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Cyprus

Police say close to solving Mitsero mine murder

Police said on Friday night they were close to solving the murder of a 39-year-old woman whose daughter, six, was missing, as reports said officers were searching a location in Nicosia that was indicated by one of two suspects held.

Nicosia CID chief Neophytos Shailos told reporters “we are quite close to solving the case,” but declined to disclose additional details.

“You will be informed soon, hopefully, tomorrow (Saturday),” he said.

On Friday evening, reports said a National Guard officer, arrested by police the previous day, had led officers to an undisclosed location in Nicosia but no other information was available. Reports suggested the suspect broke during questioning and admitted to killing the 39-year-old and her daughter.

Earlier on Friday, police released the woman’s partner while two other men, both army officers, were remanded in custody for eight days.

The two men, aged 30 and 35, were arrested on Thursday.

The woman, named as Mary Rose Tiburcio, had been reported missing on May 5, 2018, by her roommate, who told police that on the previous day she had gone to meet a man she had met on social media, taking her daughter, aged six, with her. She and her daughter Sierra Graze Seucalliuc never returned.

Tiburcio was found on Sunday in a water-filled shaft of an abandoned mine in Mitsero. She was naked, arms and legs bound, and wrapped in a sheet. Her daughter is still missing.

Police concentrated on the 35-year-old officer who has been established as the man whom Tiburcio met. The 35-year-old had travelled to Larnaca, where he was to meet with Tiburcio, though how the meeting developed is still not known.

According to police, he had created a fake profile on the dating-focused social media platform Badoo, calling himself Orestis, and had used a photo of the 30-year-old suspect.

According to state broadcaster Cybc, ‘Orestis’ had asked to meet Tiburcio and had requested that she bring her daughter along, telling her that he also had two children and it would be nice if the children met.

Lead investigator Ioannis Yiorkadjis told the court on Friday that the 35-year-old was married with two children, though he and his wife are currently estranged.

Following his arrest, police searched the home of the 35-year-old, finding blue rope similar to the one Tiburcio was found bound with, as well as tape, mobile phones and cameras.

Suspicions were also raised when the 35-year-old attempted to swallow a phone card at the time of his arrest.

Further investigation found that while the fake Orestis profile was deleted from Badoo, an IP address was secured, linking the 35-year-old to the profile.

After securing a court order, police recovered the conversations and confirmed that it was the 35-year-old that Tiburcio was meeting on the day of her disappearance.

According to Yiorkadjis, police also found through online searches on Google and Facebook, as well as through the cooperation of internet provider Cablenet, that the 35-year-old’s IP address was also linked to a Facebook profile under the name of ‘Orestis Apoel’.

The Facebook profile was last accessed on April 14, when the user deleted the account. This was the same day that the woman’s body was found in the shaft.

Photographs of the Mitsero mine and the shaft were also found uploaded onto Facebook by the suspect. He had also uploaded photographs of himself at the mine holding a camera tripod.

For his part, the 30-year-old suspect denied having any involvement in the case, claiming that he was ‘dragged into court’ because the 35-year-old cropped and used a photo of him he had uploaded on Facebook.

The court heard that the two suspects know each other from their work in the army. Police searched the home of the 30-year-old and confiscated a tablet, a laptop, and a number of cameras.

It also emerged that the 30-year-old was born and raised in Mitsero, though he now lives in Peristerona.

Though the Filipino woman’s former partner and father of her missing six-year-old daughter denied harming his child and former partner, various evidence had initially raised suspicions.

These include his admission to being abusive and hitting the 39-year-old in the past, while a rope was found in his home which was similar to the one used to tie up the woman. The girl’s passport was found in his home, even though he said that the last time he saw her was over a year prior to her and her mother’s disappearance.

Police are currently searching for safe means to establish whether the little girl was also dumped in the shaft.

On Thursday, authorities announced they would be draining the water from the shaft allowing them to push the underwater cameras deeper, though the plan was scrapped after the geological survey department said that if the water is drained the structure could collapse.

On the day of her disappearance, Tiburcio did not take any of her personal effects with her, nor her passport.

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