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Cyprus to prosecute 15 police in serial killing blunder

The 2016-18 serial killings of five foreign women and two children sparked outrage in low-crime Cyprus when it emerged some of the victims could have been saved had police done their job
The 2016-18 serial killings of five foreign women and two children sparked outrage in low-crime Cyprus when it emerged some of the victims could have been saved had police done their job Stefanos KOURATZIS AFP/File
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Nicosia (AFP)

Fifteen Cyprus police officers face criminal prosecution for botching any search for seven missing foreign women and children who were victims of a serial killer, officials said Tuesday.

Greek Cypriot army captain Nikos Metaxas is serving life for murdering five women and two children after pleading guilty to serial killings that shocked the Mediterranean island.

Last June, the Nicosia Criminal Court said that 35-year-old had "embarked on a campaign to kill defenceless women".

A statement by the Cypriot state legal services on Tuesday said that attorney general Costas Clerides has "given instructions to launch criminal prosecutions against 15 members of the Cyprus Police Force".

It added: "After a thorough study of all the evidence… the attorney general ruled that criminal offences were indeed committed in the handling of these cases i.e. a failure to perform official duties by public officials."

This follows a lengthy independent investigation into how Cyprus police officers handled initial missing person reports of the women and children whose bodies were later recovered in a lake, a field and a mineshaft.

The probe said the police did not just bungle the investigation but showed negligence in not taking the missing reports of foreign women and children seriously.

The legal services said the evidence indicates that police actions “went beyond any possible disciplinary offences” that could be explained by oversight or workload.

An independent inquiry was ordered amid public outrage that some of the victims could have been saved had police done their job.

The case, involving the worst peace-time atrocities against women in Cyprus in memory, horrified an island where serious crime is relatively rare and forced the resignation of the justice minister and the police chief.

A four-member team of investigators was assigned to the case last year to examine potential shortcomings in the way the police handled the missing person reports.

Several of the victims were reported missing by friends or relatives who said police had failed to take them seriously.

Metaxas abducted and murdered his seven victims -- who came from the Philippines, Romania and Nepal -- between September 2016 and August 2018.

The two children, aged six and eight, were daughters of two of the women.

Police said Metaxas, a divorced father of two, met the women online, four of whom were employed as housekeepers.

The first victim was found dead by tourists shooting pictures at a mineshaft on April 14, 2019, exposing the macabre killing spree that went undetected for nearly three years. The last victim discovered, the 6-year-old child, was found in a lake on July 12, 2019.

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