A friend of Romanian national Livia Florentina Bunea, 36, who is believed be the first victim of alleged serial killer Nicos Metaxas, along with her eight-year-old daughter, Elena Natalia, said on Tuesday police did not even call her in for a statement when she reported the mother and child missing back in 2016.
The revelation came as calls went out anew on Tuesday for the resignations of the justice minister and the police chief.
The woman told state broadcaster Cybc television on Tuesday that Bunea, who went missing with her daughter in September 2016 with Elena Natalia, had no reason to up and leave as per the police belief that she had probably crossed to the north.
“Her life had changed for the better from the day I met her until the day she had disappeared,” the woman told CyBC, adding that she didn’t believe for a minute that she had decided to leave.
With help from her neighbours and other individuals and organisations, the woman said, Bunea was able to get state support for her daughter who was suffering from a number of health issues and enroll the child in a state school.
“After she disappeared and did not respond to our messages, we knew there was something wrong,” the woman said.
She added that all their things were left behind in the house, while Bunea’s own mother, with whom she had daily contact had no idea where they were and was too looking for them, as was Bunea’s ex-husband.
“They (police) never asked me for an official testimony, they were reassuring us they are doing their job, ” she said, adding that she had received the same response as journalist Gogo Alexandrinou who had tried to help at the time as well as Yiota Papadopoulou, the wife of Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos when she called to enquire about the case.
“We have valid information that she crossed to the north, it’s what they said,” the woman said.
When police spokesman Andreas Angelides was called late in 2016 to speak on Alexandrinou’s live news programme to inform the public on the ongoing investigation, he said that “there is no evidence to point us towards a particular direction.” He reportedly said police had checked their home and that they had left.
However, TV footage only last week when the mother and daughter’s names first came up as possible victims of the suspected serial killer, showed their home did not look as if anyone had left, and their clothes were still there. A bottle of medicine could also be seen on the table, believed to have belonged to Elena Natalia.
Police Chief Zacharias Chrysostomou has appointed a three-member committee to determine whether there had been missteps by the police in the initial probes into the disappearances of the victims.
Head of the Friends of the Police association, Neofytos Papamiltiadous, told CyBC that it would have been best for the cabinet and the attorney-general to have appointed the committee, adding that its members ought not to have come from the police force. He expressed however conviction that the findings of the committee would shed light on the truth.
But main opposition Akel, fearing that this probe might not be impartial, has registered the matter with the House human rights committee.
Akel deputy Aristos Damianou told CyBC that the investigation launched by the police could not be truly unbiased, therefore there was need for the “necessary political and parliamentary probe.”
He said that police have had the ability the past few years to receive records of all the social media content and wondered whether they examined the content of those platforms after reports of missing women started coming in.
The excuse given by the police that their hands are tied in such cases because they cannot access the personal data of missing persons such as phone and email records has no grounds, Damianou said. In Bunea’s case, he said, police said she crossed to the north but failed to even do the basics such as check through the UN.
“Insufficiency, racism and criminal neglect, gave ample time a killer to become a serial killer,” Damianou said, adding that the police chief and justice minister must resign for reasons of culpability.
Disy deputy leader Giorgos Georgiou too said that there were many questions that needed answers but that the police chief and justice minister did not bear personal responsibility for the handling of the cases but they did bear the ultimate responsibility as superiors of the police force.
It was however, a personal matter if they decide to resign or not, he said.
Georgiou said that among the questions that needed to be answered was whether police had noticed that there were several disappearances of persons over time and that they seemed ot be only women and foreign nationals. “Did they examine the conditions around their disappearance, or that they did not contact even those close to them? Did they ask the help of the bicommunal committee on crime, or authorities of the countries of these persons?” he asked.
No court would deny issuing a decree for revealing the phone communication data of these persons, he said. Georgiou said his party would raise an issue in parliament on procedures followed by the police in cases of missing persons and the need to make legal and constitutional amendments.