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Ongoing search ‘extremely difficult and dangerous’, police say (Update 1)

Photo: CNA

The search for more bodies at the red lake in Mitsero is “extremely difficult and dangerous”, but under no circumstances will the investigation be called off, police spokesperson Andreas Angelides said on Tuesday.

He was speaking to reporters at the scene as specialist crews scrambled to locate and retrieve two more suitcases believed to contain the remains of victims of the 35-year-old suspected serial killer.

Efforts resumed at the red lake by 9am on Tuesday, with conditions of visibility in the water of the red lake relatively more favourable for the task of locating the remaining two suitcases using the robotic camera.

The crews scanning the red lake through the use of a robotic camera had by noon on Tuesday marked three locations in the water with buoys, as the search continued for two bodies that the 35-year-old suspect told police he dumped in the toxic lake.

The first of three total suitcases that the suspect, Nikos Metaxas, told police he dumped was found on Sunday. The suitcase contained the body of an adult woman in a foetal position and fully dressed. The previous three victims had been naked and bound and wrapped in sheets.

A post-mortem on the body form the suitcase, the fourth victim so far was inconclusive as to the identity of the woman and her cause of death, it emerged on Monday. Authorities are now waiting for DNA and histopathological tests to shed light on her identity.

She is either Romanian national Livia Florentina Bunea, 36, who went missing with her daughter aged 8 on September 30, 2016, or 30-year-old Maricar Valdez Arquila from the Philippines who disappeared in December 2017. Both the child and Maricar are still being searched for in two other suitcases.

Near-zero visibility in the red lake on Monday set back the coordinated efforts by the fire service and specialist divers of the private company Brasal to retrieve the second suitcase.

Metaxas, an army officer has so far confessed to murdering seven people, five women and two children aged 6 and 8, all of foreign nationals. Four bodies have been recovered so far.

A second search is underway at the Memi lake at Xyliatos for, Sierra, the daughter of the first victim found on April 14, Mary Rose Tiburcio from the Philippines. Police are to acquire special sonar equipment on Friday from the US that will be used on the Xyliatos lake on Saturday morning as no trace of the child has been found yet.

Specialist divers scoured previously unexplored areas of lake Memi on Tuesday, as the search had in previous days focused on specific areas marked as crucial which displayed characteristics heterogeneous to the surrounding features, leading authorities to suspect that the body may be in those areas.

According to state broadcaster CyBC, new locations deeper into Memi lake have been marked using buoys, though the search by divers does not appear to have any positive developments.

The body of Tiburcio was spotted in a mine shaft by a tourist to the Mitsero mine. This find was followed a week later by the recovery of another woman’s body from the shaft, said to be Arian Palanas Lozano, 28, also from the Philippines who disappeared in July 2018. Lozano has not been officially identified yet.

Days later, authorities found the body of another woman near the Orounta firing range who has been named as Asmita Khadka Bista from Nepal who used the online name Kata Anou and had been in contact with ‘Orestis’  – the persona used by the alleged killer – last year on social media site Badoo. At least two of the other victims had had contact with Orestis.

Bista’s traces were lost in early 2018 after she was seen getting into a white car, reports said. Her friends had told the Nepalese Consulate she was missing, but has not reported it to police.

Meanwhile, a meeting of Scotland Yard experts, members of the Cypriot investigating team and the chief of police was completed after 45 minutes on Tuesday morning. It had the purpose of briefing the British experts on the murders.

The five special advisors arrived on the island on Monday at the request of the chief of police to help with the investigations into the murders.

The UK team consists of a pathologist, a clinical psychologist who is a special advisor with experience in such crimes, and investigator specialising in serious crimes and two other experts.

They were taken to the lake Tuesday afternoon where efforts wrapped up for the day as dark approached.

 

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Source: Cyprus News Agency