British experts and Cypriot police talk as they search a man-made lake, near the village of Mitsero outside of the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Cyprus police spokesman Andreas Angelides says British experts called in to assist in the east Mediterranean island nation's serial killer case have been brought up to speed on the ongoing probe. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

UK experts arrive to help in Cyprus serial killer case

April 30, 2019 - 9:57 am

MITSERO, Cyprus (AP) — British experts invited to assist in Cyprus' serial killer case were brought up to speed on the details of the ongoing probe Tuesday, amid mounting criticism of how Cypriot police initially handled the disappearance of several of the victims.

Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said the police chief along with lead investigators had briefed the team of experts that include a clinical psychiatrist and a coroner on the course of the investigation into the killings of seven foreign women and girls.

The experts from Scotland Yard also visited a toxic lake where the suspect — a 35 year-old Cyprus army captain — told investigators he dumped three of his victims after putting them inside suitcases.

The body of an adult woman inside a suitcase that was weighed down by a cement block was retrieved from the lake on Sunday. But authorities have had difficulty in locating the other two suitcases using a robotic camera because of the lake water's very poor visibility.

Angelides said investigators have several options at their disposal on how to proceed with the search if the current method doesn't produce results.

A high-tech sonar device will be employed in the coming days to provide detailed images of what lies at the bottom of the toxic lake that was part of a disused copper pyrite mine. It will also be used at another reservoir where the suspect told investigators he dumped the body of the child of one of the victims.

The police spokesman said evidence investigators have gathered so far don't indicate that the suspect has claimed any more than the seven people he's already confessed to killing.

But Angelides deflected mounting criticism that police botched the initial missing persons' reports, saying that an internal investigation is underway.

"From the moment that the investigation has begun, I believe that no other questions should be answered," he told reporters.

Only one victim has been positively identified — 38 year-old Mary Rose Tiburcio from the Philippines. It was Tiburcio's 6-year-old daughter Sierra that the suspect said he dumped in the reservoir.

Investigators said the other victims include two Filipino women, a Romanian and her 8-year-old daughter and a woman believed to be from Nepal.

Cyprus' government spokesman said that Philippine government diplomats had met with the Cypriot ministers of foreign affairs and justice as well as police top brass to inquire about the investigation.

The Romanian woman and her daughter who Cypriot media identified as Livia Florentina Bunea, 36, and Elena Natalia Bunea, 8, have been missing since September 2016.

Police Supporters' Association head Neophytos Papamiltiadous told state TV on Tuesday that although law enforcement authorities are doing an excellent job, anecdotal evidence suggests that the officers who first handled the missing persons' reports didn't do their job properly.

Papamiltiadous said it would have been better if the members of the committee probing police actions had been appointed from outside the force.