Cyprus police chief's future in balance over serial killings probe

Nicosia (AFP) –


Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades met the island's police chief Friday amid mounting pressure for resignations or sackings over authorities' botched response to the killings of seven foreign women and girls.

Zacharias Chrysostomou's meeting with the president came a day after Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou announced his own resignation over the case, which 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, dubbed the Mediterranean holiday island's first serial killings.

Cypriot authorities have been accused of failing to properly investigate the women's initial disappearance due to neglect and racism.

As speculation mounted Friday over the police chief's future, he told reporters the president would "announce his decision" later in the day.

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.

Police were searching a toxic man-made lake southwest of Nicosia on Friday after they found a concrete block similar to one discovered over the weekend in a bag lifted from the lake with a body inside.

The body was thought to be that of 36-year-old Livia Florentina Bunea, although it has not been officially identifed.

Detectives who flew in from Britain to help with the investigation are expected to leave the island on Friday.

Outrage over the handling of the case has prompted protests outside the presidential palace in the capital Nicosia, and Anastasiades has said the government will announce new measures to better protect foreign workers.

Outgoing justice minister Nicolaou said he was quitting for reasons of "principle and conscience", while adding he had no personal involvement in the case that went undetected for nearly three years.

The chief of the main opposition communist party AKEL slammed Nicolau for failing to quit sooner.

"Political accountability would exist if he resigned on the first or the second day that this story broke," Andros Kyprianou said.

"Nineteen days later, following intense public outcry and pressure to stand down from his party... this is not called political sensitivity."