Under tight security, 35-year-old Nicos Metaxas was taken on Saturday morning to the Nicosia court which issued a renewed remand of eight days to facilitate ongoing police investigations into as many as seven murders that the suspect has so far confessed to, according to police.
Lead investigator Ioannis Yiorkadjis told the court that following his previous remand hearing on Thursday, Metaxas, during questioning at the Lakatamia police station, provided police with a 10-page handwritten confession detailing the murders of seven people, five women and two children aged 8 and 6.
Three of the seven bodies have so far been found by the police. The search is ongoing at the Mitsero mine area for three more of the missing bodies, and at the Xyliatos lake for the six-year-old.
The murder victims include Mary Rose Tiburcio, 39, from the Philippines, whose body was found by police in a shaft at the Mitsero mine on April 14, Arian Palanas Lozano, 28, from the Philippines, whose body is believed to be that found in the same shaft on 20 April, though this has not been officially confirmed yet; and a third body thought to belong to a woman of Indian or Nepalese nationality that was found at a firing range at Orounta on Thursday afternoon. The court heard that it could be a woman named Kata Anou from Nepal, who was not reported missing.
Police are still searching for four bodies, Yiorkadjis said. These are the six-year-old daughter of Tiburcio, Sierra Graze Seucalliuc, 30-year-old Maricar Valdez Arquila from the Philippines who disappeared in December 2017, and a mother and daughter from Romania, named as Livia Florentina Bunea, 36, and Elena Natalia Bunea, 8 who went missing on September 30, 2016.
Police justified their request for a remand another eight days by saying that in addition to the 250 statements already collected, around 150 remained to be taken in connection with the investigation.
Yiorkadjis added that the police were searching for a third car belonging to the suspect, which may contain further evidence to link the 35-year-old to the murders.
The remand was granted by the court, which said that “there are reasonable suspicions that the suspect is indeed linked to the crimes in question, and police investigations are to a large extent still incomplete.”
The court also noted that with the renewed remand, police were now under greater pressure to prove that the remand extension was justified.
The suspect, who appeared in the tightly-packed courtroom without a lawyer and looking considerably more worn down than his previous appearance last Thursday, told the court that he agreed with the extension of his remand for an additional eight days.
Meanwhile, authorities continued their search on Saturday morning for the body of missing Sierra in lake Memi, located in the area of the Xyliatos reservoir.
They are using special equipment to comb the lake where the suspect, an army officer, said he threw the body of the child.
They are also set to search what is known as the ‘red lake’ at the Mitsero mine. a highly toxic body of water where normal diving gear cannot be used by crews.
Police suspect there are three possible victims in the lake, Maricar, Livia and Elena Natalia.
Further south, near a firing range in Orounta, forensic teams on Friday combed the immediate area surrounding a well where authorities recovered the third body believed to be Anou. The suspect allegedly told authorities it was a woman who was either from India or Nepal. It was badly decomposed. It is understood that investigations at Orounta for further evidence have been completed.
Tiburcio’s body was found on April 14 in a mine shaft in nearby Mitsero. Hers was the first murder investigated. Mother and daughter Sierra went missing last May.
A week later search crews retrieved another body from the same shaft, thought to be of Lozano, who disappeared in July 2018 but a post-mortem was unable to definitively identify her.
President Nicos Anastasiades appealed for calm on Friday amid growing outrage over the perceived failure of the police to properly investigate their disappearance initially, which could have led to an earlier arrest. A three-person team has been appointed to look into any lapses by the force. The Philippines government is also sending a representative to Cyprus. Britain is also sending a team of experts who are due to arrive on the island on Monday.
Hundreds of people attended a vigil and protest outside the presidential palace on Friday night calling for justice for the murdered and missing women.