NICOSIA — Cyprus' top lawyer on Monday suspended criminal cases against 15 members of the police force for allegedly botching the country's first serial killer investigation, which eventually led to an army officer being jailed for life over the murder of seven foreign women and girls.
The office of Attorney General George Savvides said in a statement that a thorough re-examination of the cases found that the prosecution couldn't prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the police members deliberately neglected their duties.
Savvides' office said that evidence suggests that officers assigned to the investigation had been negligent in carrying out their duties to one degree or another, but there's no proof that they did so deliberately.
The office said the actions of the assigned officers didn't demonstrate "the intent to carry out their duties to the required degree or to look the other way."
"If they failed to understand that the (missing persons) cases being investigated were connected to possible murder cases, than this by itself doesn't necessarily mean willful and deliberate negligence in carrying out their duties," the Attorney General's office said.
However, the offices said a probe into how the investigation had been handled showed a "series of systemic problems" within the police force regarding its organization, training and its members' competence, including "an underlying racist perception by some of its members."
The office said the cases of the 15 police members will revert back to the Independent Police Complaints Authority report for possible disciplinary action "which under no circumstances should its significance or power be ignored."
Cyprus' previous attorney general launched the criminal probe amid allegations that that police had failed to take seriously initial missing persons reports about the victims.
The victims were three women from the Philippines and the daughter of one of them, a Romanian mother and daughter and a Nepalese woman.
Army captain Nicholas Metaxas, 35, was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms in prison after pleading guilty to premeditated murder and kidnapping over a 2½-year period.
The case, which shocked the small island nation, came to light in April 2019 when the decomposing body of Filipina Mary Rose Tiburcio was found by chance down a flooded shaft in an abandoned copper mine.
Metaxas, a divorced father of two small children, initially refused to cooperate with investigators, but eventually confessed to the killings in a 10-page handwritten note.
In handing down its sentence, the court said Metaxas appeared to have focused on defenseless women, most of whom came to Cyprus looking for work.
Prosecutors said he sought out many of his adult victims on online social networks and had sex with them before killing them.