News Local Silent vigil outside Presidential Palace for murder victims (photos)

Silent vigil outside Presidential Palace for murder victims (photos)

Several hundred people, including many families with children, held a silent vigil outside the Presidential Palace late on Friday afternoon in memory of the seven murder victims.

The demonstration also aimed to protest authorities’ failure to actively search for them when they were first reported missing.

Carrying banners “where are there” they lit white candles and asked: Why did no-one look for them?

A 35 year old army officer is in custody for premeditated murder and is due to appear in court again tomorrow for the extension of his remand.

Police have linked him to all seven victims — five women and two children. He has reportedly confessed to murdering six — the five women and one eight year old girl. All the victims are non-Cypriot.

Only three bodies have been recovered so far. Divers today searched a lake at Xyliatou where the suspect said he dumped the body of a six year old girl but their efforts were hampered by the vegetation under the water. They are due to resume their search tomorrow.

A search will also be carried out at Kokkini Limni using robotic cameras tomorrow where the army officer – who went by the name of Orestis on social media — said he threw the bodies of two other women and an eight year old child.

The lake is highly acidic and divers cannot enter with normal gear. The fire services are considering alternative plans of action.

Friday’s vigil was a spontaneous protest organised on social media. It saw hundreds of people turning up, both Cypriots and non-Cypriots. Several MPs as well as people from the art world also took part.  Also participating were members from Cyprus’ Filipino community who held hands  as they said a prayer for the victims.

Organisers read out the names of the victims as well as the names of all the women still missing in Cyprus.

There were no speeches, although occasional chants calling on Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou to resign were heard.

Both the minister and the chief of police have faced calls to resign over the murders. Critics say that had police acted quickly to investigate the disappearance of the victims, then lives could have been saved.

Police counter that the law does not permit them to apply for a court order to lift confidentiality of telecommunications — which was how the cyber crime unit was able to discover the suspect once the first body was found.

Police also say the House of Representatives twice refused to change the law.

Earlier on Friday, President Nicos Anastasiades, who is in China, expressed shock at the murders and urged patience assuring that if there is blame, then it will be apportioned.

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