bodies of four victims in full knowledge that the locations given by an army officer in custody for murder are remote and difficult to search.
Police have linked the 35 year old Greek Cypriot to seven victims. He has reportedly confessed to killing five women and a child, and is considered a suspect for the murder of another little girl.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides on Friday spoke of an “unprecedented crime” and said investigators were working methodically and results suggest they are close to resolving the cases. He noted that British experts are due in Cyprus on Monday to help investigators.
Police investigations first started on April 14 when tourists photographing an abandoned mine shaft at Mitsero mine spotted a body.
The first victim, later identified by DNA tests as Marry Rose Tiburcio, was reported missing in May 2018. Reported missing with her was her six year old daughter Sierra who the suspect said had died and he had dumped in a lake at Xyliatou.
As fire services continued their search of the 130 metre deep flooded mine shaft, they found a body of a second woman – believed to be Arian Palanas Lozano – also from the Philippines and reported missing in July 2018.
Days of protracted searches at the same mine shaft did not give any indications of further bodies.
But examination of his telecommunications – the suspect went by the name Orestes on social media – showed he had been in contact with a third woman. Photos of the woman and of her residence permits were found at his house.
It was during questioning after the remand for the third woman – Maricar Valdez Arquiola– that the suspect confessed to three more murders – of a Romanian woman and her daughter – Livia Florentina Bunea and Elena Natalia Bunea and of an unknown Asian woman.
He led police to an empty well at the Orounda firing range where fire services recovered the body of an Asian woman.
Searches are ongoing at the Xyliatou lake for Sierra and at Kokkini Limni in Mitsero for Maricar and for mother and daughter Lyvia and Elena.
All the locations appear to have been carefully chosen. The suspect knew the Mitsero mine well and chose a difficult to access abandoned shaft.
The well at Orounta is covered by vegetation and only people well acquainted with the area know of its existence. The suspect is understood to have gone to the firing range on several occasions as part of his duties as an army officer.
Kokkini Limni in Mitsero is highly acidic. The mine of Kokkinopezoula in the area stopped operation in 1968 and the environmental degradation is evident.
The lake was searched by drone on Friday and a search with a robotic camera is expected to start tomorrow.
Visibility at the Xyliatou is lake is close to zero and the topography is very difficult. After searches with robotic cameras failed to give any results, authorities brought in special equipment to enable divers to enter the lake.
Four divers are currently taking turns searching the lake, step by step.
Police have come under fire over the way they handled the disappearance of the women and children. Lyvia and Elena were reported missing in September 2016, Maricar at the end of 2017, Marry Rose and her daughter in May 2018 and Arian in July 2018.
Responding to the criticism, Angelides reiterated that the police chief had ordered an administrative inquiry which would assign responsibility if any dereliction of duty is found. But he said that police are not allowed to request the lifting of confidentiality of communications in the case of people reported missing.
Police had asked to include kidnaps and disappearances in the law, but the House of Representatives had twice rejected the police’s proposal, he added.
“If police had the legal tools, its work would be much easier,” he said.