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Cypriot police search for more victims of online dating serial killer

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By Alastair Jamieson  & Sandrine Amiel  with Reuters
Women hug during a vigil in memory of victims of a suspected serial killer
Women hug during a vigil in memory of victims of a suspected serial killer   -   Copyright  Reuters

Cypriot police searched on Friday for more victims of a suspected serial killer amid mounting public accusations that authorities mishandled investigations.

Several hundred people attended a candlelit vigil in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on Friday evening and observed a minute's silence for what are believed to be seven victims, 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 Police Chief Zacharias Chrysostomou have said there will be an investigation into any perceived shortcomings.

Suspect 'confessed to seven murders'

Police sources said the suspect, a 35-year-old army officer who has been in detention for a week, has confessed to seven killings. It is believed to be the Mediterranean island’s first serial murder case.

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 the capital Nicosia in a search for more bodies.

A team of British detectives is due to arrive on the island on Monday to help with the investigation, police said.

The suspect also confessed to killing a Romanian woman and her under-aged daughter, according to a police source.

In court hearings, police said the army officer was suspected of having approached the dead women on an online dating site.

"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 told Reuters.

'Criminal indifference'

"This killer will be judged by the court but the other big question is the criminal indifference shown by the others when the reports first surfaced. I believe, as does my party, that the justice minister and the police chief should resign. They are irrevocably exposed," Charalambides said.

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.

Serial killings are virtually unknown in Cyprus, but there has been an uptick in serious crime in recent years. The last serious double-murder case involving the abduction and death of two women, one from Sweden and one from Ukraine, occurred in 1993. The perpetrators were sentenced to life in jail.