NICOSIA (Cyprus) • Cypriot police are searching for more victims of a suspected serial killer amid mounting public accusations that the authorities bungled investigations and failed to heed concerns about the safety of women.
Several hundred people attended a candlelight vigil in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on Friday evening and observed a minute's silence for the victims - believed to be seven of them - who were all foreign women.
The main opposition party, the left-wing Akel, called for the resignation of the Justice Minister and police chief over their handling of the case. Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou and Chief of Police Zacharias Chrysostomou have said there will be an investigation into any perceived shortcomings.
Police sources said the suspect, Nicos Metaxas, a 35-year-old Greek Cypriot army officer who has been in detention for a week, has confessed to seven killings. This would make it by far the worst peacetime crime committed against women on the island in living memory.
The bodies of three women, including two thought to be from the Philippines, have been recovered.
Police sources said the suspect had indicated the location of the third body, found on Thursday, and had said the person was "either Indian or Nepali".
Police were combing three different locations west of Nicosia in a search for more bodies.
A team of British detectives is due to arrive on the island tomorrow to aid in the investigation, police said.
"These women came here to earn a living, to help their families. They lived away from their families. And the earth swallowed them - nobody was interested," Akel lawmaker Irene Charalambides said.
"I believe, as does my party, that the Justice Minister and the police chief should resign. They are irrevocably exposed."
One person who did attempt to alert the authorities over the disappearances, a 70-year-old Cypriot citizen, has said his motives were questioned by police.
Several hundred people gathered for Friday's vigil, organised on social media on Orthodox Good Friday which is one of the holiest dates on the Christian calendar.
"We are here... for our victims. We ask for justice for all these girls who were brutally murdered. It is a very devastating time, because we are all just here to work," said Ms Lissa Jataas, of the Obreras Empowered Filipino Migrant Movement in Cyprus.
"Nobody deserves this," she said, her voice breaking.
The bodies of the two Filipinas, reported missing in May and August last year, were found in an abandoned mine shaft this month. Police discovered the body of the third woman at an army firing range about 14km from the mine shaft.
Police are now searching for the six-year-old daughter of the first victim found, a Romanian mother who disappeared with her eight-year-old child in 2016, and a woman from the Philippines who vanished in December 2017.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE