As criticism mounted of Cypriot police for ignoring the disappearance of female foreign workers, a British forensic team of experts and Scotland Yard joined the probe of a confessed serial killer who said he murdered seven, including a 6-year-old girl.
The Cypriot police chief and leading investigators briefed experts from Scotland Yard on the investigation into the killings, police spokesman Andreas Angelides said after he deflected criticism the department ignored complaints of missing women.
The CSI team visited the red lake at Mitseros where a suitcase was found with a decomposed body inside as the case continued to garner attention and headlines around the world and puzzlement how the confessed killer – a 35-year-old military Captain identified only as Orestes was able to get away with the crimes and have his identity withheld, except in some foreign media reports.
The toxic lake is where the confessed killer said he dumped three of his victims after putting them inside suitcases and where one was discovered on Easter but divers having trouble locating the others, despite using a robotic camera, because of very poor visibility in the lake that is part of a disused copper pyrite mine.
Angelides said investigators have several options on how to proceed with the search if the current camera method doesn’t produce results on the eastern Mediterranean island.
A high-tech sonar device will be employed in the coming days to provide detailed images of what lies at the bottom of the lake. It will also be used at another reservoir where the suspect told investigators he dumped a child’s body, the daughter of one of his victims.
He said evidence investigators have gathered so far does not indicate that the suspect is linked to any more than the seven people he’s already confessed to killing although there were fears as many as 30 were missing after being linked to online dating sites.
Angelides said police weren’t to blame and dismissed criticism police botched the initial missing persons’ reports, saying that an internal investigation is underway. Some of the women had been missing for years and police were said to have believed they moved.
“From the moment that the investigation began, I believe that no other questions should be answered,” he told reporters, shifting the focus away from the way the department had handled the cases with anger mounting.
Only one victim has been positively identified — 38 year-old Mary Rose Tiburcio from the Philippines. The suspect said that he dumped Tiburcio’s 6-year-old daughter Sierra in the reservoir because she was a witness.
Investigators said the other victims include two Filipino women, a Romanian woman and her 8-year-old daughter and a woman believed to be from Nepal. Philippine diplomats met with the Cypriot ministers of foreign affairs and justice as well as with top police brass to inquire about the investigation.
The Romanian woman and her daughter — who Cypriot media identified as Livia Florentina Bunea, 36, and Elena Natalia Bunea, 8 — have been missing since September 2016 but their cases only came to light now with the investigation unfolding.
State TV journalist Gogo Alexandrinou said during the disappearance of Bunea and her daughter, police told her they believed the two had gone to the occupied Turkish-Cypriot northern third of the island but didn’t give any reason why they would do that.
Police Supporters’ Association chief Neophytos Papamiltiadous told state TV the department was doing a great job – now – despite anecdotal evidence indicating the officers who handled the missing person reports didn’t take them seriously.
He also said it would have been better if the committee probing police actions on this case had been appointed from outside the police force. Several political parties have asked for both the Justice Minister and the Police Chief to step down but President Nicos Anastasiades said little about the case.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)