Suitcases found at bottom of lake in Cyprus serial killer probe

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.

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Cyprus serial killer investigation
Police forensics officers, rescuers and divers retrieve a suitcase, which police say contains a female body, during an investigation for possible bodies of victims of a suspected serial killer in Kokkinopezoula lake, also known as "red lake", near the village of Mitsero, Cyprus, April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Marinos Meletiou
A diver, left, and an Investigator hold a suitcase found in a man-made lake, near the village of Mitsero outside of the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Sunday, April 28, 2019. A travel suitcase containing the decomposing remains of an adult woman and a concrete block was retrieved from the bottom of a man-made lake, the chief of Cyprus’ Criminal Investigation Department said Sunday. The woman is believed to be one of the victims of a Cypriot military officer who has confessed to killing seven foreign women and girls. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Police forensics officers, rescuers and divers retrieve a suitcase, which police say contains a female body, during an investigation for possible bodies of victims of a suspected serial killer in Kokkinopezoula lake, also known as "red lake", near the village of Mitsero, Cyprus, April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Marinos Meletiou
Police forensics officers, rescuers and divers retrieve a suitcase, which police say contains a female body, during an investigation for possible bodies of victims of a suspected serial killer in Kokkinopezoula lake, also known as "red lake", near the village of Mitsero, Cyprus, April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Marinos Meletiou
Police forensics officers, rescuers and divers retrieve a suitcase, which police say contains a female body, during an investigation for possible bodies of victims of a suspected serial killer in Kokkinopezoula lake, also known as "red lake", near the village of Mitsero, Cyprus, April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Marinos Meletiou
Investigators are searching for bodies with a special camera in a man-made lake near the village of Mitsero outside of the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Saturday, April 27, 2019. Cyprus police are intensifying a search for the remains of more victims at locations where an army officer, who authorities say admitted to killing five women and two girls had dumped their bodies. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Firefighters and investigators search the man made lake near the village of Mitsero outside of the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, April 26, 2019. Cyprus police are intensifying a search for the remains of more victims at locations where an army officer who authorities say admitted to killing five women and two girls had dumped their bodies. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Police officers stand by the man made lake near village of Mitsero outside of the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, April 26, 2019. Cyprus police are intensifying a search for the remains of more victims at locations where an army officer who authorities say admitted to killing five women and two girls had dumped their bodies. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Firefighters and investigators search the man made lake near the village of Mitsero outside of the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, April 26, 2019. Cyprus police are intensifying a search for the remains of more victims at locations where an army officer who authorities say admitted to killing five women and two girls had dumped their bodies. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Firefighters and investigators search the man made lake near the village of Mitsero outside of the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, April 26, 2019. Cyprus police are intensifying a search for the remains of more victims at locations where an army officer who authorities say admitted to killing five women and two girls had dumped their bodies. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Cypriot investigators and police officers search a field where a body was found, outside of Orounta village, near the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tursday, April 25, 2019. Police in Cyprus confronted the possibility Thursday that a serial killer had been at large in their midst after an army captain in custody for the deaths of two women claimed responsibility for more slayings, seven in all.(AP Photo)
Cypriot investigators and police officers search a field where a body were found, outside of Orounta village, near the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, April 25, 2019. Police in Cyprus confronted the possibility Thursday that a serial killer had been at large in their midst after an army captain in custody for the deaths of two women claimed responsibility for more slayings, seven in all.(AP Photo)
A police truck carries a body found after Cypriot investigators and police officers searched at a field outside of Orounta village, near the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, April 25, 2019. Police in Cyprus confronted the possibility that a serial killer had been at large in their midst after an army captain in custody for the deaths of two women claimed responsibility for more slayings, seven in all.(AP Photo)
Rescuers on an inflatable boat operate in a lake as they search for a six-year-old missing girl at the Xyliatos dam in Cyprus, April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer
Rescuers search a mine shaft at a mine where two women were found dead, near the village of Mitsero in Cyprus, April 21, 2019. Picture taken April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer
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Under questioning, the suspect said he put the bodies of three victims inside luggage that he ditched in the lake, a police official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to disclose details of an ongoing investigation.

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

Cyprus Slayings
A diver gets out from the lake after searching for female bodies (Petros Karadjias/AP)

The suspect has not been named because he has not been charged yet.

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 slayings 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.

Shocked Cypriots are grappling with the mounting evidence from police that a serial killer was in their midst preying on women who came to work on the east Mediterranean island nation.

Cyprus Slayings
Women from the Philippines at a vigil outside the presidential palace in Nicosia on Friday (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.

Cyprus Slayings
A diver in the water and an investigator conduct a search (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.

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