Cyprus serial killer Nikos Metaxas handed seven life sentences

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Greek-Cypriot army officer Nikos Metaxas, 26 April 2019Image source, Getty Images
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Nikos Metaxas said he had "not yet managed to find an answer" for his actions

A Greek-Cypriot army officer has been handed multiple life sentences for the premeditated murder of five foreign women and two of their children.

Nikos Metaxas, 35, pled guilty in court on Monday to 12 charges relating to the abduction and killing of seven women and girls in Cyprus over three years.

In tears, he apologised to the victims' families and said he did not know why he committed the "hateful crimes".

The case, Cyprus's first trial of a serial killer, has stunned the island.

"Cypriot society will be wondering how one of its members reached this point," he told the court in the capital Nicosia, adding: "I have also asked myself why; I have not yet managed to find an answer."

Metaxas said he was willing to assist authorities "in search of those answers".

The sentence handed to Metaxas, who wore a bullet-proof vest in the courtroom, is the toughest ever imposed by the Cypriot justice system.

In sentencing the former army captain to seven prison terms of 25 years, a panel of three judges said Metaxas had "embarked on a campaign to kill defenceless women".

He is not expected to appeal.

Image source, Reuters
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The body of one of the women was retrieved near the so-called Red Lake in Cyprus

The killings took place between September 2016 and August 2018. Of his victims, three of the women were from the Philippines, one from Nepal and one from Romania. Most were working as housekeepers.

The two children were aged six and eight.

The country's police chief was later sacked and the justice minister resigned over the failure to properly investigate following the missing persons reports.

How did the killings unfold?

The case first came to light in April, when the bodies of two women - Marry Rose Tiburcio, 38, and Arian Palanas Lozano, 28, both from the Philippines - were discovered.

One of the bodies was spotted by tourists down a mine shaft that had flooded following heavy rains.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
A woman's remains were found inside a suitcase in the lake

The discoveries triggered an investigation and, after tracking Ms Tiburcio's online messages, police arrested Metaxas on suspicion of murder.

At first he denied killing a third Filipino woman, Maricar Valtez Arquiola, 31, who was reported missing in 2017, but then changed his testimony and confessed.

Following his arrest, Metaxas showed investigators to a well at an army firing range where the body of one of the victims was discovered.

Authorities then scoured two lakes in the south for two other bodies.

Metaxas reportedly gave police detailed information about how he disposed of the bodies.