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Sunday, 25 August 2019

Cyprus justice minister resigns over response to serial killings

AFP , Thursday 2 May 2019
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Cyprus Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said he resigned on Thursday after a public outcry over the botched response to the serial killing of seven foreign women and girls.

Nicolaou said he tendered his resignation to President Nicos Anastasiades for reasons of "principle and conscience", while adding he had no personal involvement in the case that went undetected for nearly three years.

A suspect identified in Cypriot media as 35-year-old Greek Cypriot army officer Nicos Metaxas has confessed to the seven murders that have been dubbed the Mediterranean holiday island's first serial killings.

The suspect reportedly met the women -- and two of their daughters -- through online dating site Badoo before dumping their bodies at mines-turned-lakes which have been swollen by record rainfall in winter.

"I told the president of my decision to resign from my position as justice minister for reasons of political responsibility," Nicolaou told reporters as he announced he was stepping down.

He also called for the police complaints commission to launch an independent inquiry into who is responsible, saying the lack of an initial investigation concerning the seven victims was evident.

"I have never shown any disrespect, but I have demonstrated the need for an independent investigation that will indicate any gaps in procedures," Nicolaou said.

"It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Justice Minister @MJPO_INicolaou as I am deprived of the services of one of my closest associates," the Cypriot president said on Twitter.

- 'Shock and abhorrence' -

The remains of two Filipinas, a woman believed to be Nepalese and a fourth, so far unidentified, woman have been found in and around two lakes outside Nicosia since tourists spotted the body of one of them on April 14.

A search is underway for the bodies of three others: a six-year-old Filipina and a Romanian woman and her daughter.

The Cypriot authorities have been accused of failing to properly investigate their initial disappearance due to neglect and racism.

Outrage over the handling of the case has sparked protests in front of the gates of the presidential palace in the Cypriot capital.

Demonstrators held up banners that read: "Stop discrimination towards women and foreigners" and "Police ignore women in Cyprus".

In his statement on Twitter, Anastasiades said he shared "the shock and abhorrence of society over these unprecedented crimes".

"I want to confirm our determination to fully solve these shameful killings, but also fully investigate the facts concerning complaints about missing persons," the president said.

Nicolaou said his resignation was also in response to the public's reaction and the "apparent incomplete investigation of complaints".

"I told the president I resigned because this is a shameful crime that has shocked the whole of society, not to mention what has come to light over the way the case was handled and possible oversights by law enforcement.

"This detestable crime touches not only the police but also society itself, and I refer to perceptions and attitudes that do not honour any of us.

"The police are members of society, so the search for responsibilities concerns all of us," he added.

Cypriot authorities resumed their search on Thursday for the three missing bodies at abandoned mines near Mitsero village, about 10 kilometres (six miles) southwest of Nicosia, and another at nearby Xyliatos.

A team of British experts joined the investigation this week at the request of the Cypriot authorities after the fourth body was found on Sunday stuffed into a suitcase in a toxic red lake at Mitsero.

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