It is now time for the state to begin preparing criminal prosecutions against those involved in the killing of Thanasis Nicolaou, investigator Savvas Matsas said on Monday.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency (CAN), Matsas said the state must begin gathering evidence for a criminal hearing “for the murderers behind this case.”

After 19 years of authorities insisting national guardsman Nicolaou committed suicide, an inquiry into his death ruled on Friday that he was killed by strangulation.

“The light has emerged victorious against the darkness,” Nicolaou’s mother Andriana said as she heard the words she fought so long to prove.

Matsas was appointed as an independent criminal investigator in the last assessment of the case but was removed after he went public with his findings that Nicolaou was murdered in a coverup that has spanned almost two decades.

He stressed on Monday that gathering evidence for a prosecution would be difficult after 19 years, but if a thorough investigation is done by people who are “honest and capable, then it could be possible to substantiate criminal charges.

“This is what is left to be done.”

Matsas added that either the attorney general or cabinet can appoint the suitable team.

“If they wish for me to be on the team, then I am willing to help.”

Nicolaou’s family has stressed neither the AG, police or national guard should have a role in any future investigation, due to their stance in the past 19 years.

Police spokesman Christos Andreou did not wish to delve into details, but said “we await instructions from the legal service, as is usually the case.”

Lawyer for the family Leto Cariolou said any involvement on the AG’s part would be unacceptable and unethical as his office had insisted until the end that Nicolaou died after committing suicide.

The ball now appears to be in the government’s court, as President Nikos Christodoulides said he did not rule out a cabinet-appointed investigator taking on the case.

“We need to see why since 2005, 19 years, what should have been done may not have been done.”

He underlined he spoke to the AG and his deputy after Friday’s verdict and was told the legal service is studying the decision.