Military officer allegedly confesses to killing five women and two girls on Cyprus

Investigators are searching for bodies with a special camera in a man-made lake near the village of Mitsero outside of the capital Nicosia, Credit: Petros Karadjias/AP

Search teams in Cyprus have located two suitcases at the bottom of a lake where a detained military officer told investigators he has dumped bodies.

The suspect, a 35-year-old National Guard captain, has allegedly confessed to killing seven foreign women and girls.

A robotic camera found the potential evidence and will be used to keep scouring the man-made lake for a third suitcase suspected to be under water, fire service chief Marcos Trangolas said.

Police officers at the lake where they have been told suitcases were dumped. Credit: Petros Karadjias/AP

The suspect said he put the bodies of three victims inside luggage that he ditched in the lake, a police official said.

Located some 20 miles west of the capital of Nicosia,the lake is part of an abandoned copper pyrite mine where a woman’s body was found in a flooded shaft on April 14.

The discovery triggered a homicide investigation that led to the captain’s arrest before a second woman’s body was found in the mineshaft on April 20.

Police said the suspect admitted killing them both.

But they said the scope of case expanded when the suspect told them on Thursday about four more victims, bringing the total to five women and two of their daughters.

A diver gets out from the lake after searching for female bodies. Credit: Petros Karadjias/AP

The suspect has not been named.

He faces charges including premeditated murder and kidnapping for alleged crimes dating back to September 30 2016.

Police told a judge at a court hearing on Saturday the suspect gave details of the killings in 10 handwritten pages. The judge ordered him held for eight more days.

The Cyprus News Agency reported he is married with two children but separated from his wife.

It said investigators found photos of the mineshaft were in his possession.

Women from the Philippines at a vigil outside the presidential palace in Nicosia on Friday Credit: Petros Karadjias/AP

Hundreds of people turned up for a protest vigil outside the presidential palace on Friday to mourn the victims and to question if authorities failed to adequately investigate when women who worked as housekeepers or in low-paying jobs were reported missing.

In a poignant moment, a group of tearful Filipino women held lighted candles and bowed their heads in prayer for the three women and one girl of Filipino descent who are believed to be among the dead.

The child is the six-year-old daughter of the first woman found at the mine, Mary Rose Tiburcio, 38.

Both had been missing since May of last year.

Investigators zeroed in on the captain as a suspect based on online chat communications between him and Ms Tiburcio during a six-month relationship.

Cypriot media have identified the other victim from the mineshaft as 28-year-old Arian Palanas Lozano, also from the Philippines.

A diver in the water and an investigator conduct a search Credit: Petros Karadjias/AP

During the interrogation on Thursday that produced four more potential victims, the suspect provided directions to a military firing range where police found decomposed remains in a pit within hours.

The captain thought the woman he killed and discarded in the pit was of Nepalese or Indian descent, according to police.

At Saturday’s court hearing, an investigator said she might have been Ashita Khadka Bista from Nepal.

Cypriot police think the other three victims they know about so far are a 31-year-old Filipino woman who has been missing since December 2017, Maricar Valtez Arquiola, and a Romanian mother and daughter.

Cypriot media identified the mother as Livia Florentina Bunea, 36, and her eight-year-old daughter as Elena Natalia Bunea.

The two are believed to have been missing since September 2016.