XYLIANTOS, CYPRUS (AFP) - Cypriot authorities were combing lakes for the remains of three women and a girl dumped by a suspected serial killer in a "Good Friday" hunt for bodies that has shocked the island.
The search focused on two lakes south-west of Nicosia where the suspect, named in local media as Nicos Metaxas, a 35-year-old Greek Cypriot army officer, allegedly confessed to having dumped the bodies.
The suspect has admitted to killing seven foreign women and underage girls in total on the Mediterranean holiday island, according to police sources.
Since April 14, the police have recovered three bodies, all Filipino domestic workers.
The stepped-up search at the lakes - water-filled craters of former mines now normally used as picnic sites in the foothills of the Troodos mountains - coincided with the day that Greek Cypriots mark the Orthodox Good Friday.
Cyprus fire chief Marcos Trangolas was at the roped-off crime scene at Memi Lake in Xyliantos to follow up on the search along with several high-level police and intelligence officials.
A sole diver connected to an air hose was sent in, descending into the deep emerald-green waters filling the crater.
"We are searching specific places that the camera, the robot camera, didn't have a clear picture (of). So we are searching step-by-step with divers," the fire chief's spokesman Andreas Kettis told AFP.
The mines-turned-lakes are swollen after record rainfall in Cyprus this winter, posing an extra challenge for investigators.
"If you assume that when the suspect came here the water (level) was down perhaps more than five metres... it differentiates the scene from before," said spokesman Kettis.
The locations of the searches were based on information given to police, he added.
The suspect was earlier at the site with police as they worked in tandem with a specialised diving company to locate and recover the bodies.
At the other crime site at Red Lake in Mitsero, a 10-minute drive away, spokesman Kettis said robotic equipment might also be sent in to search its acidic, copper-colluded waters.
Police sources have said the authorities are looking into cases involving an Asian woman as well as that of a Romanian mother and her young daughter reported missing in 2016.
The suspect on Thursday showed investigators the spot where he had dumped a body in a well at an army firing range outside the capital.
Local media have dubbed the case the island's "first serial killings", with two bodies, both believed to be Filipinas, recovered from an abandoned mineshaft since mid-April.
Cypriot police are also searching for the body of a missing six-year-old Filipino girl, daughter of one of the murdered women.
The case came to light after a German tourist taking photographs of the mine spotted the first body, brought to the surface of the 150m shaft which flooded after unusually heavy rains.
The suspect reportedly met the Filipinas, through Badoo, a dating-focused social network.
President Nicos Anastasiades, in a statement issued by the palace on Friday, condemned "these hideous crimes" against foreign women.
"Shocked by the revelation of so many shameful murders against innocent foreign women and young children," the President said, expressing "deepest sorrow and strong concern".
"He also acknowledges the indignation of Cypriot society over murders that seem to have selectively targeted foreign women in our country to work, as this is contrary to the tradition and values of our culture," his office said.
The news website Kathimerini Cyprus wrote a "letter of apology" to the victims' families, and said the killings were a crime against the victims as well as "against the country", denouncing "xenophobic tendencies and racist behaviours".