Cyprus probes electronic data in suspected serial killing

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Nicosia (AFP)

Cypriot investigators on Wednesday examined electronic data linked to a suspected serial killer as police intensified a search for the bodies of three of seven foreign women and girls he confessed to murdering.

The search is focused on two lakes southwest of Nicosia where the suspect -- identified in Cypriot media as 35-year-old army officer Nicos Metaxas -- said he dumped the bodies in a crime that went undetected for nearly three years.

So far four bodies have been recovered: two Filipinas retrieved from an abandoned mineshaft, a suspected Nepalese woman found at an army firing range, and an unidentified woman found stuffed inside a suitcase at the bottom of a toxic man-made lake.

Three more are still missing. They are thought to be the six-year-old daughter of one of the Filipinas, and a Romanian woman and her daughter.

A team of British experts on Tuesday joined the investigation at the request of the Cypriot authorities to assist in a case dubbed the Mediterranean island's "first serial killings".

That search ended without results.

The hunt continued on Wednesday at the acidic Red Lake at Mitsero and another lake, Memi, at Xyliatos.

Police spokesman Andreas Angelides told the Cyprus News Agency witness statements were still being collected while electronic data was being examined.

The private television station Sigma said the data was from a camera and computer hard drive belonging to the murder suspect.

Angelides said the British team -- including a forensic specialist -- would conduct post-mortems on the four bodies with their Cypriot colleagues and later meet investigators to discuss the case and evidence collected.

Angelides said the woman pulled from Red Lake on Sunday, the fourth body recovered so far, has yet to be identified.

Police are still searching the waters of Xyliatos lake for the body of the six-year-old Filipina.

Authorities have called for more sophisticated equipment to search the two lakes.

The case came to light on April 14 when tourists spotted the first body, that of 38-year-old Mary Rose Tiburcio from the Philippines brought to the surface of a disused mine shaft by unusually heavy rains.

That triggered a murder investigation which led to the army captain's arrest on April 18.

Days later, authorities found the body of a second woman in the shaft believed to be Arian Palanas Lozano, 28, also from the Philippines.

The suspect last Thursday led investigators to a well near an army firing range outside the capital where police found the body of a woman thought to be from Nepal.