Cyprus 'serial killer' appears in court, accused of rape

Nicosia (AFP) –


A Cypriot army officer who has allegedly confessed to killing seven foreign women and girls over nearly three years appeared in court Sunday, where police accused him of raping a teenager.

Captain Nicos Metaxas, 35, has not yet been formally charged over the murders -- dubbed the Mediterranean island's 'first serial killings', which have unleashed anger against what the president described as police "negligence".

At the hearing on Sunday the suspect -- first arrested on April 18 -- was remanded in custody for a further eight days.

Neophytos Shailos, head of Nicosia's Criminal Investigation Department (CID), told the Nicosia district court a Flipina woman, 19, came forward to file a complaint that Metaxas raped her.

The police chief told the court that the suspect denied the allegation when questioned about it.

Shailos testified that the young woman said she made contact with the army officer online in 2016 when she replied to a modelling job for a photoshoot.

Metaxas appeared in court without a lawyer and told the judge he had "no objections" to being remanded.

Police said they were receiving a "deluge of information" about the suspect's activities with 350 witness statements taken and another 150 to be processed.

The killings came to light in mid-April when unusually heavy rains brought the body of 38-year-old Filipina Mary Rose Tiburcio to the surface of the disused mine shaft where it had been hidden.

That triggered a murder investigation which led to Metaxas being detained.

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

These are the only two women to be officially identified.

The suspect then guided investigators to a well near an army firing range outside the capital, where police found the body of a third victim -- a woman thought to be from Nepal.

Police subsequently recovered the remains of a fourth victim, stuffed in a suitcase at the bottom of a toxic man-made lake next to a disused mine southwest of the capital Nicosia.

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

President Nicos Anastasiades on Friday fired top police officer Zacharias Chrysostomou a day after Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou announced his resignation over the case.

Authorities have acknowledged that all the women and girls that the army officer has admitted to killing were reported missing to police, except the one from Nepal who was reported to immigration for being absent from her place of employment.