No police officer will face criminal proceedings over the apparent failure to act that allowed a serial killer to go undetected for about three years and kill five women and two children, the state Legal Service said on Monday.

In a statement, the service said after evaluating the evidence against 15 officers that was collected by an independent watchdog it judged that it could not under the circumstances “prove beyond reasonable doubt that the members of the police deliberately neglected their duty.”

Army officer Nicos Metaxas, 37, admitted to killing the five women and the daughters of two of them after the accidental discovery of the body of one of his victims in April 2019, in a mine shaft at Mitsero.

Police were heavily criticised for allegedly mishandling the cases when some of the victims were reported missing by friends and family, and not treating the disappearances seriously.

Despite signs of foul play, investigators in some cases had brushed off the disappearances as voluntary, suggesting they probably crossed over to the north.

Police were quickly led to Metaxas after the discovery of the first body, based on information given to them previously by a friend of the missing woman.

An independent probe found 15 constables, sergeants and officers culpable. They faced a single charge relating to failure to perform their duties.

The previous attorney-general, Costas Clerides, had decided to launch criminal proceedings against the officers, but the decision has been overturned by the current AG.

According to the statement, the evidence indicates prima facie dereliction of duty or improper execution of duty of varying degrees, which potentially contributed to the serious consequences that followed.

However, there is no indication of the necessary criminal intent on behalf of the officers, the statement said.

“In the case in question, from the actions of the members of the force, which have been detailed in the memos and the criminal investigation, it appears there was no intention not to execute their duty to the required degree, nor did they turn a blind eye.

“If they had failed to realise that the cases concerned the possibility of murders, it does not in itself imply wilful and deliberate dereliction of duty.”

The independent investigation however brought to light a series of systemic problems in the police, which were perhaps related with its organisation, training, and ability of its members, but “also an underlying racist perception by some officers.”

Despite this, the service said, the object of its decision was the personal criminal responsibility of each officer involved in the investigation of the disappearance reports.

“The sense of justice is certainly a factor that is taken into consideration when deciding a criminal prosecution, but it cannot be the only one,” the service said, noting that the public outcry over the crimes and the serious police shortcomings was justified.

“Under the circumstances, disciplinary action against the members of the police force will more effectively serve public interest.”