Cyprus justice minister resigns over serial killings

Nicosia (AFP) –


Cyprus Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said he resigned on Thursday after a public outcry over the botched response to suspected serial killings 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 island's first serial killings.

"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 his resignation.

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 told reporters.

Anastasiades said he accepted the minister's resignation.

"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.

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.

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.