Missing women and daughters spark criticism of Cypriot authorities

Accusations of slack police inquiries as Nicos Metaxas charged with multiple murders

Greek Cypriot army officer Nicos Metaxas: has  allegedly confessed to dumping multiple  bodies. Photograph: Facebook page of Nicos Metaxas

Greek Cypriot army officer Nicos Metaxas: has allegedly confessed to dumping multiple bodies. Photograph: Facebook page of Nicos Metaxas

 

The Cypriot justice ministry and police have been sharply criticised for failing to investigate seriously the disappearance of foreign women and their young daughters, who are feared to have been murdered by the island’s first serial killer.

Greek Cypriot National Guard captain Nicos Metaxas (35), set to appear in court on Saturday, is charged with three murders and has confessed to another four, police say.

An investigation was launched on April 14th after a German photographer who often walked in the area of Mitsero village near Nicosia discovered the decomposed, naked and bound body of Mary Rose Tiburcio (39), which had been brought to the surface of an abandoned mine shaft by heavy rain.

She and her eight-year-old daughter Sierra were reported missing last May. The child’s body, believed to have been thrown into Memi lake near Xyliatos village, has not been found.

A second woman’s body, that of Arian Palanas Lozano (28), who had been missing since July 2018, was found in the mine. All three victims were from the Philippines.

On Thursday, the body of an unidentified woman was unearthed at a military firing range. She may be an Indian or Nepali woman who went missing last summer.

Online dating site

Metaxas has admitted killing Maricar Valdez Arquila (20), a fourth Filipina, who has been missing since December 2017, and Livia Florentina Bunea (36) and her daughter Elena Natalia (8), from Romania, who disappeared in October 2016. He said he dumped their bodies into the acidic Red lake near the Mitzero mine.

A father of two estranged from his wife, Metaxas, using the ancient Greek name “Orestes”, contacted victims on an online dating site. Police say he told Tiburcio to bring her daughter along to their meeting, saying he had two children.

Divers using underwater cameras have examined both the murky waters of the mine and Memi lake, while detectives have investigated Metaxas’s cars, computer and drone. Police have found he had online contacts with more than 30 women.

Too little, too late

The murdered women were reported missing to the police who, by failing to resolve these cases in a timely fashion, have been blamed for enabling the murders to continue. The justice ministry-affiliated committee dealing with family violence said that between 1990 and 2019, 39 women, including four minor girls, have been reported missing but have not been found.

The committee said: “And even though the legal framework is there as is the protocol to investigate these cases, one wonders why these women are just a list.” The committee said the police have done “too little, too late”.

The fact that they were foreign is seen as a cause for the authorities’ failure to act. When a Filipino housemaid goes missing, said the head of the domestic workers’ association, Nicos Koutroukides, police assume “she’s gone to the [Turkish-occupied] north with her boyfriend”.

Greek Cypriots have been shocked by the killings since the annual murder rate on the island is eight, largely involving family members. Filipino women have been warned against meeting strangers.